Shocker over surprise television appearance of Siegfried & Roy star...

WAS THAT REALLY ROY?

...or was it an IMPOSTOR?

Is this the REAL Roy Horn? Just eight months after the famed Las Vegas magician was savaged on stage by a 600-pound tiger, this dramatically different-looking man made a surprise public appearance as the 59-year-old Las Vegas showman.

"I am Roy - it's a pleasure to be here today," he said in a promotional spot shown to advertisers at New York's Radio City Music Hall and later broadcast on national TV.

His appearance was designed to promote the upcoming animated television series about the animals in the Siegfried & Roy stage show.

Instead of talk of a miraculous recovery, the appearance touched off widespread speculation that he was nothing more than an impostor.

As GLOBE'S photos show, the man looked markedly different than the Roy Horn who was last seen performing with his longtime partner Siegfried Fischbacher at the Mirage Hotel on Vegas' famed strip last October. This Roy appeared heavier and looked unnatural. His hair was cut short and was dark. Gone were the blond streaks, and his left arm and parts of the left side of his face appeared paralyzed. A big scar was visible on his neck.

His face was heavily made-up and dark paint appeared to be smeared across part of his scalp.

"In truth, he, too, looked computer-generated in his eyeglasses with rainbow-colored frames," wrote a reporter for the The Washington Post.

A Las Vegas entertainment insider tells GLOBE, "It sure as hell wasn't the Roy Horn I've known all these years.

"He was very, very different. A lot of people who saw this thing are asking, 'Who is this guy?' This man had almost no resemblance to Roy Horn. It's just amazing!"

A longtime Las Vegas entertainer adds, "People want to know if this was an impostor who showed up, because it sure didn't Iook like Roy Horn. I don't think it was even close. People want to know what's going on here."

Ironically, this is not the first time talk of a Roy impostor surfaced. Years ago, long before he was attacked and savaged by the tiger Montecore, false rumors swept the Vegas strip that Roy had died from AIDS and was replaced by a surgically modified brother.

Actress Shirley MacLaine says she too had heard the rumor "so often from all my Vegas buddies, and I had been away for some time, so it began to worry me -especially when one person said they'd gone to the funeral."

But Roy's close friends now insist that the man who made the appearance before the Radio City Music Hall audience IS the REAL Roy Horn! "He may not look exactly the way he did before the attack," says one longtime friend.

"But right now he really doesn't give a damn how he looks. He's just happy to be alive. Considering what he's been through, he looks pretty damn good. This is no Roy impostor.

Believe me, he's the real deal."

Roy was horrifically injured when Montecore seized the performer, sinking his teeth into his neck and severing an artery during an Oct. 3 performance of the Siegfried & Roy show. Then, the animal dragged him offstage in a river of blood.

Roy suffered cardiac arrest and a series of strokes, which plunged him into a coma, forcing him to hover between life and death. He died and came back to life an incredible three times.

At one point, doctors performed a delicate operation in which they removed pieces of Roy's skull to relieve pressure caused by massive swelling of the brain. The removed skull fragment was temporarily placed in the tissue of his abdomen.

"Sure he looks different," says the longtime pal. "Who wouldn't look different after going through everything he has. But all you have to do is listen to him to realize it's Roy. And it's damn good to have him back. Someone was watching over him. No one survives what he did - NO ONE!"

Those who maintain that the man who appeared at Radio City is the real Roy point to the fact that onlookers noticed that his left arm appeared paralyzed and that the left side of his face appeared frozen, too - the result of the attack and the strokes and other medical complications that followed.

But one medical expert, Dr. Alan Segal of New York's Presbyterian Cornell Stroke Center, who hasn't treated the performer, says Roy isn't out of the woods yet.

"Stroke recovery is really a lifelong process and he's not anywhere near the end of his rehabilitation," says Segal. "It really goes on at least a year or two years beyond when the stroke occurs."

-BOB BURNS

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