Roy Horn’s birth was touched with danger and daring, and his 75 years of life followed the same pattern. The legendary illusionist who was half of Siegfried & Roy tragically died Friday, May 8, 2020, of the coronavirus.
The magician was formed when the two met early in life and bonded over magic. Siegfried Fischbacher said in a statement issued to the Las Vegas Review-Journal he knew as soon as they met that they would change the world together. Although Roy had difficulty speaking, he often finished Siegfried’s sentences.
Siegfried met Roy on a luxury liner, TS Bremen, where they both worked. Siegfried got his start in magic on the ship after performing for the crew, and asked Roy to join him in his performances. Thus, Siegfried & Roy was formed. You can read more about their backgrounds here. Learn more about their lives in 2020 here and read about Mantecore, the tiger that attacked and paralyzed Roy here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Roy Horn Was Born in the Midst of Allied Bombings During WWII in Germany
Roy Horn told the story of his dramatic birth on his website. He was born during as the Allies bombed his city, during the attacks 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.”
Already in labor, Johanna Horn initially took her three young children and hid in the basement. But she quickly realized she would need to act fast to avoid having her baby without any assistance in a basement at wartime. She ordered her children to stay in the basement until she returned, found a bicycle and rode it to her sister’s house, where she gave birth to her son.
“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.”
2. Roy Horn Was the Youngest of Four Siblings & His Father Fought on the Front Lines of WWII
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.
Only one of Horn’s brothers, Werner Horn, is still alive, according to The New York Times.
Siegfried and Roy sent a warm message to their fans during the coronavirus pandemic during an encore episode of their special on ABC 20/20 earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, before Horn was diagnosed.
“For those watching tonight’s #ABC2020, Siegfried and Roy shared this message of love and support during the coronavirus pandemic,” ABC 20/20 wrote on Facebook.
Siegfried and Roy said “the real magic” is that caring for one another will keep others safe and healthy. They further wrote that they are looking forward to the day when everyone can “hug each other safely again.” Tragically, Roy Horn did not live to see the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
The message said:
Everyone in the United States and around the World impacted by this health crisis remain in our prayers.
We know the real magic in all of us caring, cheering, loving, and thanking one another will return everyone to good health and happiness.
We can’t wait until it is possible for all of us to hug each other safely again.
Love to all,
Siegfried & Roy
3. Roy Horn’s Mom, Johanna Horn, Lived With Siegfried & Roy Until her Death in 2000
Johanna Horn, Roy Horn’s mom, lived with her son and Sigfried Fischbacher at their sprawling Las Vegas home for many years. She stayed with her son until her death in 2000, according to The New York Times.
Siegfried and Roy remain “almost inseparable” later in life, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. They made frequent appearances around Las Vegas for charity events and productions.
Siegfried & Roy also made appearances in their Secret Garden on their Las Vegas property, sometimes dazzling visitors with on-the-spot magic tricks, according to 20/20. Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at Mirage Las Vegas is home to white tigers, white lions, leopards and bottlenose dolphins, including a baby bottlenose dolphin.
“When I go to the Secret Garden, I meet the people from all over the world,” Fischbacher told 20/20.
Roy Horn told the ABC when he is in the secret garden, he is home.
4. Siegfried Fishbacher, Roy Horn’s Longtime Partner, Described Horn as his Best Friend in a Touching Tribute
Siegfried Fishbacher was Roy Horn’s longtime business and domestic partner. He issued a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, saying that in Horn’s passing, he lost his best friend. He said that when he first met Horn, he knew they would change the world together.
“Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend,” the statement said. “From the moment we met, I knew Roy and I, together, would change the world. There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried. Roy was a fighter his whole life, including during these final days. I give my heartfelt appreciation to the team of doctors, nurses and staff at MountainView Hospital who worked heroically against this insidious virus that ultimately took Roy’s life.
The Hollywood Reporter described Roy Horn as Siegfried Fischbacher’s former lover in an article from March 28, 2019.
Reporter Gary Baum wrote, “Fischbacher, now 79, went on to extravagantly care for his lifelong friend and former lover Horn, 74, at their Little Bavaria estate in Vegas, whose sprawling, rustic grounds are outfitted with hip-high rails along winding paths to make it easier for Horn to get around. Today, he’s able to stroll short distances when not confined to a scooter and can talk only with difficulty.”
The duo often avoided speaking publicly about their relationship. An article from 2008 said Siegfried and Roy never identified as gay, although a relationship was often publicly assumed. In 2000, their 1999 film, “Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box,” was played at the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, according to SFGate.
5. Friends of Roy Horn’s Mother First Introduced him to Exotic Animals, Allowing him Time With Them as a Child
Roy Horn was able to get hands-on experiences with exotic animals from a young age, spurring a fascination in them that soon gave way to understanding and a deep connection.
When he was a boy, 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.”
Two of his mother’s friends founded the Bremen Zoo, where he spent much of his time as a child, spending most of his free time their when he was about 10. 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.”