The Greatest of Ease...
January 21, 2005 9:11 PM   Subscribe

"Being on the tightrope is living; everything else is waiting."
Karl Wallenda, January 21, 1905 – March 22, 1978

After 43 years of waiting, Karl's adopted son Mario Wallenda, now 64, rejoins his family dynasty and returns to the high wire. (more inside...)
posted by miss lynnster (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
More on the history of Karl Wallenda and the Flying Wallendas...

As far back as 1780, in the cafes of Old Bohemia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the ancestral Wallenda family was a traveling circus troupe consisting of acrobats, jugglers, clowns, aerialists and animal trainers all in one family.

Karl Wallenda was born in Magdeburg, Germany in 1905. He was performing in the family show at age six and doing stunts in beer halls at age eleven. In the early 1920s, he answered an ad in a trade paper for "an experienced hand balancer with courage." The job consisted of following behind a wire-walker, Louis Weitzmann, out to the middle of the wire and doing a handstand on Weitzmann's feet as he lay down on the cable. Karl learned the art from him and in 1922, began to develop his own act, recruiting his brother Herman, an aerialist named Josef Geiger, and a teenage girl, Helen Kreis, who would eventually become Karl's wife.

Throughout the coming years, Karl creating a circus dynasty that drew fame and attention, not only for their skill but for their aversion to using nets. At age 73, attempting a walk between two hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on a wire stretched 37 m above the pavement, Karl fell to his death when winds exceeded 48 km/h. Despite many tragedies, the seventh generation of The Flying Wallendas, headed by Karl's grandson Tino, is still going strong, holding the 2003 Guinness Record for an 8 person pyramid and winning the 2004 "Silver Clown" at the International Festival du Cirque in Monte Carlo.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:20 PM on January 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

(Sorry for the run-on commas in that last paragraph. I'm tired.)
posted by miss lynnster at 9:22 PM on January 21, 2005

I wonder if he would be getting back up there if he remembered "The Incident". That's some story.

Looking at the picture, he hardly looks like the high wire type. His body is of a slightly different proportion than your typical balance-expert.

Initially, seeing all those shoulder-height wheels in the picture (in the second link), I figured the act was nothing more than him hanging from the rope in his modded wheel chair--but if his wife calls it a psycho cycle, maybe there's more risk to it than meets the eye. I wouldn't mind seeing a picture of how he actually looks up there.
posted by ThePrawn at 9:25 PM on January 21, 2005

Thanks for the links.

I saw the Wallendas perform their 7-person pyramid a few years ago at Circus Flora in St. Louis. The circus was held in tent that probably seated 2-3 thousand people, and we had a great time.

The real kicker for me was that two of the Flying Wallendas were working the concession booth during the intermission, and I realized later they also took tickets at the turnstiles. Kinda Carnivale-esque.
posted by F Mackenzie at 10:10 PM on January 21, 2005

I still think you should keep to two posts a week max, miss lynster, out of respect for the larger community here, but also want to say that this is a great post.

Timely news, with lots of historical context? Bravo.
posted by mediareport at 11:14 PM on January 21, 2005

"Karl himself, who at age 73 attempted a walk between two hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on a wire stretched 37 m above the pavement, fell to his death when winds exceeded 48 km/h."

30+ mph winds on a wire 110+ feet above a concrete net.

no circus act there. karl wallenda was the real deal.
posted by three blind mice at 11:57 PM on January 21, 2005

That should make quite a splash in the business.
posted by HTuttle at 12:04 AM on January 22, 2005

Keep up the posty, Miss Lynnster, the more the merrier.
posted by Arch Stanton at 6:04 AM on January 22, 2005

I dig it, don't worry. I wasn't planning to post but that was a good story.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:07 AM on January 22, 2005

Good phrasing mediareport... I take it the post was to coincide with Karl Wallenda's, January 21's 100th b-day
posted by edgeways at 10:46 AM on January 22, 2005

The Dying Wallendas...nutcases...mega brass balls, but nutcases...
posted by 1016 at 8:11 AM on January 23, 2005

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