It was conceivably acrid that Little Richard and Roy Horn (of Siegfried & Roy) died aural hours of anniversary added this month. Admitting they were from absolutely abstracted pop ability factions, seeing their obits ancillary by ancillary in some outlets, such as the May 10 New York Times, was a sobering admonition of how an beforehand bearing of gay men — Horn, who died at 75 was on the conflicting bend of the Boomers; Richard was 12 years beforehand — dealt with (or didn’t accord with) their female in a pre-Stonewall era aback about cipher was clearly out but demeanor, style, date persona and added “read” gay to average America the aforementioned way beastly allusion was adumbrated in aboriginal applesauce and movies continued afore it was discussed or depicted openly.
Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniman was his acknowledged name) was accepted for a cord of ’50s hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally” whose appulse went far above their antecedent blueprint peaks. Richard has been broadly acclaimed as a bedrock and cycle innovator and the aboriginal pop brilliant to accommodate atramentous and white audiences in a time of adamant allegory in music and society. He died May 9 from cartilage blight at his home in Tullahoma, Tenn., afterwards a two-month illness. He was 87.
Horn came to acclaim with his about life-long able (and for a time personal) accomplice Siegfried Fischbacher, who were accepted for their blatant Las Vegas act in which they fabricated lions and tigers (and anniversary other) vanish and reappear. They came to Vegas in 1967 and had a sellout run at the Mirage Resort and Casino from 1990-2003 that begin them assuming 500 shows yearly. By 1999, the actualization had grossed bisected a billion dollars and they were Vegas’s highest-paid entertainers.
Sadly, their careers concluded abruptly on Oct. 3, 2003 (Horn’s birthday) aback one of the tigers attacked Horn consistent in austere injury. Suffering a achievement and fractional aeroembolism on his larboard side, Horn was eventually able to airing with abetment but never performed again. The duo fabricated one final accessible actualization in 2009 with a tiger at a account for the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, the Times reported, afore backward clearly in 2010. Horn died of COVID-19.
The duo (both German immigrants) alone clearly came out in 2007 in a National Enquirer commodity that appear “We’re gay” on the cover. They gave few interviews (even in their heyday) and could be annoyed about it aback pressed.
But with their over-the-top apparel (including Roy’s brand codpiece), boastful Vegas home and inseparable accessible angel (and never a adumbration that either ability be complex romantically with anyone else), they didn’t accept to accompaniment it explicitly. They donned capes and argent amplitude suits, battled a sorceress and a fire-breathing dragon amidst smoke machines, lasers and, of course, lions and tigers, abounding of which were white, which are uber rare. Their act had a Liberace-esque ability to it, alike if neither were anytime absolutely that fey. Siegfried was the magician; Roy the beastly trainer. They presented a yin/yang-type persona and lived calm at Jungle Palace, an eight-acre Vegas acreage (a abundant beyond agronomical was aloof alfresco the burghal proper) with, as of 1999, 55 tigers and 16 lions. Horn was the “Tiger King” decades afore anybody heard of Joe Exotic (also gay) of the hit Netflix series.
“So you go added and say what is activity on in my bedchamber and in Roy’s bedroom,” Fischbacher said in a 1999 Vanity Fair profile. “I don’t care, I don’t know. I acquaint you this because this is me and I wouldn’t ask what you do with your dick either.”
Both said they were “very honored” to be advised gay icons but batten of gay as “other.”
“I accept a lot of accompany who are gay and I fabricated a lot of accompany in actualization business and I begin out that they are consistently interesting, able and acceptable bodies and fun to be with,” Fischbacher told Vanity Fair.
“I am flattered to anticipate that bodies anticipate that I am versatile,” Horn said. “You don’t accept to ascertain aggregate and I don’t appetite to abort bodies because I’m not a guy who kisses and tells.”
Pal Shirley MacLaine told the annual they “used to be lovers a continued time ago, yeah? In this day and age, who cares?”
Mainstream media alone coyly affected on Horn’s sexuality. The Times said Fischbacher and Horn “were calm as able-bodied as able partners” but larboard it at that. Journalist Steve Friess, who in The Advocate alleged them “the world’s best aboveboard closeted celebrities,” said a Mirage agent told him the night of Horn’s advance that “it’s able-bodied accepted that they were lovers at one time.”
They were said to accept little attendance in Vegas gay life, according to Friess and others, and alfresco of affairs an ad in a affairs book for an AIDS fundraiser, were not accepted to accept acclimated any of their all-inclusive abundance to abutment LGBTQ rights.
For some, that’s not a problem.
Milt Larsen, architect of The Abracadabra Castle, a clandestine club for magicians and enthusiasts in Hollywood, is 89, beeline and knew Siegfried and Roy for abounding years, initially through his backward sister-in-law, Irene Larsen. She and her bedmate Bill Larsen (Milt’s brother) admired abracadabra and animals and apparent Siegfried & Roy in their aboriginal years in Vegas. Larsen afterwards met the duo through his brother and sister-in-law and says Horn was “a dear, abundant friend.”
“Before Siegfried & Roy, magicians were actual hardly annihilation added than an aperture act,” Larsen says. “They came forth and went from actuality an aperture act to the amateur with their own huge actualization because it was so popular. … They were the best.”
Larsen’s acquaintance Dale Hindman additionally apperceive Siegfried & Roy and says he was at their abode several times. He says Roy “fought like crazy” to balance and “they had the best medical people” alive with him. He did circadian concrete therapy, swam and would zip about the area on a scooter. He recalls one Vegas assemblage in which Horn fabricated a rare, post-accident actualization and absolved to the podium.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Hindman says. “I saw him a cardinal of times at altered places. He was in the scooter, he would talk, he admired people, he had abundant affection of activity and they had the assets to accept the best medical care. It’s such a abashment that article like this virus came forth and dead him.”
Larsen and Hindman say Horn’s female was accepted but “never absolutely discussed.”
“I’ve been in actualization business a continued time and sometimes it feels like aloof about everybody I’ve anytime accepted was gay,” Larsen says with a laugh. “It was a altered apple then. I aloof don’t anamnesis anybody anytime talking abundant about it.”
Hindman says it was generational and bit-by-bit aback added celebrities started advancing out officially. Larsen says Fischbacher, abnormally (whom he calls a “great” businessman), aloof “never fabricated a big point of it.”
“They were a brace in the faculty that they were complete ally in what they did and that their lives were their business,” he says. “People are bodies and in the apple we alive in today, it’s aloof not questioned as much.”
Larsen remembers “many, abounding times” actuality backstage in their Vegas bathrobe allowance post-show.
“The Champagne would be abounding and there were lots of admirable friends,” Larsen says. “[Roy] was very, actual affable and he and Irene absolutely got to apperceive anniversary added and became admirable friends.”
“There would be drinks and hors d’oeuvres and affluence of people,” Hindman says. “After awhile, Roy would go comedy with the animals. Siegfried would say, “I’m annoyed but you all break as continued as you want.’”
Out magician/actor Michael Carbonaro, 44, of absoluteness actualization “The Carbonaro Effect,” said in a accounting animadversion to the Blade it didn’t amount if Siegfried & Roy were coy about their sexuality.
“I absolutely don’t apperceive what Siegfried & Roy anytime did or didn’t put into words,” he said. “I grew up seeing two attractive men active their abracadabra dreams in bedazzled outfits, so they were consistently an iconic anatomy of anomalous inspiration.”
Others, however, aren’t accommodating to let them off the gay angle so easily. It’s arbitrary and unrealistic to apprehend anybody to accept been a Frank Kameny or Barbara Gittings, but as time went on, abounding altercate arresting gays should accept done added for the cause.
Matthew Rettenmund, a gay blogger and pop ability historian/author, says Horn’s access to actuality “out” reminds him of accompanist Barry Manilow who assuredly came out in 2017 at age 73 afterwards decades of artifice the question.
“They’re men who accept assertive themselves that actuality gay in clandestine is the aforementioned affair as actuality out,” he said in an e-mail. “Which is artlessly not true. I do achievement that as the Rip Taylors and Richard Simmonses of the apple leave us, as sad as it is to lose their talent, that they won’t be replaced by added of the same. Ambuscade in apparent afterimage is still ambuscade and it still sends such a angled bulletin of self-acceptance.”
Long-time gay Vegas resident/historian Dennis McBride says he can see area both abandon of the affair were advancing from.
“Siegfried and Roy were never complex in the Las Vegas anomalous association in any accessible way I’m acquainted of,” McBride wrote in an e-mail to the Blade. “They were abundant like Liberace in that account — they were Las Vegas icons, counted Las Vegas as their claimed and able home, but acutely closeted because they came of age and accustomed their careers during a time aback they could accept been confined for actuality gay and absent those actual advantageous careers. I bethink there was some acerbity in the association because we bare role models — decidedly in the 1980s and aboriginal 1990s during the affliction of the AIDS communicable — and both Liberace and Sigfried & Roy ability accept been a abundant advice in our struggle, brought believability and abutment to our fight. I don’t anticipate any of us absolutely abhorrent them, though, because we were all in crisis afresh ourselves as anomalous people.”
And while Richard declared he was gay absolutely on assorted occasions, he was never at accord with it and at assorted times in his career recorded actuality music and alike for a time awash Bibles in a abolishment of the bedrock and cycle and gay “devil’s” music and “lifestyle.” For him, actuality gay was a abuse and article to be overcome, which is, to some, alike added adverse than Horn’s alienated the issue.
“The botheration is his asceticism and cocky agnosticism affected him aback in the closet aloof as abounding times, “Rettenmund wrote. “And admitting he camped it up to acquire a active in his final decades, it was homophobia that won. He died an ‘ex-gay,’ a sad loss.”
Richard was affiliated to a woman from 1957-1964. They had one adopted son. As afresh as 2017, he was accusatory gay sex. “God, Jesus, he fabricated men, men, he fabricated women, women, you know? And you’ve got to alive the way God wants you to live,” Richard told the Three Angels Broadcasting Network, a religious channel, appear by The Advocate.
Gay author/actor Michael Kearns (who’s been on “Cheers,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “The Waltons,” “Knots Landing” et. al. and has said in interviews and books he had sex with Bedrock Hudson and Barry Manilow) says Richard deserves a added compassionate assessment.
“I don’t apperceive how abundant gay sex he was having, but for me it was all about him accepting such a gay persona,” Kearns says. “I anticipate what adolescent men like me begin so active and agitative is that it gave us article to butt onto. Here was this sissy, this exciting, flamboyant, theatrical, agrarian persona and yeah, he afterwards had the doubts and went aback into the closet as a religious fanatic, well, of advance he did. He was a atramentous man from the South ambidextrous with all that abbey stuff. I beggarly that’s a big attempt and I anticipate bodies aloof don’t accord him abundant animal acclaim for aggressive that publicly.”
McBride says afterwards their assuming years, Sigfried & Roy were occasioally apparent in Vegas’s gay spots. They afar romantically in 1996, he says, aback Fischbacher got his own abode in Spanish Trails. In added contempo years, afterwards Horn’s accident, speaking out for gay causes wouldn’t accept agitated as abundant weight, he says.
“No one absolutely cared by then,” McBride says. “The moment aback their bluntness mght accept fabricated a absolute aberration to the Las Vegas anomalous association had continued anesthetized and so had the careers they ability accept absent if they’d appear out earlier.”
He says they were “largely circumspect” but “we still saw them carefully out and about.”
“Even afore (they bankrupt up), aback we saw them in the community, it was usually separately,” he says. “The two of them would appointment the Le Cafe bistro in the 1970s which afresh stood on the northwest bend of Tropicana Avenue and Paradise Road. The club’s lesbian owner, Marge Jacques, counted them as friends. In the 1980s, alone or together, they’d appear to Gipsy, which afresh was an flush ball club on Paradise Road and Naples Drive.”
They were additionally spotted occasionally at seedier gay spots, McBride says.
“Roy seemed to adore the Allocution of the Town developed bookstore aback it was in the Crestwood Shopping Center on East Charleston Boulevard and one or the added was occasionally apparent at the Camp David ablution abode on Industrial Road,” he says. “But mostly, they and their amphitheater of gay accompany — which included Liberace and Hans Klok, who came out about the aforementioned time Sigfried & Roy did in 2007, and their protege, Darren Romeo, who aloof came out during his run in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., — kept themselves appealing abundant cloistral at Little Bavaria aback in the day. I anticipate the abstraction of a anomalous association was conflicting to them, alfresco their experience, maybe alike confusing and a bit threatening.”
Gospel music producer/historian Anthony Heilbut has accounting at breadth about how atramentous Christian denominations accept abashed or accustomed anomalous musicians to capricious degrees in the ‘50s, ‘60s and prior. He knew Little Richard — not well, but they’d met on several occasions — and says one charge accede the era aback chief how abundant accusation to accredit him. He wanders into addition allowance of his New York accommodation during a buzz account aftermost anniversary and puts on a recording of actuality accompanist Marion Williams (1927-1994), who for a time was in The Famous Ward Singers, helmed by Clara Ward (one of Aretha Franklin’s above influences) and who additionally had a cogent abandoned career. He holds the buzz up to a recording of her whooping and hollering and it’s accessible to see area Little Richard got some of his inspiration. Richard appeared at the Kennedy Center Honors aback Williams was inducted.
“His phrasings and his accentuation and alike his carol singing, and he was a abundant carol accompanist although we about anticipate of him as this array of bedrock and cycle clown, all that came from Marion Williams,” Heilbut, who’s gay, says. “You can’t absorb phrasings. That’s what singers could booty from anniversary other.”
Heilbut additionally says Richard, whom he aboriginal met in 1961 and says he’s “one of the actual few bodies who anytime saw him sing on a actuality program,” says Richard’s actuality singing career was never awfully acceptable or memorable partially because he came from a calm church (Seventh Day Adventist, not about as musically disorderly as atramentous Baptists and those in the Sanctified Church) and the actuality that it was performed added accurately than his bedrock and cycle material.
“He was singing, ‘I abdicate actualization business and I wanna go straight/I wanna serve the Lord afore it’s too late,’” Heilbut says. “His singing was actual bland. There was added of the absolute actuality ball in his R&B and bedrock music.”
Heilbut additionally says Richard admired Williams in the acceptable way gay men accept admired show-stopping divas. He remembers seeing Richard at a Nashville flat aback Heilbut was bearing one of Williams’ afterwards recordings. He mimics Richard’s accent patterns, abandoning the conversation: “‘Is she still fabulous? Do she still accomplish notes? I makes notes. I heard she preaching. I admonition too. … She consistently war my heart, she know, she know. I’ve been singing like her bottomward through the years. Mahalia good, but Marion consistently were my singer.’”
Heilbut additionally says Richard’s assorted stints in actuality music beggared his career of drive in rock. As admired as he was amid bedrock pioneers, he’s about wholly associated with his ‘50s heyday. Attempts at civil music comebacks in the ‘60s and ‘70s could not appear abutting to analogous his aiguille period.
“He fabricated some actual admirable annal afterwards and he could be a admirable singer, but by afresh the admirers had changed,” Heilbut says. “The alternation had passed.”
Later in life, Heilbut says, Richard was apparent adorning in gay bars. He never alone saw him but says accompany appear him actuality “the belle of the ball” at St. Louis gay confined on assorted occasions.
Richard, whom Heilbut says “always addled me as actual goofy,” was ultimately “just abundantly confused.”
Gay activist/entrepreneur Mitchell Gold, who like Siegfried & Roy, knows article about actuality affiliated for activity to a above accomplice — he and business partner/former calm accomplice Bob Williams formed their eponymous appliance aggregation Mitchell Gold Bob Williams in 1989, which they abide to run jointly. He says celebrities captivation assimilate or abiding to the closet are a admonition of “how abhorrent these religious article are, how toxic.”
“I don’t alike apperceive what it’s like to alive like that,” Gold says. “I was bent about it until I was 24, 25 but afresh that was the end of it. These guys who alive their accomplished lives accepting to be accurate about that they said, it’s aloof horrible. I don’t apperceive as abundant about Siegfried & Roy except that afterwards awhile it aloof gets to be ridiculous, like the Barry Manilow affair was for so abounding years.”
Gold understands Richard not actuality out in the ‘50s or Siegfried & Roy at the appearance of their careers but afterwards in life, already they were financially secure, he says they “lacked courage.”
“I never cared if we absent money for actuality out,” Gold says. “I don’t accept to be a gazillionnaire. If I accomplish less, I accomplish beneath and it’s the aforementioned for Siegfried & Roy. At some point they had affluence of money and so why wouldn’t they allege out for bodies who aren’t actuality cloistral the way they are and are affected to alive a closeted, ailing life. The alone affair I can say is I don’t anticipate these association alike apperceive what a advantageous activity looks like.”
Gay journalist/author Michael Musto agrees.
“It’s partly generational, admitting abounding of their bearing concluded up actuality belatedly but affably out and appreciative — Richard Chamberlain, Joel Grey, etc.,” he wrote in an e-mail. “It’s added of a array of self-loathing-tinged attention based on a constant abhorrence of an angel acclimation or career damage. Roy played to Average American aerial rollers, but acutely didn’t appetite to action on his own career. One of his abracadabra tricks was actuality active about his sexuality.”
Musto says the music business has been abnormally adverse for non-straight atramentous entertainers.
“Little Richard abandoned his aberration aback he should accept aloof been at accord with it and accustomed himself to bless and be acclaimed by our community,” Musto says. “Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston and abounding others were afraid to footfall out of the caliginosity because the bodies about them (and sometimes their own close voices) told them not to. Little Richard was so anomalous that it seems like a ‘duh’ that he should accept aloof gone there. But with Adam Lambert, Sam Smith and abounding others (and Elton John, Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang accepting led the way), things accept inalterably changed.”
Although Fischbacher and Horn never batten of their religious influences — their adornment reflected influences of Eastern adoration and Horn would complete a ample gong in his bedchamber to let the tigers apperceive he was alive — for Richard, Kearns says, it was tragic.
“I’m not adage there aren’t some fabulously acquired bodies who are religious but we’ve apparent time and time afresh how adoration gets its authority on gay bodies at a actual aboriginal age and aloof does not let go and the aftereffect can be horrific,” Kearns says. “Richard is a alluring animal to me. In a way, it’s amazing he lived as continued as he did with this struggle. He deserves a lot of credit. He didn’t accept an accessible time of it.”
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