Shin Lim met Siegfried and Roy for the first time as a teenager. Lim took first place in his category at the annual World Magic Seminar convention and competition, and the legendary duo presented him with the award—a prize unto itself.
It never crossed Lim’s mind, never even in his dreams, that 10 years later he’d be headlining at the Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip, in the same theater where Siegfried and Roy starred for 14 years. Even when Lim launched his show in 2019, the full magnitude of his predecessors’ magical legacy didn’t set in until they showed up to watch him perform.
“Until I heard they were coming to the theater to watch the show, I still somehow could not imagine I was performing in that room. And then I saw them in the front row, and it was like a dream,” he says. “We got to talk a lot backstage, for a while actually. I remember Roy just loved my dog, because he kind of looks like a white lion. And I remember talking to Siegfried and how he was saying a lot of my stuff fooled him, and he didn’t know how it worked.
“But I don’t remember a lot more, because I was just so starstruck. I just kept smiling. It was a very surreal moment I’ll never forget. And it was funny, because it wasn’t actually backstage; it was in a kitchen space. It wasn’t a fancy area; it was real and authentic. I really treasure that.”
Every Vegas entertainer will tell you they treasure time spent around Siegfried Fischbacher, who died on January 13 at age 81 after fighting pancreatic cancer, and Roy Horn, who died on May 8, 2020, due to complications from the coronavirus at age 75. They weren’t just magicians, not just entertainers who set a new standard of spectacle throughout their 50-year collaboration.
They traveled the world as ambassadors for Las Vegas, explains their longtime manager Bernie Yuman. Siegfried and Roy were dedicated to their art, and their commitment and creativity allowed them to live their dreams. But they were also deeply committed to making a difference in their adopted hometown, contributing to the local community and laying the groundwork for its entertainment growth.
“It’s never the example of power; it’s always the power of the example,” Yuman says. “Siegfried and Roy worked because they were dedicated to the art of magic and live entertainment and to each other. And it didn’t matter if they were on a humanitarian mission or a book tour or going to visit the Pope, they were always banging the drum for Las Vegas.”
Yuman began working with the illusionists in the late 1970s after seeing a performance at the former MGM Grand (now Bally’s) and believing the originality of their act was the right fit for an opportunity at the Stardust. They joined the Lido de Paris production, and before long, the show began promoting the duo on its Stardust Marquee.
Siegfried and Roy first met in 1957, on a cruise ship on which Siegfried was working as a steward and entertainer and Roy was a bellboy. Ten years later, they made their Vegas debut in Les Folies Bergère at the Tropicana. After stints in other shows, they became headliners in Beyond Belief at the New Frontier in 1981 and achieved iconic status in 1990 as the biggest act at the first modern mega-
resort on the Strip, the Mirage.
The vision for that show was built around a new level of theatricality that previously only existed on London’s West End and on Broadway, Yuman says. Award-winning set designer John Napier, who worked on stage blockbusters like Cats, Les Misérables and Miss Saigon, was one of many Broadway-based creatives to help differentiate Siegfried & Roy at the Mirage from anything Vegas audiences had seen before.
“They really changed the way people saw entertainment,” Lim says. “When you think of anyone who does big magic, big skills, flashy stuff—they invented that. Their show made Vegas the spotlight, but … they also supported the art of magic and really cared about magic. I feel like some magicians lose that as they get more famous.”
Like all Las Vegas headliners, Lim is waiting for the day he can return to the stage. And if it was up to him, his Mirage Theatre room would be renamed after Siegfried and Roy. “That theater deserves to have their names on it. It’s their legacy.”
And, Yuman says, the opportunities Siegfried and Roy created for other Las Vegas entertainers will remain an important part of that legacy. “That they were able to help create new opportunities for young, aggressive, ambitious, talented magicians and entertainers to excel, for me, is one of the things I hang my hat on,” he says.