Siegfried Fischbacher, a German illusionist who rose to international fame as half of the Siegfried & Roy performing duo, died Thursday from pancreatic cancer.
Fischbacher was 81. Survivors include a sister, who first notified German news agency dpa of her brother’s death.
“He was at home in Las Vegas,” said Fischbacher’s sister, who spoke on the phone with him before he died. “I was able to pray with him and tell him that I would always be with him in my heart.”
His performing partner, Roy Horn, died in May from COVID-19 complications at 75 years old.
“From the moment we met, I knew Roy and I, together, would change the world,” Fischbacher said after Horn’s death. “There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried.”
Fischbacher was born in Rosenheim, Germany, in 1939 to a homemaker mother and a housepainter father. He began practicing magic at 8 years old, and after meeting Horn on a cruise ship in 1957 — Fischbacher was working as steward and entertainer, while Horn was a runaway working as the captain’s bellboy — the two developed a magic act with Horn’s pet cheetah, Chico, whom Horn had smuggled aboard.
“Siegfried, disappearing rabbits is ordinary — but can you make a cheetah disappear?” Horn asked Fischbacher, according to a press release.
“In magic, anything is possible,” Fischbacher replied.
The two went on to have a 40-year career together, ending in 2003 after a 400-pound white tiger bit Horn on the neck and dragged him offstage, according to the Washington Post. Horn almost died of blood loss, and crews emptied fire extinguishers on the cat until it released Horn. Fischer had given strict instructions not to hurt the tiger.
The two had performed together for more than 30,000 shows without any serious problems before the incident, which occurred on Horn’s birthday. Investigations into what prompted the cat, which had been trained by Horn since birth, were inconclusive. Fischbacher speculated that Horn had possibly suffered a mini-stroke onstage and that the tiger had attempted to carry him to safety.