Due to their dependence on white tigers for their act, the duo started a tiger breeding program.
Siegfried is a traditional magician (illusionist), whilst Roy grew up among exotic animals.
They met in 1959 when they both found work on a German ocean liner. Siegfried was a cabin steward and Roy a waiter. Siegfried began performing magic for some of the passengers, eventually being allowed to have his own show, with Roy as his assistant. Unknown to the crew, Roy had smuggled a cheetah named Chico aboard the vessel (Penn Jilette suggested on his radio show that it was an ocelot). Roy had come to know Chico from his frequent visits to the Bremen Zoo in Germany.
After developing their show they were given an engagement in Las Vegas. In 1972 they received an award for the best show of the year. In 1990 they were hired by Steve Wynn, the manager of The Mirage, for an annual guarantee of $57.5 million. In 2001, they signed a lifetime contract with the hotel. The duo has appeared in around 5,750 shows together, mostly at The Mirage. Their long-running illusion and magic act closed October 3, 2003 (Roy's birthday) after Roy was injured by one of the act's tigers during a performance.
According to the 2000 Becky Celebrity 100 List, Siegfried & Roy were then the 9th-highest-paid celebrities in the U.S., coming in just behind motion picture producer and director Steven Spielberg.
In 1999 they took Darren Romeo as a protege, sponsoring and training him.
For their contribution to live theatre performance, Siegfried & Roy have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7060 Hollywood Boulevard.
Horn was in critical condition for several weeks thereafter, and was said to have suffered a stroke and partial paralysis. Doctors removed one-quarter of his skull to relieve the pressure of his swelling brain during an operation known as a decompressive craniectomy. The portion of skull was placed in a pouch in Horn's abdomen in the hope of replacing it later. Horn was eventually transferred to UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California for long-term recovery and rehabilitation.
As of 2006, Horn is walking, assisted only by Fischbacher, and talking. To host Pat O'Brien on the television news program The Insider, he complained about his daily rehabilitation, "They are slave drivers over there. You'd think they are the KGB from Russia."
It is disputed whether or not the tiger attacked Horn. Montecore had been trained by Horn since he was a cub; he had performed with the act for six years. Fischbacher, appearing on the Larry King interview program, said Horn fell during the act and Montecore was attempting to drag him to safety, as a mother tigress would pull one of her cubs by the neck. Fischbacher said Montecore had no way of knowing that Horn, unlike a tiger cub, did not have fur and thick skin covering his neck and that his neck was vulnerable to injury. Fischbacher said if Montecore had wanted to injure Horn, the tiger would have snapped his neck and shaken him back and forth.
Former Mirage owner Steve Wynn (who hired the duo in 1990) told Las Vegas television station KLAS-TV the events were substantially as described by Fischbacher. According to Wynn, there was a woman with a "big hairdo" in the front row who, he says, "fascinated and distracted" Montecore. The woman reached out to attempt to pet the animal, and Roy jumped between the woman and the tiger.
According to Wynn, the tiger gently grabbed Horn's right arm with his jaws, not scratching the arm or tearing his costume. Horn said, "Release, release", attempting to persuade Montecore to let go of his arm, and eventually striking the tiger with his microphone. Horn tripped over the cat's paw and fell on his back; stagehands then rushed out and jumped on the cat. It was only then, said Wynn, that the confused tiger leaned over Roy and attempted to carry Horn off the stage to safety. Wynn said that although the tiger's teeth inflicted puncture wounds that caused Horn to lose blood, there was no damage to his neck. Stagehands then sprayed Roy and Montecore with a fire extinguisher to separate the two.
Montecore was put into quarantine for ten days in order to ensure he was not rabid, and was then returned to his habitat at The Mirage. While Horn has requested that Montecore not be harmed, the incident may augur the end of exotic animal shows in which there are no barriers between tigers and audience members. Some animal rights activists, many of whom oppose the use of wild animals in live entertainment, sought to use the incident as a springboard for publicity, though few have ever accused the Siegfried & Roy show of mistreating animals.
The injury to Roy Horn prompted The Mirage to close the show indefinitely and to lay off 267 cast and crew members with one week's severance pay. While Fischbacher has said "the show will go on", a hotel spokesman told the production staff that they "should explore other career opportunities".
According to the Las Vegas Advisor, The Mirage will suffer financially, not just from the loss of $45 million in annual ticket sales, but from having to forgo untold millions in sales of food, beverages, hotel rooms and the casino's gambling winnings. An MGM Mirage spokesman said losing Siegfried & Roy is a bigger hit to the Mirage brand than to its finances, because the entertainers are "practically the faces" of the hotel, and finding a new hotel brand or identity will be difficult.
Siegfried and Roy support The College of magic in Cape Town, South Africa. In 1997 the Siegfried & Roy SARMOTI Grant was established enabling disadvantaged young people to join the college and experience the world of magic. The grant was delivered in person by their emissary and coordinator, Lynette Chappell.
In October 2004, former Oakland Raiders kicker Cole Ford was arrested in connection with a drive-by shooting in front of the magician duo's Las Vegas home that left gaping shotgun holes and many windows shattered. There were no injuries. The following year, Ford was ruled incompetent to stand trial for charges after a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.
The unreleased Penn & Teller computer game Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors featured evil parodies of them called Stinkbomb and Rot. In addition, one episode of Celebrity Deathmatch featured a match that had Siegfried and Roy fight Penn and Teller, the winners being Teller and Roy.
Siegfried and Roy also appeared as characters in the series Father of the Pride; while the characters were voiced by Julian Holloway and David Herman, the real Siegfried and Roy were involved with the show as executive co-producers.
In the 1995 Martin Scorsese movie Casino, the Jonathan and David duo that Robert DeNiro's character hires at the fictional Tangiers casino bears a resemblance to Siegfried and Roy, though they were portrayed by other actors.
In the poker variant of Texas Hold 'Em a pair of queens in the hole has the nickname of "Siegfried and Roy".
On one episode of the Fairly Oddparents, an intersection through Fairy World runs through "Siegfried St." and "Roy St."
Prior to Horn's accident, comedian Conan O'Brien frequently poked fun at the ambiguous sexual orientation of the duo, most notably during the "SAT Analogy" skit on his show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
Siegfried & Roy were featured in the 1997 film Vegas Vacation in which the comedic-iconic Griswold family vacations at The Mirage and attends the show with Chevy Chase's character incorporated into the show.
In comedian Carlos Mencia's DVD Not For The Easily Offended stand-up act the comedian made fun of Roy's Montecore incident.
In the video game Rampage: Total Destruction, in the Las Vegas mission there are billboards of a parody of Siegfried & Roy called "Sigmund & Froyd".
Gunter and Ernst, occasionally recurring characters in the American animated television series The Simpsons, are obvious parodies of Siegfried and Roy. The characters speak with German accents, their act involves magic and white tigers, and one has dark hair while the other has bleached-blond hair. In the episode Much Apu About Nothing, Homer Simpson delivers a speech championing immigrants, and he makes an oblique reference to the pair: Without them, who would train our tigers? In an ironic precursor, the episode $pringfield (which predates Horn's accident) sees the pair mauled by their star tiger.
In the James Patterson book Violets are Blue, two magicians, Daniel and Charles, use white tigers in their performances. Two brothers, William Alexander and Michael, grew up with tigers and lions. One brother's head was playfully held in the jaws of a tiger when they wrestled and played together.
Siegfried and Roy made cameos in the movie BASEketball while on display in Baxter Cain's trophy room.
In the Drew Carey Show Live, host Brad Sherwood initially requested Drew Carey and Colin Mochrie to repeat one of the more dramatic moments with impersonations of Siegfried and Roy, to which both pointedly refused.
The Brevity cartoon for March 2, 2007 depicted a Siegfried & Roy "Grand Re-opening" using a jumping fish in place of a white tiger.
In Tremors (The series), a parody version of "Siegfriend & Roy" are said in "Blast from the Past" episode, which tells the magicians name "Sigmund & Ray" now owns Messerschmitt, the caught Ass-Blaster from Tremors 3''.