Karl Wallenda

Karl WallendaOn this day in 1905, the amazing high wire artist Karl Wallenda was born. He is best known as the founder of the The Flying Wallendas. Whatever. I hate this kind of stuff. I admire it, but I do wish people wouldn’t do it. Isn’t there enough to worry about? People die just walking down the street, or getting out of bed, or because someone left a loaded gun in a sock. Life doesn’t need to be made more dangerous! Just the same, how can I not admire people who are so foreign to me?

Wallenda was born into the business. He began performing with his family at the age of six. The act appears to have always been pretty much the same: they create human pyramids on the tightrope. And they’ve only made the act more and more dangerous and ridiculous over the years. You can see a video of them doing a seven person pyramid. It’s amazing stuff, but I want to scream, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to open up a nice hot dog stand?!”

Probably the only reason I’m writing about Karl Wallenda today is because of his death. At the age of 73, he performed on a wire stretched between two ten story buildings in Puerto Rico. There were high winds as is often the case when these stunts are performed. And he lost his balance and fell. You can watch on YouTube if you want, but I’m not going to provide a link because it is extremely upsetting. Instead, watch him four years earlier, doing a head stand on a wire — also with high winds and rain:

Happy birthday Karl Wallenda!

1 thought on “Karl Wallenda

  1. Thing is, I’ve seen guys at Ren fairs and such doing similar acts six feet off the ground, and to me that’s just as scary. I’m sure the Wallendas are better than the guys I’ve seen but I kinda dislike what they do because of the danger element. They are different, unusual humans, and that does make them interesting. People who perform this odd physical skill which takes decades to acquire at Ren fairs for, essentially, tips, are also interesting. They’re amazing athletes whose athletic skill isn’t one society chooses to reward well.

    Clearly the Wallendas have amazing physical courage and, although I’m not sure that’s something we should applaud, it is something to be amazed by. Aren’t they feeding into the nasty dark side of audiences, though, the side that watches NASCAR for the crashes (of course, most NASCAR fans like the cars and racing strategies more.) I don’t really think what they do should be done, and not because I think people shouldn’t be free to risk their lives if they want to. I think what they do appeals to a very dark side of human gawker nature. Akin to that saying “it’s like a car crash, you can’t look away.” I always look away from car crashes.

    I have more respect for the less-skilled low-wire performers living on tips who are still amazingly gifted and only satisfy their audience’s thirst for blood/danger a little, tantalizing amount. If the Wallendas did this stuff as a commentary on our tendency to be fascinated watching humans battle lions, I’d be more impressed; I don’t get the sense that’s their artistic objective.

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