Sunday, June 14, 2009


At a Cinevegas screening of the recut version of the 1982 Hal Ashby film "Lookin' To Get Out" an hour ago, actor Jon Voight related a never-before-heard tale of a harrowing incident in which one of Siegfried & Roy's tigers tackled an elderly woman and had to be talked down by a member of the film crew.

In the movie, Voight and Burt Young play pals and gamblers who come to Vegas to try to make back money Voight's character lost in a poker game. The film was made largely at the old MGM Grand (now Bally's) and Ann-Margret plays a woman from Voight's past. The characters played by Voight, Young and Ann-Margret, attend a show in what is probably the Jubilee! Theater and Siegfried & Roy are among the acts shown.

According to Voight, Young was acting in the shot as though the tiger had startled him running about on the stage with Roy. Young was wearing sunglasses, and Voight surmised that the combination of Young's fake startling and the reflection of the lighting on the glasses caused the tiger to get scared and "he ran off the stage and on to a table."

Watch the 3-minute segment on this by clicking on the image below:

It's also on YouTube.

Here's the rest of Voight's tale:

"And the table fell and the tiger wound up sitting on top of an elderly woman. This is the truth! And Roy says, 'Everybody be calm.' And this little post man, he must’ve been about 5' 6", this little fella, he got up and he grabbed the tiger and he said, 'Get off her now, get off her.' And this post man saved the day. Unbelievable hero. Finally, Roy comes in and says 'Very good, everybody stay where you are,' and he calmed this animal down and got it out of there. And we had no injuries, maybe a bruise or two. ...

In crises, people handle themselves nicely. Everybody in that group, nobody was looking at the insurance policy, none of that. That’s a true story."

Uh, wow. Of course, about 21 years later, one of those tigers would maul Roy and end the Siegfried & Roy act. What was strange was how amused everyone was in the audience today as Voight told the story. Watch the video and you'll see; they laugh about the lady being tackled, even knowing what happened later. It would be like someone today giggling at the notion of a prop plane grazing the World Trade Center years before 9/11. Very odd.

Incidentally, the tiger act didn't appear in the film. But, on a totally unrelated note, Angelina Jolie Voight did, playing the daughter of Voight's character. It was her first role. I believe her first lines of her first film were, "Las Vegas, Nevada!"

Related: Jon Voight interview on TheStripPodcast.Com.


mike_ch said...

Doesn't seem odd to me, I'm sure the high levels of Alanis-style irony isn't lost on anyone.

Anonymous said...

is a story from 1982 really "breaking"?

especially from very unreliable jon voight?

lol! :)


there were several other people at the q-and-a who vouched for voight's memory, at least the generality of it. and it's breaking that Voight revealed this, not that it happened. Just as it would be breaking if someone revealed new details of JFK's mistresses or somesuch.

Anonymous said...

But technically, the tiger didn't attack the elderly woman, did he (or she, or it)? The tiger got on top of the table, the table collapsed under its weight, and it wound up in the lap of the lady. The tiger did not respond to that shock by turning around and biting the woman, nor did it turn on the stagehand who grabbed it. It then let Roy lead it off. To me, that is a testament on how well Roy had "tamed" his tigers. As for it being startled by Burt Young and the filming, even my cats and dogs get startled. But just running away and jumping on a table is a mild reaction for a instinctive lethal beast like a tiger. This story makes me even more impressed by Roy's tiger-wrangling and domestication skills. Too bad it didn't hold up that one last time when he got attacked, but he had an extraordinary run of luck with tigers, given their nature.

Anonymous said...

So ... the blogger here is comparing a tiger handler who knowingly handles dangerous animals being injured, albeit seriously and unfortunately, with the murder of 3,000 innocent, unsuspecting people in WTC, on the planes and in the Pentagon on 9-11.
"It would be like someone today giggling at the notion of a prop plane grazing the World Trade Center years before 9/11. Very odd."
That's ridiculous. Such inappropriate hyperbole undermines whatever significance there may be in a washed up actor rambling about a tiger act he saw in Vegas 27 years ago, a tiger act which, as far as we can tell, didn't even result in an injury.


Anon: I did debate the analogy in my mind but I couldn't think of another example. It seemed quite strange to me that people would laugh about something that eventually turned into a truly horrifying public event.