Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011 | 11:53 a.m.
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It’s beyond magic -- it’s a Christmas miracle for Siegfried & Roy. Our beloved hometown magical masters have revealed exclusively to Vegas DeLuxe that they'll be celebrating a very big step in Roy’s extraordinary rehabilitation this holiday season.
I chatted with the duo Monday night when they toured Opportunity Village’s annual Magical Forest with chief executive Linda Smith before their annual Christmas party for their former magic show colleagues and current conservation project co-workers at the Mirage’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. In all, they care for 38 white tigers, 23 white lions and 11 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
The cast, crew and staff gave Siegfried & Roy grand applause and a standing ovation when the two entertainers walked into the gym at Opportunity Village -- converted into a private party area -- and then waited to extend hugs and kisses to Roy, who is still fighting to overcome the injuries he sustained in an October 2003 tiger attack.
Roy, who suffered severe blood loss, was said to have died three times on the operating table at the University Medical Center trauma unit here in his fight for life. He suffered partial paralysis and, at one point to relieve the pressure on his swollen brain, part of his skull was removed and protected in his stomach pouch. It was later reattached during his long-term recovery and rehabilitation at UCLA Medical Center.
Now in the past few days, Roy has added two magnificent horses to their animal collection and made them part of a Christmas gift to Siegfried. It’s with his promise that they’ll be able to ride together at their Little Bavaria farm here.
Siegfried told me excitedly that Roy had managed to ride for 35 minutes Monday for the first time. “In fact, we had to beg him to stop and get off so he wouldn’t be sore,” said one of the riding instructors helping with Roy’s recovery workout program.
“Roy began the new therapy six days ago. After starting with just a few moments on a horse on Day 1 and slowly increasing the time over the next two days, he took a break. But then Monday, after a day off, he felt strong enough to ride for his longest time to date.”
It’s such a heartwarming story because Roy can now ride all around the ranch and not rely on his wheelchair or walking cane. “It’s a miracle,” Siegfried told me. “It was a promise he made to me for Christmas, and he’s already fulfilled it. Roy is a real magician … this achievement is fantastic.”
Roy, who joked with me about “champagne wishes,” told me: “I want it to be an hour on the horse for Christmas Day, and then we’ll lead the Great Santa Run next year on horseback for Opportunity Village. I wanted something truly incredible and wonderful for Christmas, and this is it. It’s something I want to do every day now. I’m feeling very strong and confident about it.”
More than 150,000 people are expected to visit this year’s 20th anniversary Magical Forest and the more than 100 decorated trees, including mine with Champagne Wishes. There are now some 7 million LED lights twinkling over the 2 acres of Santa’s workshop, the Gingerbread House and five other magnificent attractions:
*The classic Forest Express train, which provides a 5-minute ride through the sights and scenes of Opportunity Village’s extraordinary layout.
*The Magical Maze, new last year, constructed from more than 200 bales of hay with its tough-to-find exit once you’ve discovered the tough-to-find center.
*The 6-hole mini golf course, also new last year, known as Frosty’s Golf Park.
*An Alpine Slide large enough to race friends down hill from the top with its 360-degree view of the wonderland.
*The classic Cheyenne’s Magical Carousel that plays holiday music while children of all ages ride horses, reindeer and dragons.
The train station is packed with commuters, and I announced arrivals and departures. Every night, celebrities have taken on train conductor and announcing duties. “Absinthe,” “Peepshow” and “Holly’s World” starlet Angel Porrino was there with her son Roman last night.
“I grew up in Vegas, so I’ve been coming here for many years,” she told me. “Now we’re making it an annual tradition for my son, and that starts a second generation.” I also spotted singer Frankie Scinta of the Scintas taking on Grandpa duties with his son and daughter-in-law’s new baby. “It’s the most beautiful place for the holidays,” he told me.
One of the camera opportunities is Terry Fator’s poster board with all of his ventriloquism puppets from the Mirage. Two cutouts allow kids and adults to step in and become part of his entertainment cast for family photos.
Opportunity Village, founded in 1954 by a small group of local families seeking to improve the lives of their children with intellectual disabilities, is a not-for-profit organization now serving more than 3,000 people annually with vocational training, community job placement and life skills. The Magical Forest was opened by Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Nov. 25 and remains open through New Year’s Day. It’s the No. 1, must-visit local holiday attraction.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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