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Roy Uwe Ludwig Horn, whose collaboration with Siegfried Fischbacher created the well-known animal training and magic duo Siegfried & Roy, died of complications from COVID-19 Friday in Las Vegas. He was 75.
Horn had revealed on April 28 that he had tested positive for coronavirus.
"Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend," Siegfried said in a statement, "From the moment we met, I knew Roy and I, together, would change the world. There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried.
"Roy was a fighter his whole life including during these final days. I give my heartfelt appreciation to the team of doctors, nurses and staff at Mountain View Hospital who worked heroically against this insidious virus that ultimately took Roy's life."
Born in Nordenham, Germany, Horn had a lifelong love of animals and adopted a cheetah, Chico, at an early age.
He met magician Siegfried while working as a steward on a cruise ship. Horn asked Siegfried if he could make a cheetah disappear, not knowing that Horn had smuggled his pet cheetah on board. Siegfried said, "In magic, anything is possible," though they were then reportedly fired from the ship.
Siegfried and Roy started performing with tigers in Europe, and were discovered while performing in Paris, They started performing in Las Vegas in 1967 in revues such as "Hallelujah Hollywood" and "Lido de Paris."
Their lavish act at the Mirage started out in 1989 and ran for 14 years, selling out nightly in what was at the time the largest theater in Las Vegas. The Mirage hotel continues to host the Secret Garden of Siegfried & Roy animal attraction.
The act incorporated more than 55 white tigers, white lions, leopards, jaguars and an elephant that appeared and disappeared.
Horn was forced to stop performing in 2003 when his white tiger Mantecore bit his neck and dragged him off the stage. His spine was severed and he sustained severe injuries; he later said he thought the tiger was trying to save him after he suffered a stroke onstage.
He had to relearn how to talk and walk, and was eventually able to continue to travel and appear at events. The duo retired in 2010.
A 2004 animated TV show, "Father of the Pride," was based on their act, but was cancelled after one season.
"Roy's whole life was about defying the odds," added Siegfried. "He grew up with very little and became famous throughout the world for his showmanship, flair and his life-long commitment to animal conservation. He had a strength and will unlike anyone I have ever known."
He is survived by a brother, Werner.
Donations may be made to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health or the Nevada COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force.