LAS VEGAS (CelebrityAccess) The onstage attack by a 400-pound white tiger upon Roy Horn in Las Vegas in 2003 has become the stuff of legend and, now, the man who trained the animal is saying that what has been said about the attack is, indeed, just a story.
Chris Lawrence was onstage when Mantacore (oft-times misspelled Montecore) took Horn’s head into its mouth and dragged the illusionist offstage as 1,500 witnesses watched in horror. At the time, the cover story was that Horn had suffered an onstage stroke and the tiger was misguidedly trying to help him.
However, Lawrence, who has been battling PTSD for 15 years because of the attack, now tells The Hollywood Reporter the tiger’s actions were not as well-intentioned as the story, which was propagated to save the Sigfried & Roy brand.
Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn were a staple of Las Vegas entertainment, using gorgeous white, striped tigers as the centerpieces of their illusionist act at the Mirage hotel. The incident occurred on Horn’s 59th birthday, Oct. 3, 2003. Mantacore took Horn’s head into his mouth while Lawrence, after being tossed onto his back, attempted to pull the cat away by the nape of its neck. Fischbacher cried out as Mantacore dragged Horn’s unconscious body through the curtains.
The incident closed a $45 million annual attraction and permanently damaged Horn, who now moves mostly by scooter on the massive Las Vegas estate shared by former lover and lifetime friend Fischbacher. Horn is not known to speak often. Mantacore died recently at the age of 17; he had been reintegrated into the group of cats and was deemed blameless.
Lawrence, who was responsible for the daily care and feeding of the tigers, now says that the official story was concocted by the illusionists to protect the brand, save face and cover up for a series of onstage handling errors made by Horn, according to THR.
“While Roy, unfortunately, bears the physical scars of the attack,” Lawrence said, “he definitely isn’t the only person that was left suffering in the aftermath of it.”
The two-year, inconclusive report by the United States Department of Agriculture appears to lend support to Lawrence’s position, according to the trade mag.
“Their story was met at the time [among in-the-know locals] with considerable, shall we say, skepticism,” Norm Clarke, the longtime Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist of Strip goings-on, told THR. “But it was understood that the last thing they wanted to do was demonize their animals since they were seen as members of their family.”
Lawrence said he sympathized with the pair, saying the cover story juxtaposed with a career that centered around an ability to handle tigers, with Horn long projecting “a mythos” about his training skills, as THR puts it and, in a book published in 2000 and was available at Mirage gift shops, said he was never injured by a cat in three decades saying “I don’t have any battle scars. They lick me raw.”
Lawrence says he’s speaking out because he’s concerned about the factual accuracy of an upcoming biopic the pair has announced, because he’s frustrated the USDA neglected to secure his testimony during its investigation, and because of his struggles with PTSD.
“Our three kids almost lost their father,” his wife told THR.