Children of the Sun God by Linda Tucker Reprinted by permission.
Excerpt from Chapter 16: White Lions and Magic Men (Continued from Previous)
Siegfried and Roy with (unknown name) White Lion
The World of the Magician: A Secret Sympathy
Later that night, in a slightly calmer state of mind, I experienced the spectacular sensation of watching the most celebrated magic show on Earth. For the most part it was a typical Vegas affair: thunderous music; fabulous fanfare; an intergalactic battle between designer-clad aliens and the forces of good, Siegfried and Roy.
Around me, the vast darkened auditorium was packed with diners drinking cocktails, their faces occasionally flashed into illumination with the explosive special effects. No White Lions to be seen. I was beginning to feel disoriented again when, all of a sudden — the felines appeared!
The show stopped, and a calm descended. Amazingly, there were no cheap circus tricks, no hoops of fire — the audience was suddenly enveloped in the presence of the great cats. At this moment all the fabricated apocalyptic visions, the end-of-world scenarios, and the high-tech Martians and metallic monsters belching fire and brimstone dissolved, and silenced reigned. My heart leapt — it was a truly magical moment.
There is no doubt that the cats stole the show. During that suspended moment, when the tremulous music skipped a beat and the White Lions made their stage debut, I sense the audience holding its breath. Radiating sublime beauty, the lions merely existed. That was enough. They simply appeared, and, well, yes, this being a magic show, they disappeared as well.
At which point Siegfried's voice resounded over the microphone: 'Look for the magic that is around you. In nature, plants, flowers, and all the animals that share the planet with us...'
I began to see what the conjurers were up to. Their magic attempted to serve a higher purpose. Ultimately, the spellbinding devices and perfectly manufactured special effects paid homage to the all-encompassing magic of nature. The audience was encouraged not to forget that the snow leopard, the Siberian tiger, and the White Lions of Timbavati originated in nature's own secrets. Ultimately, the show was saying that the magic of nature superseded all fabrication.
After the performance — their second show that evening — Siegfried and Roy's publicist came to collect me. It was one in the morning. I felt exhausted, and increasingly apprehensive about the imminent interview. Doubtful about my ability to present appropriate questions and get genuine answers in this showbiz context, I followed the smooth-suited figure through the velvet curtains of the stage door.
Backstage, the performers' walls were plastered with autographed celebrity photographs.... I also recognized politicians and royalty: Bill Clinton and Prince Rainier of Monaco. That was about as much as I could take in before being swept up the stairs and ushered into the lush backstage premises....