By John Katsilometes
He has never been a comic, at least by trade, but Roy Horn can always be counted on to be funny.
That might be what is so remarkable about one half of the world’s most celebrated magic acts: Through his pain and physical restrictions, Roy always has a joke up his sleeve.
“I’ll give you $5 if you make me look better than Siegfried,” Roy said this afternoon to photographers gathered at the Siegfried & Roy Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage, on hand to trumpet a new stamp to help protect endangered species.
Roy also playfully butted into Siegfried’s opening remarks to the dozens of fans and media types on hand with his own words of gratitude, expressing thanks for everyone who turned out in support of a worthy cause. As Roy continued to speak, Siegfried looked over at him as if to say, “Are you finished yet?”
And after the photo session concluded, Roy confided, “I am going to the pool, and we’re having pina coladas. I just got back from Cabo, and pina coladas are the best medicine.”
The event was the formal unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s “Save Vanishing Species” stamp, proceeds of which will be donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders Multinational Species Conservation Funds, which provides financial assistance to programs that help protect endangered species such as tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, great apes and marine turtles.
For nearly 30 years, Siegfried & Roy have been dedicated to preserving white tigers around the world. Once nearly extinct, white tigers are relatively plentiful today, with more than 200 in existence globally. Having embarked on their crusade to save the species in 1983, S&R authorized the use of one of their big cats, Svengali (actually a heterozygous golden tiger), to be used as the subject of the stamp.
These commemorative stamps are 55 cents, 10 cents higher than the cost of a regular stamp, and available at retail outlets at the Mirage, Mandalay Bay and any Post Office. The additional cost of the stamps will be donated to Wildlife Without Borders. Las Vegas Postmaster Craig Colton and Mirage Vice President of Hotel Operations Franz Kallao were on hand for the ceremony, held along the Secret Garden’s walkway.
After the ceremony, Siegfried said the duo felt rejuvenated after a trip last month to Cabo San Lucas, where their traveling party numbered more than a dozen. He laughed at Roy’s medical advice -- drink at least one pina colada a day -- taken from that trip.
“Oh, yeah. Well we did a lot of walking, too, and he had some physical therapy,” Siegfried said in a conversation after the ceremony. “It was not just pina coladas. But yeah, he is funny. He still cheers me up, still. He keeps me going. He enjoys, now, every minute of life.”
Siegfried himself seems taken off-guard by what he says next.
“Roy says (laughs), it sounds a little strange, but this is the way it is: He said, the other day, ‘I think, now, I’m having the best time of my life.’ ”
The best time, ever, even encompassing the more than 40 years headlining in Las Vegas, a run that ended almost fatally when Roy was dragged by his neck off-stage by the big cat Montecore during a performance at the Mirage on Oct. 3, 2003. Over the past near-decade, Roy has been working, feverishly and continually, to recover. This week the duo are off to Germany to attend a magic festival and also visit medical experts for more treatment.
“He is going to have some therapy, physical therapy, and to be with doctors who can hopefully make the quality of his life even better,” Siegfried said.
In the years since the incident, Siegfried says he does not miss being onstage, under the spotlight, though his career as a major headliner essentially ended that terrible night.
“No, no, no, I do not miss performing,” he said. “Really, I do not … I had a great time while I did it, but I had my time. We had 45 years in Las Vegas, you know, and we had a great time. This city was great to us, this country was wonderful to us.”
The duo is enjoying a measure of privacy they did not experience as active performers.
“Now we are enjoying all of these things, what we have created. When we were working, we could not enjoy our lives,” Siegfried said. “We enjoyed ourselves while we were onstage, but the day has 24 hours. Now we enjoy other things in life, other than just being onstage, because before our whole day was scheduled. Whenever we had a day off, we still had to be Siegfried & Roy, on call. Now I can be more myself, and Roy, too -- we can be more private, and we like that.”
What has been made evident since the incident is that Siegfried’s affection for Roy is no act. He takes an active and energetic role in Roy’s therapy. Sightings of the two accompanied by physical therapists at such public workout facilities as Las Vegas Athletic Club have become commonplace. When Roy needs to be steadied to pose for photos, he usually reaches for Siegfried.
The shared devotion is clear to anyone who spends time around Siegfried & Roy.
“There is no question about it. When this thing happened -- it is amazing, what I realized was, I have emotions that I thought I didn’t have, that I didn’t experience before,” Siegfried said. “Now all of a sudden I have all these feelings, and I am now remembering all of the great times we’ve had and all of the things we created. And it is all good -- it is all great.”
There are no audiences applauding the duo as they work toward Roy’s recovery. That suits Siegfried just fine.
“You know, you give until you receive. That is what it is,” he said. “What I get from him, when he improves, even if it’s just a little bit, I so enjoy that. It used to be, it was only onstage what was important to us. Not now. No, no, no. It is the little things that matter to us.”
Same as their treasured white tigers, it is a sentiment Siegfried & Roy strive to preserve, forever.