VEGAS MYTHS REBREAKING: The tiger attack wasn’t Siegfried and Roy’s fault


Published on: October 20, 2023 at 08:07 pm.

Last updated on: October 24, 2023, 10:33 pm.

Editor’s note: “Vegas Myths Busted” posts new entries every Monday, with a bonus Flashback Friday release. Today’s post in our ongoing series was originally published on October 9, 2023. However, due to a technical error on our part, it was not picked up by Google.

What happened at Siegfried & Roy’s infamous final show 20 years ago last week — which ended not only the run of the most popular magic act since Houdini, but also the era of caged animals performing passably for the amusement of a Las Vegas audience — was tragic and certainly most important. accident.

However, it wasn’t eccentric The accident that the world was presented to be.

Roy Horn and Mantacore
Roy Horn performs “The Rapport,” the routine that nearly took his life 20 years ago, with Mantacore, a 400-pounder. The white Bengal tiger that almost killed him. (Photo: ABC News)

During a routine performed in front of 1,500 shocked spectators at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas on October 3, 2003, a mantacore, a 400-pound Bengal tiger, bit down on Roy Horn’s neck. It damaged the artery carrying oxygen to his brain, crushed his windpipe, and left the warlock partially paralyzed for the last 17 years of his life.

Immediately after the incident, blame was placed everywhere except on Horne, the duo’s big cat trainer. (Horn’s partner, Siegfried Fischbacher, dealt with illusions.)

Roy Horn, who has been caring for the duo’s 50 or so big cats, pretends to sleep with one of them in an undated photo. He claimed to have slept with each of them as cubs until their first birthday — by which time they weighed about 200 pounds. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Mirage founder Steve Wynn, when he was still very trusted, went on local television and blamed a woman in the front row for distracting the tiger with a wild beehive hairstyle. Another popular theory, suggested by MGM after it received emails about it, is that an anti-gay terrorist had sprayed a behavior-altering scent in the theater. Fischbacher himself told reporters that the tiger was actually protecting his friend from some perceived threat.

The truth, according to the animal trainer who witnessed the tragedy from the wings, is that it was Horn’s fault. Chris Lawrence, who was not selling a book or screenplay about his experience and who had not benefited in any known way from describing it, said: Hollywood Reporter In 2019, Horne royally messed up on stage that night.

The cat is out of the bag

In a routine called “The Rapport,” Horn would walk one of the duo’s 50 or so tigers (usually a mantacore) in a circle toward the spotlight, introducing the 400-pound, 7-foot-tall wild animal to the audience.

Roy always announced that this was Tiger’s first time on stage, a lie intended to make the audience feel they were witnessing something special. In Mantacore’s case, he had already performed “The Rapport” more than 2,000 times by then.

During this routine, Horn would lower himself to the ground opposite the big cat, who would also lower himself. He would place his microphone next to the tiger’s mouth and command it to speak. On cue, the tiger roared. Horn will then jump to his feet, at which point the tiger will place his front paws on Horn’s shoulders and the two will be shown dancing together on stage.

It was a common routine and helped perpetuate the illusion that tigers—or at least Siegfried and Roy’s tigers—were gentle creatures capable of behavior and empathy like humans.

For whatever reason, Mantacore (often misspelled “Montecore” or “Mantecore”) was not feeling routine that fateful night. He refused to follow Roy’s example, and strayed from his brand of theatrics.

Roy Horn was taken to hospital, where he suffered a stroke and had to be resuscitated several times. (picture: Hollywood Reporter)

Not wanting to stop the show, Horn decided to continue, just with a brand new ad. This was almost his fatal mistake, according to Lawrence.

“Instead of walking with the mantacore in a circle, as is usually the case, he just used his arm to bring him back to his body, in a rotational motion,” the trainer said.

Mantacore took this sudden push as an act of aggression and retaliated. He held Horn’s shirt sleeve in his mouth and refused to let go.

Horn tried to back away, repeatedly shouting “No!” While hitting Mantacore on the nose with his microphone. Because the microphone was on, the sounds of thuds echoed throughout the stunned silent theater.

Although the show succeeds in humanizing the quartet’s performers, it is clear that the mantacore was still a very wild animal.

The sting heard ’round the world.

Mantacore finally let it go but was now contemplating his next move in response to what he saw as relentless off-script aggression from his coach. According to Lawrence, that’s when he walked onto the stage from the wings—the running may have upset Mantacore even more—and tried to positively distract the tiger by emptying a hoard of raw steaks onto the stage.

the New York Post The tragedy was announced on its front page, in its own unique way, on October 5, 2003. (Photo: New York Post)

When that approach failed, Lawrence grabbed Mantacore’s leash. This allowed Horn to back up. However, the illusionist’s retreat caused Tiger to separate from Lawrence and jump forward, leading to Horne taking to the stage. The Mantacore then climbed onto Horn’s torso and bit him on the right side of his neck.

In a moment that still likely caused PTSD to the surviving witnesses, Mantacore then stood on his hind legs, lifted Horn’s limp and bleeding body from his feet and into the air next to the wound, and dragged him off the stage.

Lawrence’s version of events has been corroborated by nearly all of the witnesses who have provided statements over the years.

Behind the scenes, Mantacore only let go of Horn after Lawrence’s supervisor jammed two index fingers into his mouth, causing him to bite himself — an emergency response called “fishing.” At the same time, another employee followed Lawrence’s suggestion and sprayed Mantacore with a fire extinguisher.

Siegfried and Roy
Roy Horn and Siegfried Fischbacher with an anonymous friend in 1991. According to Tigers trainer Chris Lawrence, Horn was also responsible for spending less and less time with his tigers before shows, which eroded the trust between the animal and the performers. (Photo: Mark Seliger/August)

Cover up

There were never any wild beehive hairstyles or terrorist scents. This wasn’t about saving Roy from any potential threat. It was a simple mishandling of a tiger who was just a tiger – By someone who should have known much better.

All this horror could have been avoided if Horn had simply stopped the offer once the mantacore refused to cooperate, rather than trying to force the wild animal back to its mark.

Horn could have explained to the audience that tigers are wild animals and that sometimes wild animals don’t want to be controlled and you have to respect that. It would have served as a great teaching moment and perhaps an article or two in the local and national media. And Siegfried and Roy could have continued into a retirement of their own making, likely without any life-or-death emergencies.

The world may have known the truth sooner, but The Mirage’s owner, MGM, never allowed video footage of the incident to be released. Initially, company officials insisted that there was no footage. Only after it was revealed that Siegfried & Roy had been recording their shows every night did MGM admit their refusal to release it.

Since this was four years before the iPhone and two years before YouTube, there were no audience videos for people to judge for themselves.

US Senator Harry Reid himself intervened in an investigation conducted by the Department of Agriculture, which looks into all attacks on pets. A top Nevada lawmaker argued that his state’s largest employer should not have to release the video.

Although it may be hard to believe, Reed has drafted an amendment to the spending bill Mandates that no federal funds be used to recall this specific bar. (The draft law was passed without amendment, But still.)

Eventually, a compromise was reached whereby MGM allowed the federal agency to view the video once, but not obtain it.

The USDA closed its investigation in 2005 without formally determining what caused mantacore. However, she noted that the show failed to protect its audience due to the lack of a barrier separating the animals from the audience. For this reason, it issued a letter of non-compliance to the production company Siegfried & Roy without any penalty.

The white tiger lie

The wagons were circled because a lot of important people were trying to protect a lot of things that were important to them 20 years ago.

First and foremost, Siegfried and Roy – and their powerful friends – were trying to protect their reputation and legacy as the greatest Tiger act the world had ever known.

US Senator Harry Reid
The late US Senator Harry Reid intervened in the investigation into the tiger attack, arguing on behalf of MGM that it should not be forced to release its video footage. (Image: Wikipedia)

Although the extent of Horn’s injuries soon made it clear that their $45 million-a-year show was merely fleeting – it was scheduled to be replaced by Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles LOVE” at the same theater a little over two years later – To many people, it seemed like Las Vegas Itself He was on trial.

Have tourists been drinking the Las Vegas Kool-Aid for a long time? This was probably more like an adult Disneyland jurassic park, Where greedy humans pretend to conquer nature, only to be ultimately proven wrong in tragic ways that are sure to emotionally wound – and perhaps even wound – the audiences who pay the price.

This was a rare, provable case in Las Vegas history where a conspiracy theory was proven true.

“I did it because I was trying to save Las Vegas from embarrassment,” Reed, who, speaking shortly before his death in 2021, explained his stunning edit to journalist Steven Leckart on Apple’s podcast, “Wild Things.”“.

“Siegfried and Roy were very important to Nevada because they really attracted the crowd, and they were very well entertained,” Reed continued. “I think they were part of making the city what it is today, so I wanted to make sure we did everything we could to make sure (animal rights activists and gaming organizers) didn’t do anything that hurt Las Vegas.”

One of the last known photos of Siegfried and Roy together, taken in 2017, shows former Vegas performer Line Reno welcoming the duo to a party in her honor. Horn died in 2020 from complications of COVID-19, and Fischbacher died a year later from pancreatic cancer. (Photo: KSNV-TV)

A final illusion

As one of their last public acts as a duo, Siegfried and Roy appeared Entertainment tonight In 2014, they announced that they would announce “what really happened” on stage that night.

In the clip, Which can be found on YouTube, Horn tells a very suspicious story that attempts, once and for all, to absolve himself of all blame for the accident. In the story, he passed out on stage due to a naturally occurring stroke. (He certainly had one, although whether that was before or after the attack remains a matter of debate.)

According to Horn, the mantacore, fearing for Horn’s safety, gently grabbed him by the neck, as a mother does with her cub, and carried him off the stage. The accidental sting and subsequent blood loss relieved the pressure that had been building up in his brain, saving his life.

“It’s been an absolute blessing,” Horn said.

Horn spun this story further on Facebook, claiming to have revived Mantacore, which was administered mouth-to-mouth when the cub was born not breathing.

Horn wrote that the dear tiger was merely returning a favor: “I saved his life and then he saved mine.”

In a way, myth is just another kind of illusion, right?

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