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Siegfried Fischbacher, a dazzing stage magician best known as one half of the legendary Las Vegas duo Siegfried and Roy, died Wednesday at his Vegas home after a battle with pancreatic cancer, his publicist confirmed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 81.
Fischbacher's death came just days after the Review-Journal reported his cancer diagnosis and treatment, which had reportedly involved a 12-hour operation to remove a malignant tumor. Following the surgery, Fischbacher asked to be cared for at home by hospice nurses, and died around midnight Thursday. His death came just months after his longtime life and work partner, Roy Horn, died in May at the age of 75 after contracting the COVID-19 virus. Fischbacher's last major public appearance came in August, when he appeared at the dedication of Siegfried & Roy Drive outside the Mirage Resort and Casino, home to the pair's blockbuster stage show for many years.
Both born in Germany, Siegfried and Roy first met in 1957 while working together on a cruise ship, where Horn began assisting Fischbacher as he did magic tricks for guests. The two bonded over discussions about breaking the barriers of ordinary, predictable magical illusions, and what would become the signature of their act developed when Horn asked Fischbacher if he could make a cheetah disappear...only to then reveal that he'd smuggled a cheetah onto the ship with them.
A decade later the pair arrived in Vegas, where they began applying their flashy brand of stage magic blending with the allure of big cats in various side act performances at The Stardust and the MGM Grand before landing their first headlining show, which ran for nearly a decade at The Frontier. Then casino magnate Steve Wynn came calling and offered the pair a custom-built theater in his new casino, The Mirage. The show opened in 1990 and remained one of the most popular and celebrated acts in Las Vegas for more than 10 years and nearly 6,000 performances.
Unlike other stage magic shows at the time, Siegfried and Roy's was notable because of its reliance and drama and lavish storytelling, as the two embarked not just on a series of illusions, but also on a kind of magical quest with the help of the many big cats they worked with throughout the act. With its ornate costumes, choreography, lighting, and music, it became one of the shows most identified with Las Vegas in the 1990s, and brought the duo international fame.
The show came to an abrupt end in 2003 when Horn was severely injured by one of the big cats, a tiger named Montecore, who bit into Horn's neck and dragged him offstage. Trainers eventually got the tiger to release Horn, but not before the magician suffered major injuries that would inhibit his verbal and motor abilities for the rest of his life. The show was retired, and eventually a new attraction dubbed "Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden" was unveiled at The Mirage to commemorate it. According to friends, Fischbacher was a frequent visitor to the attraction, where he often met with fans and performed sleight of hand tricks for them.
According to Fischbacher's publicist, his funeral services will be private, though a public memorial will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Fischbacher's name to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.