In new '20/20' interview, Las Vegas performers Siegfried and Roy recall near-fatal tiger attack

Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn sat down with ABC's 20/20 in a two-hour season premiere that marked their first interview together in a decade. (Photo: Denise Truscello/WireImage)

Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn were the most celebrated duo to take the Las Vegas stage, until Roy was attacked during the pair’s iconic Siegfried & Roy show in 2003. On Friday, the famous team sat down for an interview with ABC’s 20/20, marking their first primetime interview in over a decade.

During the interview, Fischbacher reflected on how he and Horn met in 1959 while both worked on a luxury cruise liner traveling from Germany to the United States. Siegfried told 2020 that Roy wasn’t too impressed with his magic, and Roy asked his friend whether he could “make a cheetah disappear” in the same way a magician would do with a rabbit. Horn ushered Fischbacher into his room, revealing that — surprise! — he had snuck his pet cheetah onboard the ship. The pair soon integrated the cheetah into their magic show and received a standing ovation.

“In show business you don’t have to be only good; you have to be different. And Roy brought the difference,” Siegfried previously told Barbara Walters, as seen on 20/20.

Fast-forward to the duo’s successful Vegas act on Oct. 3, 2003: Horn appeared with Montecore, a white tiger, in a live Siegfried & Roy performance at the Mirage hotel-casino. It was during that show that things went horribly wrong. “The one thing that is clear is that that night changed Siegfried and Roy forever,” said ABC host Deborah Roberts.

According to interviews with 20/20, during the 2003 performance, Montecore became confused, so Horn gave him a tap on the head, a command to obey. The animal took Horn’s hand with his mouth and pushed it away. Looking to distract the animal, Horn tapped Montecore with the microphone and stumbled over the tiger’s paw, falling over onstage. The 400-pound tiger stood above Horn, attaining control of the situation.

“Then I saw, oh my God, Roy’s in trouble,” Siegfried previously told Barbara Walters, in a clip shared on 20/20.

While some audience members assumed it was part of the act, many knew something was wrong.

“Montecore was standing over me. I saw his beautiful blue eyes,” Horn told ABC.

Montecore reached down with his mouth and grabbed Horn by his neck, dragging him offstage. Staff members reportedly sprayed Montecore with a fire extinguisher, forcing the animal to drop Horn. Handlers quickly stuck their fingers in the puncture wounds to stop the flow of blood until paramedics arrived on the scene. Despite his life-threatening injuries, Horn repeatedly told handlers not to “hurt Montecore” as he was whisked off by paramedics.

While videotape of the attack exists, the hotel will not authorize its release.

“As I laid on the operation table, I had an out-of-body experience. I stepped off the table. I see the bright, bright lights. But I got a message to return,” Horn told ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas.

The next morning, Fischbacher played music for Horn at his hospital bed and saw a tear run down his face. Fischbacher said it was that moment when he realized that Horn would survive.

“Doctors were able to save Horn’s life, and he eventually made a remarkable recovery, but he had suffered a stroke, though when the stroke happened and what caused the tiger to bite Horn has been questioned,” reported ABC News.

In 2014, Horn told Maria Shriver during an NBC interview that he had fainted onstage, and Montecore was only trying to help him by dragging him away. "It's just my body. I have high blood pressure," he said, according to the Las Vegas Sun. And when Montecore died at age 17 in 2014, Roy eulogized the “lifesaver” animal on Facebook. “...Montecore who was the one responsible for pulling me to safety where the paramedics could help me after my high blood pressure made me dizzy onstage. He is greatly missed.”

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