Siegfried and Roy were born in Germany during World War II. Siegfried was born Siegfried Tyrone Fischbacher on June 13, 1939 in Rosenheim, Germany. Roy Horn was born Uwe Ludwig Horn on October 3, 1944 in Nordenhamm, Germany, as bombs fell around his home. His mother hid her older children in a basement and rode a bicycle to her sister’s house, where she gave birth, according to Horn’s website.
The pair met early in life on a luxury liner, the website said. Siegfried had developed an early fascination with magic, and Roy had developed an early fascination with exotic animals. The two formed a duo on the TS Bremen ship, and Siegfried & Roy was born.
ABC 20/20‘s Siegfried & Roy: Behind the Magic originally aired September 27, 2020 as the season 42 premiere.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Siegfried & Roy Met on a Luxury Liner Early in Life, When Siegfried Was Getting His Start in Magic
Siegfried Fischbacher discovered magic when he found a book on magic at a bookstore in his village at age 9, according to Lifetime.
“My eye caught something in the window; it was a book on magic. I knew I had to have it. I can’t explain, even now, why that was. All that stood in the way was five marks—for me a fortune, a fortune for any little boy in Germany in 1947,” he said on his website.
Siegfried’s first magic act was on a luxury liner, TS Bremen, according to Las Vegas Weekly. He left home as a teenager to work at a small resort in Lago di Garda, Italy, where he was hired as a dishwasher. He moved up to a bartender position and later began entertaining guests with close-up magic tricks. He was then hired as a steward for the luxury liner and performed magic acts for the crew. Once the captain heard about his magic performances, he asked Siegfried to perform for guests.
Meanwhile, Roy was working as a waiter on the ship. Roy had developed an interest and affection for exotic animals. Siegfried met Roy and asked him to perform with him in his magic acts. And thus, Siegfried & Roy was formed.
“I asked Roy—and this is part of our story from a hundred years ago—if he would help me out on the ship, and the audience loved it and was very happy,” Siegfried told Las Vegas Weekly.
A passenger on the ship, Frau Fritz, owned a nightclub in Breman, Germany, called Astoria Theater. He saw the act on the TS Bremen and asked them to perform at the nightclub.
“We knew the nightclub, there were professional entertainers there, and we could be part of it,” Siegfried told Las Vegas Weekly. “That changed everything for us.”
2. Roy Was Born Amidst Allied Bombings in World War II & His Father Fought on the Front Lines
Roy Horn was the youngest of four sons who was born to an orchestra leader in Germany, according to Biography. His father fought on the front lines of World War II.
Roy was born during Allied bombings on Bremerhaven and Nordenham on October 3, 1944.
“I’ve heard the war-time story of my birth on October 3, 1944 so many times, that it seems as though I can remember it,” Roy said on his website. “My mother, Johanna Horn had the misfortune of being nine months pregnant when Allied bombings began to light up Bremerhaven and the neighboring city of Nordenham—two major defense ports—like a blood red torch. Houses were burning, and everyone was screaming. Those that weren’t buried under rubble rushed to the Weser, where there were small boats and the comparative safety of the water.”
His mother first hid in the basement with her three small children, but knew she was in labor and had to act quickly. She ordered the children not to leave the basement and pedaled on a bicycle to her sister’s house, where she gave birth.
“The chances of any infant surviving the final year of the war weren’t very good,” Roy said on his website. “Food was in short supply, and there was even less fuel for the long cold winter. My mother broke pieces of ice-covered wood from the picket fence in the hope that the small fire she made would keep us alive. This was the situation my father returned to after fighting on the Russian front. Prior to the war, he was an orchestra leader. He took great pleasure in teaching his sons any of the six instruments he played. He was never the same after the war, and my parents divorced soon after the war ended.”
3. Roy Developed Affection for Exotic Animals Early in Life, Starting With a Childhood Pet Named Hexe
Horn developed an early attraction to exotic animals. As a child, he spent much of his time with Hexe, who was half-wolf and half-dog, according to Biography. He said the animal once saved his life when he began sinking in wetlands, and Hexe ran for help. That day, Roy decided to skip school and went exploring. He and Hexe began following a raven, and he lost his bearings. Suddenly, he found himself sinking in wetlands. When he was waist-deep, Hexe left, and Roy thought he was abandoned until the beloved pet returned with people who rescued him, according to his website.
“I was crying and shaking all over, thanking them through my tears,” he said on his website. “But they said I should thank my dog. I fell to my knees and hugged Hexe for dear life. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that I would be thankful to one of my animals for my safety, or that the harmony would be the strongest and most magical connection in my life.”
He began spending time at Bremen Zoo, which two of his mother’s best friends founded. By the time he was 10 years old, he spent most of his free time at the zoo. He befriended a 2-year-old cheetah, Chico, who seemed lonely living alone in a large cage.
“I spent months talking to Chico through the iron bars of her cage,” Roy said on his website. “Every day before I reached the zoo, I gave a special whistle call. By the time I got there, she had returned my whistle with a chirping birdlike sound. It was so sensitive; you would never associate [it] with a big, powerful cat.”
The handlers eventually gave him permission to enter the cage, and soon he was taking the cheetah for walks.
4. Roy Was Attacked by a Tiger, Montecore, Onstage, Leaving Him Partially Paralyzed
Roy was attacked by a tiger, named Montecore or Mantecore, onstage during a performance in Las Vegas on his 59th birthday, October 3, 2003. He suffered a crushed windpipe and a damaged artery which carries blood to his brain. He has difficulty walking and talking, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Still, Roy contends that the tiger was not attacking him, but was reacting to a mini-stroke and taking him to safety where paramedics could treat him. When the tiger died May 19, 2014, at age 17, he called Mantecore his “life-saver.”
“My lifesaver, ‘Mantecore’, who was the one responsible for pulling me to safety where the Paramedics could help me after my high blood pressure made me dizzy on stage. He is greatly missed, however, I have my memories and I know that now he is playing with his brother and sister,” he wrote on Facebook. “I remember that when someone passed away my Mother always said, ‘They never really leave us they just go ahead’. For me, without ‘Mantecore’ the Secret Garden feels empty; however, there are still 11 more White Tigers and 2 White Lions to remind us of our Ark of Noah – not to forget our 2 Black and 6 Spotted Leopards! Spring is in the air, so things could change as we have at least 2 females who are of age for breeding giving me hope for a New Generation.”
5. Siegfried & Roy Lived on a Las Vegas Estate & Often Visited the ‘Secret Garden’ Zoo
Siegfried and Roy today lived on a sprawling Las Vegas estate, which is equipped with hip-high railings so Roy Horn can make his way along winding paths. Siegfried cares for his former lover and lifelong friend, who suffers from permanent injuries caused in a tiger attack in 2003. The attack crushed Horn’s windpipe, leaving him with speaking difficulties, and damaged an artery which carries blood to his brain, leaving him partially paralyzed, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The attack ended the duo’s time in show business, but they still made public appearances near their Las Vegas home. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the pair was nearly inseparable. They were often seen at productions or at charity events, the newspaper said.
The duo still sometimes performed magic and maintained a connection to exotic animals. The Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at Mirage Las Vegas is home to white tigers, white lions, leopards and bottlenose dolphins. Its newest addition is a baby bottlenose dolphin, born to first-time mother, Bella.
Siegfried and Roy often make appearances at the Secret Garden and perform impromptu magic acts with guests. Siegfried marveled on 20/20 about the connection the Secret Garden affords them with their fans.
To Roy, Horn said on 20/20, the Secret Garden is “home.”