A farewell to Siegfried and Roy
The news came yesterday that we have lost the last of the great Las Vegas Showmen. Eight months ago we said goodbye to Roy Horn due to Covid 19. Now Siegfried Fischbacher has left us as well. Siegfried and Roy are gone.
These two, like their friend Liberace, were an institution on the Las Vegas Strip, when I was growing up. They were fabulous showmen, who personified the very genre. I remember one night when I was a teenager, returning home with the family from their show. My brother and I sneaked the cat into the refrigerator and 'miraculously' made her appear there moments later, in our best Siegfried and Roy impersonations, getting an eye roll from my parents - and a loss of some of the butter to the cat.
It remains highlight of my 52 years in Las Vegas to have had Siegfried and Roy lend me a hand in hosting the Embassy of Monaco meetings in 2012. Old friends of Their Serene Highnesses Prince Rainier III and Prince Albert II of Monaco, Siegfried was excited to arrange and introduction of him and Roy to the various consuls of the Principality from around the US, presenting us all with historic photos of his and Roy's meetings with the Princely Family. They were incredibly generous. I will never forget their grace while personally touring us through the Secret Garden of Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage, and then going behind the scenes with them. The awe of watching Roy get up from his wheelchair to feed prime steak to the mighty Montecore, king of the white tigers, who was on hind legs, front paws ten feet high, trying to embrace his human counterpart through the cage. "He is my brother," Roy said.
Working cruise ships in the early 1960's lead Siegfried and Roy to Monaco, where they cut their own show business teeth in Monte Carlo. They never forgot the friendship and hospitality of the Princely Family.
Siegfried and Roy were also friends of Liberace, whom they told me drew them to Las Vegas, where they were stunned to find he spoke to the young upstarts as peers. I am so thankful to have crossed cross paths with them in the promotion of the Liberace Foundation as well.
Before my time at the Liberace Foundation, they had spectacularly hosted the grand re-opening of the Liberace Museum in 2002, arriving on Liberace's mirrored convertible Volksrolls. I saw Siegfried around town several times, always so gracious, so positive and so friendly. I had hoped to have him make a cameo in a planned re-make of a Liberace music video. I am so sad to be too late.
The Siegfried and Roy brand of showmanship, originated by Liberace, preserved by performers like Line Renaud, and carried forward by Siegfried and Roy's completely original mix of exotic animals and wizardry, can these days be described by the byline of the advertisement for the Siegfried and Roy show, on television years ago, "disappearing nightly." Gone are the production shows. Gone is the glitz - for now.
Old school showmanship, Camp, glitz, the joyous over-the-top Las Vegas for its own sake, will never be a product produced by a corporate bottom line. It has throughout history only appeared when driven by the rare and bold personality of those for who become infatuated with creating the ultimate, jaw-dropping, goose bump-inducing, show. It will never make sense to some bean counter or the new MBA hired by the giant conglomerate. Art never does.
But in these doldrums I also realize that this fact creates the very vacuum which affords the opportunity to the next of great showmen and women, somewhere out there, wondering why no one is doing it. For them, the stage is set. Siegfried has left the light flickering.
So when the pandemic lifts. When you return to the nightlife. This time, take it up a notch. Add a bit of bling, a little flash, some showmanship. Wear it a little bolder.
And raise a glass to Siegfried and Roy.
About the author
PLEDGES & TIPS SUPPORT THE LIBERACE FOUNDATION FOR THE PERFORMING AND CREATIVE ARTS.
Honorary Consul of Monaco, Chairman of the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts, 50 years in Vegas, Citizen of the world.