Siegfried & Roy are national headliners once more.
The duo are featured in the two-hour season premiere of the ABC news program “20/20,” laden with new interviews chronicling the night their show closed. Dramatically, one of the doctors who treated Roy Horn says the legendary performer “flat-lined” in the minutes after he was dragged offstage by the big cat Mantecore in October 2003.
“He actually flat-lined … or died,” Dr. Jay Coates, a trauma surgeon at University Medical Center who operated on Horn just after the incident. “We lost vital signs on him.”
The program will air at 11:30 p.m. Saturday in Las Vegas. It airs nationally at 9 p.m. today, but has been pushed back for the network’s coverage of tonight’s Vegas Golden Knights/Los Angeles Kings NHL pre-season game at T-Mobile Arena.
“20/20” producers filmed the two-hour special in segments over the summer, concluding just a couple weeks ago. The superstar duo are interviewed in the program, along with Penn & Teller; Lance Burton; Criss Angel; Lynette Chappell (the duo’s confidant and the “Evil Queen” onstage); Steve Wynn, who owned The Mirage during S&R’s record-breaking headlining run; and famed show producer Kenneth Feld. (Yours truly also was interviewed for the special).
The show also covers the duo’s career from when they arrived in Las Vegas in the late-1960s, through their performances on the Strip at “Lido de Paris” at Stardust, “Beyond Belief” at the Frontier, and 13 years at The Mirage. The show was selling out consistently when Mantecore bit down on Roy’s neck.
Dr. Allan MacIntyre, a general surgeon on duty the night Horn was rushed to UMC, recalled, “They don’t tell you that they’re bringing in a celebrity. They say we have … male patient that has been bitten by a tiger in respiratory distress. They’ll say it’s a Class One activation, which means everybody presents to the trauma bay.”
The physicians at the Level I trauma center quickly discovered Horn’s uncommon injuries, including major puncture wounds in his neck.
“A tiger bite to the neck … We don’t see that on a daily basis like a gunshot wound, so you have no idea what to expect,” MacIntyre said, adding that the damage led to serious internal bleeding and had “compromised Horn’s airway.”
“You’ve got to deal with that first,” MacIntyre said. “If you’re not breathing for over, like, three minutes, you will have irreversible brain death.”
“Roy was in such distress from his airway — loss of airway — that his heart stopped multiple times,” MacIntyre said.
Siegfried Fischbacher also recalls, “They told me he was clinically dead.”
The show charts Roy’s lengthy and ongoing rehabilitation.
“You have to literally go back to, like, when you were an infant, and learn how to walk again, and how to talk again and how to swallow, and (Horn’s) drive, I believe, is what got him through this,” MacIntyre said.
Siegfried and Roy remain almost inseparable, even today, making personal appearances around town at charity events and production shows. In an interview for “20/20,” seated with Roy at his side, Siegfried said, “If I had to do everything again, I would do everything the same way.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.