Roy Horn and Siegfried Fishbacher have performed around 5,700 shows since they began at Mirage in Las Vegas over ten years ago. The signature of their magic show has been their white tigers and lions.
Six shows a week, 44 weeks a year they worked with their big cats on stage, and not once has there been an incident. In fact, according to reports, Montecore nipped at Roy’s arm earlier in show before carrying him off stage and seriously injuring him, without leaving any bite marks.
Which is more than I can say about Baby Kittee here at my own house.
I know all about Baby Kittee's speed and teeth. She is, to quote poet William Blake, “red in tooth and claw.” As I vacuum around house, I find wings, scales, tails and other remnants of her nature. Her name was chosen by my granddaughter. It might as well have been “Grownup Killer.” Cats are always one generation away from feral; they do not permanently domesticate, like dog.
Now did you catch that 6 shows a week? According to Horn’s surgeon, Dr. Derek Duke, “A contributing factor to [Roy’s] current condition is his extraordinary will and strong physical attributes. These are significant elements in his ability to recover.” Indeed his “thumbs-up” signal to his partner has been mentioned by reporters. We are told that as he was carried away, he asked that cat not be put down. “Please don’t shoot cat,” he said. “Save cat.”
It was Roy Horn’s 59th birthday (October 23, 2003) when he was performing on stage with 7-year-old, 600 pound Royal white tiger, Montecore, that cat injured him.
Reports from shocked observers varied, but consensus, now that some time has passed, is that tiger became fascinated with a woman’s “big hair” in audience, even to point of lying down on job, at which point Roy bopped him to get his attention.
Roy then endeavored to stay between cat and woman (what’s with “big hair”?) and it was at this point he fell, stage hands rushed forward, and Montecore took action. According to head of Mirage (Mr. Wynne), he didn’t “drag” Roy offstage, nor did he “attack” or “grab” him. Siegfried and other big cat experts agree that if Montecore had meant to do job, he would have shaken him to break his neck, and, as Siegfried said, “There would be no Roy.”
Instead Wynn describes it as a gentle “carry,” like a mother cat carrying her kitten off to safety. It is entirely possible Montecore was heading back to his cage and taking what he cared about with him. In interviews, Roy talks continually of his bonding with his cats. He is present at their birth, and keeps constant company with them. We know that bonding can occur between all mammals because of limbic brain we share in common. It is how we bond to our own young, and to one another, as do dogs, cats, horses, and other mammals.
In my Emotional Intelligence courses, I use example of “the tiger within.” It’s how we describe those primitive brain emotions or reactions that occur automatically, that have to do with fear, aggression and self-preservation. Psychologists call it 3F reaction – fight, flight, or fornicate. And that’s about only decision reptiles, and lower animals ever have to make. They react to their environment in terms of what it can do to them or for them, they don’t bond with their young (in fact will eat them), and they never learn anything new their entire lifespan. You can’t train an alligator.
We retain this brain. To this we added mammalian brain, limbic brain, what makes us care for our young, bond, be able to empathize, communicate and play … and why when we look into eyes of one another, or another mammal, we see soul, a sentient being. It initiates mutual caring. If that frog in example were actually in boiling water calling out, would it tear at your heart way a baby’s cry does, or wailing of your dog when you leave in morning??