In a town full of big names, Siegfried and Roy's became the biggest. With their menagerie of exotic tigers and lions, these self-proclaimed "masters of the impossible" earned more money than any other act in the history of Las Vegas. At their peak they brought in $57 million a year.
But their career nearly came to an end when a tiger dragged Roy Horn offstage in October 2003. He has been recuperating since then, and still faces many obstacles.
Watch Siegfried & Roy's final performance in "Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Returns," a special edition of ABC News' "20/20," Friday, March 6 at 9 p.m. ET
In a revealing interview with "20/20" co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas, the illusionist pair opened up about Horn's dramatic five-year rehabilitation.
But Horn, who is now 64 years old, wasn't the only one who was affected by the accident; Siegfried Fischbacher, now 69, was also struggling to hang on, overwhelmed by the injury to his friend and what that injury meant to the only thing he really loved ... his magic show.
"I was so alone, and I was so lost," he said. "And, of course, I got in depression, but the depression was more because of the show ... because it was over."
Saturday's performance raised more than $10 million for the state-of-the-art medical facility, which is under construction in Las Vegas. The Institute was developed to treat brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's and Parkinson's.
"I'm at a part of my life now where I think I can give something back," Fischbacher said. "And this country and Las Vegas was so good to me for 45 years, and I think that was a perfect reason to do it."
Fischbacher and Horn's partnership began in 1959. They grew up in post-war Germany, the sons of alcoholic fathers. As a young boy, Siegfried said he turned to magic as his way of coping with his father's indifference. Horn found his escape in a love for animals, even working part-time at a local zoo. The two met as teenagers when each took a job aboard a cruise ship. Fischbacher was performing a magic act and needed an assistant. Horn, then a bellboy, jumped at the chance to perform. One night, after a show, Horn asked Fischbacher a question that would change both their lives.
"He said to me, 'What you just did with the rabbit tonight, could you do this with a cheetah?' A cheetah for me was something very exotic, very outlandish. So, I said to him, "Well, of course, in magic anything is possible' … not realizing he had a pet cheetah."
Chico the cheetah, whom Horn had liberated from the zoo back home, became a permanent part of Fischbacher's act.
Fischbacher, Horn and Chico eventually went ashore, performing in nightclubs and cabarets all across Europe. They were hired in the late 1960s by the famed Follies Bergere of Paris, which was launching a new show in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas and the Rat Pack reigned in the 1960s, and topless show girls were often the main attraction in any act. Two Germans with thick accents doing a magic act with a cheetah hardly seemed a likely fit. But their idea of replacing wild naked exotic dancers with wild naked exotic animals caught on.