A classic meet cute: Two German teens escape postwar strife by working on a cruise ship. One is a waiter who, when his bosses aren’t looking, performs magic tricks for the passengers, which proves so popular he’s given his own show. The other is an enraptured bellboy who becomes his onstage assistant and, to spice up the disappearing animal act, smuggles a cheetah on board. So began the legendary team, Siegfried & Roy. They fell in love, toured Europe, played Princess Grace’s Red Cross benefit in Monaco, then the Lido in Paris, and by 1970 it was Vegas, baby. They began to use more exotic animals in their illusionist show and, in 1989, when Steve Wynn opened the Mirage, they were so popular he guaranteed them a minimum of $57.5 million for the next five years. In 2000, they were the ninth highest-paid celebrities in the United States, just behind Steven Spielberg. Audiences adored their exotic white tigers and their camp theatrics, which featured hooded musclemen, capes, ultra tight leggings, and Roy's ludicrously oversized codpieces described as “certainly more frightening” than the tigers. Their last performance was October 3, 2003, when it was widely reported that a tiger “bit” Roy. Siegfried disputes this, saying if the tiger intended to harm Roy he would have snapped his neck and vigorously shaken him. Instead, Montecore, a seven year-old tiger who had been in the show for six years, wanted to help. Roy fell, possibly attempting to intercept a woman in the front row who may have been reaching out to touch Montecore, and the tiger was trying to rescue him, carrying him in his mouth as a mother tiger would her cubs. Roy suffered severe blood loss and critical injuries that kept him in rehabilitation for years. In April 2010, they gave a final benefit performance, with Montecore, lasting ten minutes. Siegfried and Roy continue to share a west Las Vegas eight-acre estate called the Jungle Palace, though they maintain separate living quarters.
Siegfried is 75 today. It is the younger Roy, 69 until October, who was hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit from three male caretakers who have videotape of the incidents.