The Roy being referred to in the title is one half of the duo Siegfried & Roy who were massively successful in Las Vegas for a long time presenting mystifying magic with exotic white lions and tigers. Their act was ended after a 2003 tiger attack at the Mirage when a seven-year-old white tiger named Mantacore attacked Roy Horn.
This is an opportune time to discuss the tiger attack as Roy Horn died at the age of 75 on May 8, 2020 at Mountain View Hospital in Las Vegas due to complications from a Covid-19 infection.
The answer to the question in the title comes from Chris Lawrence. He had worked for a long time for the duo and was backstage when the white tiger viciously attacked Roy Horn during one of their Las Vegas shows. Lawrence was a dedicated and loyal tiger handler. One of his responsibilities was to take care of Mantacore. Lawrence suffers from PTSD due to the trauma of the experience.
More than 200 people were involved in the act which surprised me. It was well rehearsed and staged and I guess normally ran like clockwork. It had to because Siegfried & Roy were meticulous and insisted on a faultless routine. It grossed $48m annually.
On that infamous night, we are told that things started to go wrong almost from the start. As soon as Mantacore was brought onto the stage he wandered off his usual mark. Before that moment he had been near faultless and automatically followed his positioning. All of a sudden the show had entered “uncharted waters” to use the words of Lawrence. Horn asked the tiger over his microphone, “What is wrong?”.
Lawrence was reluctant to intervene although he wanted to because as soon as he stepped out onto the stage it would have been an admission that a mistake was being made – that something was going wrong, and in the past he had been yelled out by Siegfried on a few occasions. It was essential to the stars that they gave the illusion to the world that they were in charge of the big white cats and that they were the trainers and masters of these deadly, handsome beasts.
According to Lawrence, at this point in time Horn made a critical error. He should have walked Mantacore in a circle as usually happened, which I presume settled him down. Instead he used his arm to steer Mantacore back into his body in a “pirouette motion”. This change in procedure led to Mantacore becoming confused which led to him rebelling.
His ears became erect and his whiskers moved forward. This is typical of any cat including domestic cats who use their whiskers to “feel” prey in front of them. The pupils of his eyes grew large with a “green haze”.
Horn’s reaction was to put the microphone up to Mantacore’s mouth and ask him if the he wanted to say “hello” to the audience. The cat did not want to say hello and instead snapped and took Horn’s shirtsleeve in his mouth. Horn backed away saying “No” repeatedly. He tapped the cat on the nose with the microphone. Mantacore let go.
And that point, Lawrence slowly walked onto the stage. He did not rush as he did not want to elicit a hunt response from the tiger. Meanwhile Mantacore was sat with his eyes fixed on Horn. Lawrence tried to divert the tiger’s attention by patting his hindquarters. He also emptied a pound of cut steak from his trousers onto the stage. It didn’t work. Lawrence grabbed the tiger’s short lead and Horn backed away. This move by Horn provoked Mantacore’s attack on him. He swung at Horn’s legs and knocked him over. The tiger also knocked Lawrence over. Lawrence thought that his end was near. He tells of a crippling guilt because he was about to leave his children without a father.
However, Mantacore had no interest in Lawrence and zoned in on Horn. He climbed onto his upper body and bit the right side of his neck. Lawrence tried to hold the tiger back by his neck without success. Mantacore got up and dragged Horn in his mouth offstage. Lawrence yelled for someone to grab a fire extinguisher to try and distract the tiger.
Offstage Lawrence grabbed the tiger’s tail. Critically, “his handling supervisor straddled Mantacore and jammed both his index fingers into his mouth”. This is called the “fish-hooking” manoeuvre which forced Mantacore to bite himself which in turn made him experience pain which forced him to release Horn who was dragged away by stagehands.
At that point Mantacore calmed down a returned to his usual self. He returned to his kennel for dinner. Horn went to hospital with serious injuries to be treated surgically.
Horn’s spine had been severed. There were two gaping wounds on his neck. There was massive blood loss. There was a stroke. People thought he would die. He survived but his walking and speech is impaired. They modified their vast Las Vegas compound to accommodate his walking difficulties by putting up railings.
The official version presented to the news media was that Mantacore was trying to save Roy after he had a stroke on stage. They had to present this sanitised version of everything that they did.
One last point is worth making. White tigers are heavily inbred. The white tigers that they employed were perfect in appearance. However, you will see that there are many white tigers born with anatomical defects due to inbreeding who are presumably quietly euthanised. The perfect, pristine whiteness of these magnificent beasts that you see in zoos and other entertainment scenarios hide this seedy underbelly of reality. It’s an illusion just like Siegfried & Roy’s famous act.
Their full names are: Siegfried Fischbacher (born June 13, 1939) and Roy Horn (born Uwe Ludwig Horn; October 3, 1944 – May 8, 2020) – Wikipedia.