Siegfried Fischbacher, one half of the colourful illusionist duo known as Siegfried & Roy, has died of cancer at age 81.
Earlier this month, the star revealed he had terminal pancreatic cancer, and his death comes just days after that announcement. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports he passed away at home.
When doctors tried to remove a malignant tumour while operating on Siegfried last year, they sadly found the cancer had spread to other areas of his body. A funeral will be held privately, with plans for a public memorial to follow sometime in the future when it's safe to do so.
Siegfried & Roy got their start on the ship TS Bremen in Germany. Their love of using big cats in their act began around this time, and they were fired from that gig for bringing a live cheetah onto the ship. They were eventually recruited by a New York cruise line, which led to nightclub events in Europe, and finally moving into the Las Vegas performing arts circuit in the 1960s.
They continued to integrate big cats such as tigers into their act, but tragedy struck in 2003, when Roy was mauled by Manticore, a white tiger in their Vegas show. At that time they were performing six times a week in Sin City. Roy's injury led to them taking a break from the stage for six years, and they eventually returned for a one-off charity gig in 2009. A year later, they formally retired.
"We did what we did out of love, not for success or money," Siegfried once said, according to CNN. "We had a deep respect for each other. We literally raised each other: I created Roy and Roy created Siegfried."
Siegfried's family are asking for donations to be made to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health instead of sending flowers.