Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
For a long time, Siegfried & Roy were most famous for the outlandish magic tricks they performed, their coiffed hair and glitzy costumes. Now, they are perhaps most famous for the accident. The German magicians made their first appearance in Las Vegas at the Tropicana hotel in 1967. They soon became one of the city’s must-see shows, and in 1990, the act moved to the Mirage hotel. There, it stayed for the next thirteen years, selling out almost nightly, generating a reported $44 million in annual revenue. But Siegfried and Roy weren’t really the stars of their own show. The audience came for the cats…the giant white tigers Siegfried and Roy would make appear and disappear live on stage. Those majestic animals were the secret of Siegfried and Roy’s huge success. Until it all went wrong. During a performance on 3 October 2003, a 6-year-old, 27-stone tiger called Montecore attacked Roy. Perhaps it’s most remarkable that in all those years, an attack hadn’t happened before. Montecore locked his jaws around Roy’s throat and dragged him offstage. Roy’s neck snapped. It was a miracle he survived and that animal handlers could free him from Montecore’s sharp clutches. As he was carried off to hospital, Roy is said to have cried, ‘Please don’t shoot the cat! Save the cat!’ Soon after, the hotel’s owner, Steve Wynn, spoke to journalists. He described how Montecore had become distracted during the show, Roy had tried to get him to focus, and then he’d tripped. Montecore had become confused, and he’d struck out at Roy before making an escape to the quieter, off-stage area. ‘Montecore didn’t drag Roy off stage,’ Wynn added. ‘He carried him, much like a mother cat would carry her kitten.’ But no amount of explanations could make a difference – and in reality, federal investigators weren’t able to determine what set Montecore off. The show was shut down, and the career of Siegfried and Roy was over. Since then, Roy has made a recovery from the accident but is still partially paralysed. And incredibly, he has no ill feelings towards tigers. In fact, he and Siegfried have dedicated themselves to the animal’s conservation, setting up the Secret Garden habitat for endangered cats at the Mirage. Their love and forgiveness extended even to Montecore. He lived at Secret Garden until his death in 2014 at the age of 17. Roy got his wish. The cat was saved.