With one blond and one brunette, brothers Tony and Ferdinand Fercos might look like another iconic magic duo who also work with white tigers, but they’re different from Siegfried and Roy.
It’s like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, they both play music and have long hair but they have different styles, said Ferdinand Fercos.
During the Fercos Brothers’ 90-minute show called “Untamed Illusions” at Planet Hollywood they amaze audiences with awe-inspiring illusions, dancers, specialty acts and exotic cats. One of the specialty acts is Tony Fercos, who was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records for being able to juggle seven ping pong balls in his mouth. Their limited–time engagement runs from Dec. 22 - Jan. 3.
Originally from Czechoslovakia, The Fercos Brothers are sixth generation performers and have been involved in show business since they were 5 years old. They started their entertainment careers as jugglers and later, a high-flying acrobatic act called “The Flying Fercos,” which included their mother, father and three sisters.
Their award-winning show brought them to Vegas in 1973. In 1979 the brothers incorporated lions and tigers into the show with the help of their father. Around that same time they were noticed by Frederic Apcar, senior producer of Casino de Paris at Dunes. The magic duo worked there until the Dunes closed in 1993. Afterwards, the Fercos brothers took their act on the road and have performed to audiences across the globe.
While some people might not think adding a 500-pound white Siberian tiger to their show is a good idea Fercos said that training an exotic cat is similar to training a dog. It takes time and a lot of patience.
“You have to understand that each animal has a different personality,” said Fercos. “We respect them and they respect us. We have a mutual agreement.”
The brothers start working with the cats when they are young. Right now they have a two-and-a-half month-old baby tiger that stays in the house. Fercos explained that once the cats get to be around five months old they get new teeth and start biting the furniture. At that time the cats are moved to one of the caged areas on their 5-acre compound in Vegas. Fercos walks the cats twice a day to prevent them from feeling confined.
He and his brother have lived with their animals in Vegas for 35 years. Along with the baby tiger, their place is home to two black panthers, a bengal tiger, three white tigers and one lion. Their home is also a breeding ground for these endangered species. So far they have bred a black panther and two tigers.
The cats are trained using positive reinforcement for good behavior. Ferdinand explained that he hand-feeds the cats meat as a reward, and has the marks to prove it.
“Sometimes my hand doesn’t open fast enough. When they are in their teenage years which is about one to one and-a-half years old, that’s when they like to get more of your hand,” said Fercos.
Through their work with animals they don’t just perform illusions. They also try to educate their audience about endangered species and the importance of helping to conserve them.
For Ferdinand and his brother, each of their cats is more than just part of the show, they are an extension of their family. He spoke fondly of a lion they got as a baby that died a few years ago when the lion was 23.
“It’s not just doing tricks like it’s a circus with our animals… We get them when they are small babies. They are with us until the end,” said Fercos.