Dirk Arthur the last magician to commune, commute with tigers

“I can really see why I’m the last guy left who has a show with big cats,” says Dirk Arthur. “It’s not convenient by any means.”

Every performer hopes for a long run on the Strip, but Arthur says the Riviera is really rooting for him after “the most difficult load-in of my career” for “Wild Illusions.” The magic show opened this week in the second-floor showroom that long hosted the drag revue “La Cage.”

Ads tout that Arthur is now the only Las Vegas magician to work with tigers and other exotic animals on the Strip. He will be bringing five to seven of his 14 cats to work each day — tigers both orange and white, a snow leopard and black panther among them.

The animals can ride up the freight elevator in a daily commute. But the illusions were so big and heavy they had to come up two flights of stairs, with the help of steel rails and an electric hoist. Part of the ceiling had to be notched out and replaced as well.

“That really means I’m not coming out of there for a long time,” Arthur says with a laugh.

Arthur has been on and off the Strip since he was part of the Flamingo’s “City Lites” revue in the 1980s. He was last at O’Sheas, demolished in 2012 as part of The Linq project.

Even though he still does a traditional illusions show, Arthur says his presentation keeps up with contemporary trends.

“The newer way of presenting magic is more clean. Everything is easy to see, with the focus really on the magic,” he says. “It’s sort of pared down into the powerful magic, the comedy and the cats.”

Whatever competitive edge his animals bring, Arthur says, “It is very difficult, with the cost of maintaining them and keeping them healthy and having the right habitat for them and complying with new regulations. … I love them so much, but every now and then it hits me that this is the most impractical business to have.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture cited Arthur last year for declawing lions and tigers, keeping a snow leopard in a rusty cage and chaining a bobcat in a dangerous way. The USDA also found that the animals’ cages were too small.

Arthur says the citations resulted from periodic inspections that come with his exotic animals permit, and sometimes result from new regulations.

“Through my over-30-year history of being permitted, we always correct things immediately,” he says.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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