Chris Lawrence was onstage when a white tiger viciously attacked Roy Horn in 2003 during their Las Vegas show. Now, after a 15-year battle with PTSD, Lawrence is finally ready to discuss the human error that triggered the incident and the story he believes was concocted to protect the legendary illusionists
Up close, deadly close, a tiger’s scent is “piss and pheromones,” says Chris Lawrence. While it’s a uniquely pungent thing, it can smell a bit like burnt
buttered popcorn, or maybe a whiff of a truck’s muffler. You never forget it.
When Mantacore — a 400-pound, 7-foot-long striped white male tiger — bit and held Roy Horn in his mouth during a performance at Las Vegas’ Mirage hotel 15 years ago, animal handler Lawrence was there, grabbing the tiger, desperately attempting to pull the cat back by the furry nape of his neck. A moment earlier, Lawrence, whose responsibilities included the daily care of Mantacore, had found himself on his back, expecting an imminent demise.
Soon, as Horn’s decades-long partner, Siegfried Fischbacher, cried out and the evening’s audience of 1,500 people watched agape, Mantacore dragged Horn’s unconscious body offstage through the ball-fringe curtains.
The events that unfolded that night — Oct. 3, 2003, Horn’s 59th birthday — are now part of the pop culture firmament: Horn suffered an onstage stroke, the story goes, and Mantacore lunged at him in a misguided instinct to help. After the incident, the show — a Vegas mainstay that grossed $45 million a year — shuttered permanently. Mantacore, deemed blameless, was reintegrated among the rest of the duo’s big-cat menagerie. (The tiger, often misspelled as “Montecore” in the press, died in 2014 at age 17.) Fischbacher, now 79, went on to extravagantly care for his lifelong friend and former lover Horn, 74, at their Little Bavaria estate in Vegas, whose sprawling, rustic grounds are outfitted with hip-high rails along winding paths to make it easier for Horn to get around. Today, he’s able to stroll short distances when not confined to a scooter and can talk only with difficulty.
Yet Lawrence — a figure central to the story, now speaking for the first time — says the official narrative of the night put out by the show isn’t what really happened. He contends it was a version shaped by the illusionists to protect the brand, save face and cover up for a series of onstage handling errors made by Horn. “While Roy, unfortunately, bears the physical scars of the attack,” says Lawrence, “he definitely isn’t the only person that was left suffering in the aftermath of it.” READ MORE..