January 14, 2021 | 9:24am | Updated January 14, 2021 | 3:10pm
Siegfried Fischbacher, one-half of the flamboyant big cat illusionist act Siegfried and Roy, died Wednesday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 81.
Fischbacher was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer and recently underwent an operation to remove a tumor, his reps told The Post. He was released from the hospital earlier this month and had been under hospice care at home.
The perpetually tanned magic man’s death comes less than a year after the passing of his longtime stage partner, Roy Horn, due to complications from COVID-19.
The flashy German-American duo met cute aboard the TS Bremen cruise ship in 1957, where they bonded over Horn’s pet cheetah, Chico, which he had smuggled on board.
Working as a steward and entertainer, Fischbacher recruited Horn, the captain’s bellboy, to assist during his nightly magic act. After the show, Horn popped the question that changed both of their lives: “Siegfried, disappearing rabbits is ordinary — but can you make a cheetah disappear?”
Their eventual act — a hybrid of tiger-taming and David Copperfield-esque magic with a gaudy dose of Liberace glitz — launched in Sin City circa 1967. But it was their $30-million, 14-year run at the Mirage Hotel & Casino, beginning in 1989, that propelled them into global stardom amid the height of the era of excess.
“We did what we did out of love, not for success or money,” Siegfried once said, according to his reps. “We had a deep respect for each other. We literally raised each other: I created Roy and Roy created Siegfried.”
The duo deflected persistent rumors that they were a gay couple — but a mural on Fischbacher’s bedroom wall reportedly depicted Horn in the nude with cheetahs. Still, when informed that he was a counterculture symbol of sorts, he played coy.
“Gay icons? For these people? Well, I am very honored,” Fischbacher told Vanity Fair in 1999. “In my life I have a lot of friends who are gay, and I made a lot of friends in show business, and I found out that they are always interesting, intelligent, and good people, and fun to be with. They are very open-minded. They are not narrow-minded. If I am an icon to them, it is wonderful, because gay people are always very loyal … And, you know, when you go back in history, there are great names in the arts and in every field, so be my guest.”
In 2003, Horn suffered a gory career-ending injury when Mantacore, a 400-pound Siberian tiger, sunk its teeth into his neck during a live performance — on his 59th birthday, no less — at the Mirage hotel-casino.
One of their animal handlers, Chris Lawrence, came forward in 2019 with high-profile allegations of a mysterious coverup surrounding the treatment of the tigers before the attack, which he claimed left him with longterm PTSD. However, in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” at the time, the Siegfried and Roy said they had made peace with the infamous mauling incident that killed their careers.
“I really don’t miss it,” Fischbacher said. “We have been on stage in Vegas just by themselves for 40 years on stage, you know? And we had the most successful show in the history of Las Vegas anyway.”
Born in Rosenheim, Germany, on June 13, 1939, Fischbacher credited the childhood purchase of a magic book for setting in motion an enduring love for the art of illustion. Even after his performing days were finished, Siegfried could be found daily at the Secret Garden of Siegfried & Roy, where some of their big cats still reside at the Mirage, entertaining fans with simple coin tricks and always taking time for photos.
His lifelong mantra: “In magic, anything is possible.”
Siegfried and Roy in Las Vegas on December 1, 1993.
Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Fischbacher waves his statuette during the World Awards at Hamburg’s Musikhalle October 22, 2003 in Hamburg, Germany.
Siegfried and Roy at their 1999 Walk of Fame ceremony in Hollywood, California.
AFP via Getty Images
Siegfried and Roy with 6-week-old tiger cubs June 12, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Siegfried & Roy at “Phantasialand” in Brühl, Germany, in 1987.
Siegfried speaks during Keep Memory Alive’s “Power of Love Gala” benefit at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 16, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Getty Images for Keep Memory Ali
Siegfried and Roy in 1981.
picture alliance via Getty Image
A makeshift memorial for Roy Horn is seen in front of bronze busts of Horn and his magician partner Siegfried Fischbacher outside the Mirage hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip on May 9, 2020.
Siegfried and Roy in their private Mirage casino apartment in Las Vegas.
Alamy Stock Photo
The “Saints” aren’t marching in just yet.