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July 31, 2014

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Exclusive interview: Siegfried & Roy look at the year ahead

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Kirvin Doak Communications

Lynette Chappell, Larry Ruvo, Siegfried & Roy and Camille Ruvo. Lynette performed with Siegfried & Roy as the Evil Queen.

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Lynette Chappell, Larry Ruvo, Siegfried, Roy, and Camille Ruvo after watching the "20/20" special.

The most poignant moment of Siegfried & Roy watching ABC’s 20/20 special about them last Friday was right after it ended. Roy got up out of his wheelchair, stood and turned to his lifelong partner Siegfried, and, with tears in their eyes, they hugged each other.

“It was very good,” they said turning to an intimate gathering of 50-plus friends inside the Palazzo’s Sportsbook Bar & Grill.

I was the only invited journalist to sit with them through the broadcast. In between commercials, they happily posed for photos. They gave me a thumbs-up when I asked if they were pleased with the television special. Everybody in the room stood and applauded. They all agreed it had been an incredible idea to have a final reunion performance that had made “brilliant television” and benefited our city and charity.

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Larry Ruvo with Siegfried.

Venetian/Palazzo President Rob Goldstein and his wife Cheryl arranged the screening for friends Larry and Camille Ruvo, who head up the Keep Memory Alive gala, where the illusionists had performed Feb. 28. If you missed the special, click to ABC’s coverage HERE and HERE.

Said Larry: “It was an amazing night in the history of Las Vegas. Friends from all over Nevada and the world came out in full force to welcome the esteemed Cleveland Clinic to our city and to support Keep Memory Alive and the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute. There was no better way to celebrate their wonderful return with such a worthy event of this magnitude coupled with a wonderful TV show that captured their hard work, tenacity and determination so well. It showed that truly anything is possible.”

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Larry Ruvo, Roy, Camille Ruvo and Siegfried.

Click HERE for our coverage of the gala, and click HERE for our editor Johnny Kats’ thoughts after watching 20/20.

I asked Siegfried & Roy what lies ahead for them. For about a year in between Roy’s physical therapy, they worked on the reunion for the annual fundraiser.

Siegfried told me: “It was more successful than we all dreamed. When we told you we would do it, I didn’t know if we could. There were moments when I thought we wouldn’t be able. Never doubt Roy, though. When he says he will do something, he never breaks his promise. It doesn’t matter what odds he has to overcome, however tough or difficult it might be; he will achieve it. That’s the magic of Roy.

“When I told Roy that you had asked me over lunch at Spago to perform again, I didn’t know that he would eventually say yes. Right from the beginning, it was his idea to have Montecore on stage with us, but we wanted to keep that a secret right until the night of the show. That was the one thing we kept to ourselves … you didn’t even know we were going to do that.”

So what next? The challenge I gave Siegfried & Roy was a giant goal for them. They succeeded beyond their dreams, as well as the Keep Memory Alive Board of Directors’. Both men have promised to help continue the work of the Cleveland Clinic-managed institute nearing completion in downtown Las Vegas. It will open this year, and Siegfried & Roy have promised to attend the opening.

Siegfried added: “Las Vegas has given us love and so much more over such a long period of time, we want to give back to the community. This project will do wonderful work … and may even help Roy. We will remain committed to it in whatever way we can help.”

Larry told me: “One of the most exhausting effects for families who have an Alzheimer’s patient is the tremendous strain placed on the caregivers. I know firsthand because of the incredible toll it took on my own mother to look after my father for so long. In the end, she needed help to continue herself. We will try to solve that as another additional Alzheimer’s problem for people.

“Siegfried also became a caregiver since the incident in October 2003 that brought their magic show to an end. He has firsthand experience of what it takes physically and emotionally. You heard him say on 20/20 that in the depression he went through, he ran away to a monastery in Greece with 1,500 monks to find spiritual peace and comfort. He could be a wonderful, inspirational teacher to families who will have to provide care for relatives suffering from Alzheimer’s. Siegfried & Roy have promised to continue their commitment and support of what we are doing.

“Tonight they helped put our downtown medical center on the map right across America. Now everybody knows, thanks to Siegfried & Roy, that downtown Las Vegas will become the country’s center for breakthroughs and an eventual cure for the debilitating disease.”

During the interview with ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas, Roy told her that in another year, his doctors had assured him he would be able to do everything he was doing before the injuries.

Now I know that Roy hasn’t yet added swimming exercises to his rehabilitation. When he went on vacation in Cabo San Lucas, he stayed away from the pool. But an extraordinary thing happened at the TV screening when I asked him to make a promise that he would start the pool regimen.

Roy said yes, so I asked his therapist and trainer to witness the promise. Roy and he fist pumped each other gently three times to seal the promise. Roy admitted that he’s shied away from the pool, but his trainer told him it would be great rehabilitation therapy and exercise.

“We will do it,” Roy promised. “Let’s start it this week, so a year from now, I will be swimming with the tigers again. We made the magic happen for the show, and now we can make the magic happen for me and the animals again.”

ABC showed old footage of Roy at play with his beloved tigers. I reminded Roy I had filmed them all for my old show Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.

“You’ll come back and do it again when we’re all in the pool,” Roy said. “I’m now determined to make that come true.”

I was reminded of something Roy once said: “To rise above what seems impossible, one must first now believe.” I am convinced that having succeeded in performing their farewell magic show that Roy now does believe he will conquer those debilitating injuries and swim again with his animals.

Vegas Deluxe will check in regularly and report Roy’s progress.

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