Thursday, September 18, 2014

Who knew Flying Wallendas were still around? They’ll be in Chicago soon

Perhaps it’s because I’m not 9 years old any more,


But the word this week that a member of the Flying Wallenda family (of generations of circus fame) will walk across a high-wire erected over the Chicago River just doesn’t raise me to the levels of amazement that some would expect.


IT SEEMS THE Discovery Channel is planning a live broadcast for Nov. 2, with that high-wire erected from one of the buildings of the Marina Towers (the corn cobs just north of the river) across the river to the Leo Burnett Building (which was where some of the real-life ‘Mad Men’ worked back in the day).


To make the event seem more daring, we’re told that it will be an uphill walk, and not during any ideal weather conditions. It will be the heart of autumn by then. It will be windy. It will be chilly.


Nik Wallenda – who is seventh generation performer from the Wallenda family – could easily have something go drastically wrong, which could result in him plunging into the Chicago River.


Even if he survived the fall’s impact, exposure to the contamination in that river alone would be enough to kill him.


PROMOTERS ARE MAKING a point of saying there won’t be any safety nets or harnesses to protect him if he should slip. The Discovery Channel, I’m sure, is counting on getting significant exposure. Particularly since officials say the program will be broadcast in 220 countries around the globe.


Great. The whole wide world will know of the nonsense taking place in Chicago.


I don’t doubt that Nik Wallenda is putting himself at some physical risk by undertaking such a stunt. I’m also sure he has the training (whatever that may be) to attempt such a stunt and have hopes of completing it still alive.


But the idea of walking a wire across the river at significant height doesn’t move me.


IN FACT, IT just seems so retro. My initial reaction to learning of the stunt was that it seemed like something from the past.


As though something a daredevil-type would have tried back in 1914, to the amazement of the crowds below – many of whom would have been anxious to see him fall and plunge to his demise, while thinking to him (or her)self. “Fool got what he deserved.”


Maybe I’m just too old – a year shy of 50 – to appreciate the “thrill” of the moment.


It certainly seems to fall far short of the stunt I remember from childhood – back in 1974 when motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel tried to jump the Snake River Canyon in Idaho.


KNIEVEL, WHO ATTEMPTED 75 ramp-to-ramp jumps and suffered 433 bone fractures during his career as a stunt-man, failed in that stunt – even though he was flying in a steam-powered rocket. I still remember the over-hype of that particular moment.


It seemed so incredible back then. Then again, it was my generation that also got all worked up when “Fonzie” jumped his motorcycle over all those garbage cans (only to crash into the Arnolds’ chicken stand). Watching those “Happy Days” re-runs comes across these days as more insipid than these daredevil stunts.


Personally, I’ll wish this Wallenda all the success in his stunt, but mostly because I don’t want my home city to become known as being the site where Nik met his demise.


We already have too many knuckleheads who came to their end in our fair city; all in an attempt to amuse the locals on a slow Sunday. It’s just a good thing the Chicago Bears have that particular weekend off, because otherwise nobody would care about the Wallenda stunt.



No comments: