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Inside the gala, part 4: The spirit of Siegfried & Roy

Leeza Gibbons, left, poses with Larry Ruvo and Teri Hatcher on the red carpet on the way into the 13th Annual Power of Love Gala at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009.
Photo: Tiffany Brown

Update: Confirmed the big cat appearing onstage was indeed Montecore, who was involved in the incident that nearly killed Roy in October 2003.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the spirit of Siegfried & Roy has arrived," a voice intones, followed by piano and an orchestra arrangement. Horn is onstage in a black hood, white shirt and mask. He opens a silver lid atop a box, and flames pour out. He closes it, reopens, and Siegfried emerges, to applause.

Stars Support Siegfried and Roy

A stage platform is rolled out, and at the left is a caged white tiger. Siegfried drapes the cage with white cloth, then moves to the middle of the set and is also concealed in white. Roy pulls a rope to display a tiger in his place and Siegfried inhabiting the first cage. Roy's voice is heard over the speakers, he is talking of dreams. The tiger is led from its cage by Siegfried and lays near both performers, who pull off their masks.

The tiger is uncaged and off the leash. The crowd stands and cheers. Roy is still moving unaided. Siegfried waves, and the curtain closes.

About eight minutes in length, more than a year in the making, more than five years since Roy's life-threatening injuries. The spirit of Siegfried & Roy has left the building, the voice says. And there is your moment in Vegas history.

Siegfried & Roy agreed 10 months ago to use Montecore to give the big cat its own send-off; Montecore's involvement was kept a secret shortly before show time. Roy entrusted Siegfried with most of the planning of tonight's show.

"This was our best show," Siegfried told Robin Leach backstage after the show. "It brought back all the memories of the thousands of shows we've performed before. We are exhilarated. There were no nerves, just the emotion and the excitement of tonight."

Several members of Siegfriend & Roy's international fan club were backstage, swept up in the emotion of the moment.

"As for the next chapter, tomorrow is another story," Siegfried said.

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John Katsilometes is a columnist and magazine writer for the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly and editor-at-large for ...

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