The rest of the show was, for lack of a better word, an anticlimax. "How can you top a full-blown sex act?" roars Siegfried, his right hand fluttering against his heaving chest.
"I'll tell you how," says Roy, his left hand smoothing a rogue lock on his scrupulously sculpted scalp. "Exactly 108 days later, Sitarra gave birth to three white cubs as I sat meditating with her. After licking the newborns clean and biting off their umbilical cords, she picked them up with her teeth and placed them in my lap for safekeeping. It was the greatest magic I've ever witnessed."
A couple of strange cats, Siegfried & Roy. From their taut-skinned publicity stills, you half expect to see the faint stitchery of plastic surgery in person. But when you get up close in their backstage lair, you see that they have allowed themselves to age more naturally; their faces crinkle merrily at the memory of that near cat-astrophe. At the ages of 61 and 56, respectively, these German-born magicians—sometimes gentle, sometimes predatory—still exercise all the charm and ferocity of the truly celebrated.
Over the past 30 years Siegfried & Roy have cultivated their own legend as the Liberaces of legerdemain. Siegfried, the blond one, provides the magic; Roy, the dark one, works the menagerie—an entire jungle's worth of exotic felines. "We are perfectly matched," says Siegfried. "Roy's the fantasist, I'm the realist. As solo artists, he would be too much, and I, too little."
Like Fred and Ginger, Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Uwe Ludwig Horn have earned the distinction of being known simply by one name each. Like Laurel and Hardy, they have occasionally earned each other's enmity—24 years ago they nearly broke up when Siegfried became dependent on Valium and started crawling on the floor of the house they share in Las Vegas, babbling incoherently. And like the Captain and Tennille, they have earned the adoration of �berfans, who tend to sprinkle on superlatives like an Italian waiter working a pepper mill. " Jay Leno has said their show is the greatest he's ever seen," offers their longtime manager, Bernie Yuman. " Michael Jackson thinks Siegfried & Roy are the world's greatest entertainers. Liza Minnelli calls them the greatest performers alive.
"Siegfried & Roy are not just the magicians of the decade," says Yuman. "At the end of the day, they're the magicians of the century."
"Why not the magicians of the millennium?" asks Siegfried. A little false modesty goes a long way.
In the $38 million Siegfried & Roy Theater at the Mirage, where they have headlined since 1990, there has never been an empty seat. The show has grossed more man $600 million and mystified more than eight million people-remarkable considering that their $100.50 ticket price is the second heftiest in town. "Siegfried & Roy are what Bernie Yuman calls destination entertainment," says Bernie Yuman, who calls himself "the ampersand" in Siegfried & Roy. "When you go to New York, you see the Statue of Liberty. When you go to Paris, you see the Eiffel Tower. When you come to Las Vegas, you see Siegfried & Roy."
Lots of guys brag about turning women into tigers-Siegfried & Roy actually do it, night after night. They also turn lions and panthers into each other...and into thin air. Their 98-minute extravaganza is a pageant of floor-show glitter and big-top glitz. Amid a fusillade of lasers, holograms and New Age Wagnerian fanfares, our heroes, decked out in lam� capes, silver Klingon gear and codpieces as big as soup bowls, levitate 50 feet in the lotus position, straddle elephants and lions, duel a colossal fire-belching dragon and a sorceress in the Death-Defying Crystal Chamber. It's as if George Lucas had channeled Wagner's Ring Cycle through Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and hired Houdini and Tarzan as ringmasters.
Siegfried & Roy know every trick in the book. (They should—it's for sale: Siegfried & Roy: Mastering the Impossible, Morrow, $35.) Yet for all their high-tech razzle and big-cat dazzle, even they acknowledge that nothing really new has been added to large-scale conjuring since P.T. Selbit sliced a woman in half in 1921. "All illusions come out of five basic principles: appearance, disappearance, transformation, levitation and sawing," Siegfried says. "The challenge for us is to package these ideas in our own wrapping. We are merchants of dreams. We want to bring fantasy to an audience and awaken the children within."