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Published on Jul 15, 2010
The Great Wallendas were noted throughout Europe for their four-man pyramid and cycling on the high wire. The act moved to the United States in 1928 and began an association with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Combined Circus. Later they performed as freelancers. In 1947 they developed the unequaled three-tier 7-Man Pyramid. The Great Wallendas, a 1978 made-for-TV movie starring Lloyd Bridges as Karl Wallenda, depicts the act's comeback after a fatal accident involving several family members during a performance. Despite being involved in several tragedies in his family's acts, Wallenda continued with his stunts. In 1978, at age 73, Wallenda attempted a walk between the two towers of the ten-story Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on a wire stretched 37 metres (121 ft) above the pavement, but fell to his death when winds exceeded 48 kilometres per hour (30 miles per hour). The Wallenda family attributes the tragedy to "several misconnected guy ropes along the wire" and not the windy conditions. A film crew from WAPA-TV in San Juan taped the fall, and the video, featuring anchorman Guillermo Jose Torres' anguished narration of the fall, circled the world. Rick Wallenda went back the following year and completed the walk successfully. He was quoted as saying, "Life is being on the wire; everything else is just waiting."