This is a time of loss. That is me and the cat above, dealing with it in our own way. Not really. Actually, it’s just me and LeeLoo napping after I put together an overview for a segment on my GirlsLoveMagic website.
I have been reflecting on some wonderful people we have recently lost, though. The magic community was greatly saddened by the May 8th passing from Covid-19 of Roy Horn, part of the team of Siegfried and Roy.
My husband and I met Siegfried and Roy on a few occasions. They were always both very enthusiastic and supportive of their fellow magicians. Geoff remembers them flying out from Vegas to see the Moments of Magic show put on by the Magic Castle Junior Magicians when he was a teenager. It meant so much to them to have such famous magicians go to such effort just to see them.
I think everyone in magic at the time still remembers that horrible day when a tiger mauled Roy on stage at the Mirage on October 3, 2003. It was on his birthday and ended his performing career. Roy, always the animal lover, made sure that Mantecore wasn’t put down and he lived to be 17 years old.
What Siegfried and Roy accomplished as performers was amazing! Their Las Vegas show was the magic show to go see. Siegfried and Roy met when they were both working on a cruise ship. It was Roy’s suggestion that they add exotic animals to the act, and they used a cheetah he was keeping. Siegfried credited him with their success by making their act unique.
And, boy were they a success! In 1967, after traveling the world as performers, they began their long residence in Las Vegas at the Tropicana’s Folies Bergere. In 1974 they appeared at the MGM Grand in the famed Don Arden Hallelujah, Hollywood show. In 1978 they joined the Stardust Hotel’s Lido de Paris show.
Their first permanent show dedicated to them, Beyond Belief, was at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino in 1981. It ran for seven years and some 3,500 performances.
In 1990, they moved to the Mirage, which would be their final home. They started with a five year 57.5 million dollar contract, making them the highest paid live performers in history. They were in residence at the Mirage for 13 years. It was, at the time it opened, the most expensive live show ever produced, coming in at some $30 million. They had their own custom built 1,504-seat Siegfried & Roy Theater. It had a cast and crew of 267. Over 44 years of performing together, it is estimated that they entertained nearly 50 million people.
They also appeared as guests many times on television and had their own magic specials in 1980 (Siegfried & Roy) and 1994 (Siegfried & Roy: The Magic. The Mystery). There were several biographical productions, including the 1999 3-D Imax movie narrated by Anthony Hopkins, Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box.
There were two animated series featuring their animals and them (although their voices were done by voice actors). The Legend of Sarmoti ran 4 episodes in 1994. The more recent 2004 Father of the Pride ran for one season of 14 episodes, the year after Roy was mauled. It was a surprisingly adult series featuring the voices of some very well-known adults. John Goodman starred as Larry, a middle aged and overweight white lion. He was the son-in-law of Sarmoti, played by Carl Reiner. Cheryl Hines (Larry David’s wife in Curb Your Enthusiasm) played Larry’s wife. Orlando Jones (American Gods) was Larry’s best friend. John O’Hurley (J. Peterman from Seinfeld) played Larry’s nemesis. Wendie Malick (Hot in Cleveland), played a lioness with a drinking problem.
The Magic Castle lost Joan Lawton last month. She was always around the Castle and involved in so many different things going on there. She had been sick for awhile so it was not a surprise when she passed, but still a bit of a shock.
She has literally been there from the beginning. She started working as a receptionist at the Magic Castle just seven months after they opened in 1963. She met, fell in love with, and married Magic Castle host and manager, and well-respected magician Don Lawton in 1984.
She was known as the consummate hostess. She hosted the Magic Castle Soapy Smith events that I wrote about in an earlier entry. She helped organize the annual Los Angeles Conference on Magic History. In 2010 and for the next eight years she was on the Academy of Magical Arts’ Board of Trustees. She was on the Heritage committee preserving the history of the Magic Castle. She founded and was past president of the Dai Vernon Foundation that offers scholarships to magicians and is helping magicians now, in their time of need. She loved a good joke, had a great smile and was beloved around the Castle. She will be greatly missed.
On May 9th we lost Little Richard. I only met him once, at a promotional event where my husband had a press pass to interview him. Little Richard was twice my age and I had half his energy. It seemed like he simply did not have an off button or even a dial it down a little button. In person he shone like a 1,000 megawatt bulb, lighting up everything around him. I never met anyone like him.
His birth name was Richard Wayne Penniman. He was a major influence on popular music for seven decades. He began recording in the 1950s. He was a crossover artist. Always bigger than life, he said that he felt his being openly gay helped the white male patrons not have to worry that he was after their women.
Comedic legend and national treasure Fred Willard died on May 15th. He was so hilarious in Christopher Guest’s mocumentaries (A Might Wind, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman.) He often played characters who were spectacularly out of their depth and he had a wonderful gift for improv.
I loved him in everything I saw him do. The last show I saw him in was as Frank Dunphy, father of Phil Dunphy on Modern Family. Phil Dunphy reminds me so much of my husband. It’s not because he’s a magician, (although he is) it’s because he’s a big kid at heart, he is crazy about his wife, and he’s never quite able to impress his father-in-law. Fred played the dad everyone wishes they had – supporting, loving and a little wacky. Up until nearly the end, he showed up playing wild characters on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Anyone who knows me knows I talk to everybody. I ran into Fred a few times at Starbucks when I was working for SAG and he was working across the street at E! Someone told me that Fred was Canadian and I immediately believed it and told everyone. Fred’s actually from Ohio. It’s just that he is so very nice, it was easy to believe.
Fred had an amazing and extensive body of work. His final series starts May 29th on Netflix. It is called Space Force. Fred did an unsold pilot in the 1970s titled Space Force even before there was such a thing.
I believe the best way to honor people is to remember the wonderful things about them. I am thinking of Roy, and Joan, and Richard, and Fred, and all of the great things they brought to me and to this world. I will miss them, but I will not forget them.