- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Ildiko Pataki, a veteran acrobat of the “Siegfried & Roy” show, heard a loud commotion and instantly knew something had gone very wrong at the Mirage.

Minutes later, Mr. Pataki watched as paramedics rolled out a bloodied Roy Horn on a stretcher. What many feared would happen had finally happened to the Las Vegas icon during a sold-out performance: A tiger had mauled him.

“I was just petrified,” said Mr. Pataki, 42, a 14-year show veteran. “I still cannot tell you how I feel about it. It was a nightmare.”

Mr. Pataki was one of more than 200 people, many of them show employees, who turned out for a candlelight vigil Sunday night at University Medical Center, where co-headliner Mr. Horn is being treated.

Mr. Horn, 59, suffered a severe wound to the neck when the 7-year-old tiger, named Montecore, attacked him Friday night in front of hundreds of people. Nobody was sure whether Mr. Horn would survive, but MGM officials finally delivered some good news at the vigil.

Bobby Baldwin, chief executive of the MGM Mirage resort, said Mr. Horn’s prognosis had improved.

He said doctors had informed him that Mr. Horn, who was in critical condition, could move his hands and feet and also had given a thumbs-up sign. Mr. Horn remained in critical but stable condition yesterday, the hospital said.

Those who attended the vigil chanted “We love you, Roy” and held candles in the direction of his hospital room. They said those working in the show were like a “tight-knit family,” and they had been rocked twice.

First, they almost lost Mr. Horn. And now they had lost their jobs. With the co-headliner’s future uncertain, MGM Mirage officials told the show’s 267 employees Saturday night to look for new employment.

The officials said the show was “closed indefinitely.” They added that even if Mr. Horn recovers, it’s not clear whether he would ever be able to perform again in the rigorous show.

“We are not going to sugarcoat this,” MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said.

Show employees concerned about their future also wondered whether the company would pay off the rest of their contracts.

“We are worried about him, but we also basically lost our jobs,” said 42-year-old Mary Bryan, a single mother who worked with the acrobats. “We gave this show our heart and soul. It’s awful we have to think about money at a time like this.”

MGM Mirage officials have promised to help the employees land other jobs.

Without the show, the fate of the tigers also is unknown. Montecore continues to be quarantined at the hotel, officials said.

Mr. Horn had not been injured previously during a show. “Not a scratch, not by an animal,” said Bernie Yuman, the pair’s longtime manager, who added that none of the 63 exotic cats “have ever shown aggression onstage.”

Mr. Horn, with longtime partner Siegfried Fischbacher, have been a staple on the Las Vegas Strip for years, performing their magic show to sold-out crowds at the Mirage since 1990.

The illusionists, who put on one of the most well-known and expensive Las Vegas shows with their signature white tigers and lions, signed a lifetime contract with the resort in 2001.

The German-born pair perform six shows a week, 44 weeks per year and have been onstage in Las Vegas for more than 35 years. They have done about 5,700 shows since coming to the Mirage in 1990.

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