Siegfried Fischbacher, of Siegfried and Roy magician duo, dies

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Siegfried Fischbacher, of the world-famous magician duo "Siegfried & Roy", has died of pancreatic cancer at his Las Vegas home aged 81, his publicist and family said Thursday.

German-born illusionist Siegfried passed away Wednesday night, just eight months after his exotic cat-taming partner Roy Horn died of complications from the coronavirus, his publicist said in a statement to AFP.

The pair, whose partnership spanned five decades, began performing in Las Vegas in the late 1960s.

They became household names with their sold-out residency and over 5,000 shows featuring white tigers, white lions, leopards, jaguars and even an elephant at The Mirage casino hotel.

"A showman and a gentleman, always," tweeted Siegfried's Las Vegas publicist Dave Kirvin.

Siegfried died at the pair's sprawling "Little Bavaria" compound in Las Vegas, his sister Dolore -- a nun living in Munich -- told Germany's Bild newspaper.

The duo's act came to an abrupt and violent end in 2003 when Roy was dragged from the stage by a 400-pound (180-kilo) white tiger and seriously injured.

Although he recovered, the highly lucrative Las Vegas show did not return.

Roy, who suffered a stroke and partial paralysis when the animal dragged him off stage, always insisted the mauling was not the fault of the white Siberian tiger.

Siegfried and Roy made only one more appearance in 2009, and officially retired from show business in 2010.

Following Roy's death last year, Siegfried said in a statement: "There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried."

But even their performing days ended, Siegfried could be found daily at their former Mirage venue "creating wonderment for the fans with a simple coin trick and always taking time for a photo," said the publicist's statement.

Siegfried, born in the Bavarian city of Rosenheim in 1939, is said to have set his sights on a career in illusion after discovering a magic book in a bookstore aged eight.

In 1957, Siegfried was working as a steward and entertainer on board a cruise ship when he met Roy, the captain's bellboy, who agreed to assist his nightly magic show.

According to legend, Roy had smuggled his pet cheetah on board, and asked the magician: "Siegfried, disappearing rabbits is ordinary, but can you make a cheetah disappear?"

"In magic, anything is possible," Siegfried is said to have replied.

The pair went on to work with exotic animals and magic around Europe, before moving to Las Vegas in 1967.

Funeral services will be private but a public memorial is planned, Kirvin said.