04/02/2004 12:00AM

Siegfried & Roy era comes to a close - or does it?


The Siegfried & Roy era came to a close last Wednesday when their giant 70-foot tall marquee was removed from the entrance to the Mirage hotel and casino.

Since the Mirage opened in 1989, the faces of Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, along with one of their beloved white tigers, towered above tourists on the Las Vegas Strip. The claim "Magicians of the Century" adorned the top of the marquee. This was arguably the second most famous sign on the Strip - only to the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign on Las Vegas Blvd. south of Mandalay Bay.

Hundreds of onlookers, mixed with Siegfried & Roy fans, watched as the removal took about three hours to complete. Then a new sign, heralding star impressionist Danny Gans and the Siegfried & Roy Secret Garden attraction, was put up in its place.

The beginning of the end came on Oct. 3 when during a performance a white tiger attacked Horn onstage. Horn was seriously injured and his recovery has been a slow process.

The huge Siegfried & Roy Theater has been dark for six months and there still is no word on a replacement act. That's not hard to fathom. Since the Mirage opened with Siegfried & Roy as the headliner act, they did 5,750 performances, were seen by more than 10.5 million patrons, and grossed more than $1.5 billion for the hotel.

With that kind of success and no rumors of retirement, it would be easy to think Siegfried & Roy would have kept performing for a long, long time.

For the record, Siegfried & Roy began their Las Vegas show at the Tropicana in 1967. After stints at the Stardust, MGM Grand (now Bally's) and seven years at the New Frontier, they moved to the Mirage in 1989.

MGM Mirage has taken a financial hit from the loss of the show. A typical sellout performance - and Siegfried & Roy were always sold out - played to 1,504 customers at an average price of $110 each. They played six shows per week, 45 weeks a year.

One thing for sure is that Siegfried & Roy will remain one of the most renowned duos to have ever performed. Before the tragic accident last fall, an animated television show based upon Siegfried & Roy and their white tigers was being developed by DreamWorks SKG. DreamWorks SKG is a powerhouse Hollywood creative group started by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen in 1994.

The animated series, called "Father of the Pride," was well received by network executives and sold to NBC for a rollout this fall. If "Father of the Pride" has a fraction of the success that Siegfried & Roy enjoyed in Las Vegas, their popularity will endure on the small screen.

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap Up Radio Show.