Las Vegas showman Roy Horn is home from the hospital, slowly recovering from the on-stage accident that was initially blamed on a tiger attack, Siegfried Fischbacher told Barbara Walters during an interview for 20/20.
"He's moving. He's giving me signs. He's writing," Fischbacher told ABCNEWS. "He's thinking perfectly."
Horn was released from the U.C.L.A. medical center Dec. 22 and returned to Las Vegas where he last performed his long-running stage show.
Illusionist Fischbacher and animal specialist Horn were both survivors of Hitler's Germany and of alcoholic fathers. Together, they forged a family that grew to include 63 tigers, 16 lions and an assortment of other exotic creatures.
They had a perfectly timed show until the night of Oct. 3 when Horn was dragged from the stage by their 7-year-old tiger, Montecore. Fischbacher insists the tiger is not to blame, describing what occurred as an animal helping his master.
"He fell on stage and Montecore sees that," Fischbacher told ABCNEWS. "Gently he carried Roy on stage behind the curtain … And that was it. And then he was lost too, because it is dark."
Fischbacher said his professional partner initially fell after suffering a minor stroke caused by a bad reaction to new blood pressure medication. He is certain that if the animal wanted to attack Horn the results would have been disastrous.
"I would be not here because when I walk there and want to separate [them], he would attack me too," said Fischbacher. "He would, and the audience would be crazy panic, it would be worse than the sinking of the Titanic."
Show Began With Cheetah on a Cruise Ship
For 44 years audiences were dazzled by the magic and theatrics of Siegfried and Roy, who first met on a cruise ship and decided to combine efforts on stage.
Fischbacher, a steward who performed magic tricks, invited cabin boy Horn to assist during his magic show. "What a great performance I gave. And he was not very impressed!" said Fischbacher. "And he said 'now tell me — what you just did with the rabbit could you do the same thing with a cheetah?'"
Fischbacher responded optimistically, saying "everything is possible in magic" and Horn matched the challenge. On the next trip he brought a cheetah on board. They were delighted, but the captain did not welcome the unusual passenger.
"The act was born. But he fired us!" said Fischbacher.
Their relationship flourished on stage and off, with Fischbacher describing his love for Roy as deep as that of a brother. The two had shared a home for years, rarely leaving their compound where wild and rare white lions and tigers freely roamed — even joining Horn in meditation and both men in the pool.
Horn raised the animals, and is described by Fischbacher as being "fearless." Fischbacher preferred to visit the tigers with a trainer or Horn at his side.
Their act is now over, and Fischbacher would not consider a replacement partner. "I wouldn't go through with somebody else the same thing what I went with Roy. No, no," said Siegfried.
‘He’s Thinking Perfectly’
It has been three months since Horn was hospitalized and while the show will not go on. For Fischbacher, Horn still brings magical moments. "Finally [Roy] starts to move. You know what that did for me?" said Fischbacher.
Horn's first movement was when he raised one finger to indicate he could understand what was said to him at his hospital bed. "It was a miracle. It's unbelievable!" said Siegfried. "And then the next day is — is let's try and maybe he can write something down.
"[Roy took] the pen in his hand and he tried to write. And he wrote 'Siegfried it's nice to hold your hand.'"
Fischbacher said Horn continues to improve daily. He is able to speak a few words, such as "yes" and "no."
Among his biggest achievements — the ability to stand — an incredible step considering his initial diagnosis called for total paralysis. Fischbacher said the experience has reminded him of just how much their relationship means to him.
While doctors say Horn may never fully recover, his health is not stopping him from remaining involved with Fischbacher's daily decisions. Fischbacher said amongst his notes from Horn is an occasional fashion tip: "Yes, of course he tells me how to dress."