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ABC News - "Death of Karl Wallenda" (1978)

Here is an ABC News report on the death of circus performer and tightrope walker Karl Wallenda, (of The Flying Wallendas) who fell to his death while performing at the age of 73.

From Wikipedia: "Karl 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."

Harry Reasoner introduces the story and James Walker reports.

Also includes at the end after a channel change a short report from another station, which looks like the local Rockford NBC affillate WTVO Channel 17.

This aired on local Rockford, IL TV on Wednesday, March 22nd 1978. (not Chicago, but close enough)

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This clip aired on Wednesday, March 22nd 1978, and is included in the following categories:

Viewer Comments

This clip is not even for the weak at heart I'll tell you what.
Comment posted by ChitownTVFan on Monday, March 23rd 2009 at 12:10am.

Wow! This man was truly insane?
Comment posted by pantaloon123 on Monday, March 23rd 2009 at 9:22am.

The debate has been raging ever since there were news cameras going back to the early days of photography where hangings of convicts would be in just about every news paper. Before film journalism, you had a choice of seeing the hangings or not.
When the use of photos, motion pictures, and video came around, you had no choice but to look at death when all you wanted to do was check the box scores or the results of the race as you flip the pages, change the channel, etc.

Nothing is sacred, not even a family's personal tragedy.

I remember CBS news using this as their closing piece. Kronkite should have said something to the producers about teasing this story all through the show and using it as a "grand finale".
I am not sure if ABC did in this case.

I didn't watch any news for a long time after seeing that!

It wasn't so much as to witnessing the tragedy, it was the way it was handled and sensationalized.

Prime example: 1983; Cecil Andrews' attempted self immolation to protest unemployment. In an alleged drunken state, he called a local TV station to have them come and video tape it! Of course the station jumped all over it, taped it, and distributed it freely to other outlets!
(BTW: He lived. But, he ended up suing the station for "egging him on" when they knew he was drunk and could perish as a result...Not to mention, no one from the crew lifted a finger to extinguish the flames that eventually engulfed him and scarred him for life. A passerby with a fire extinguisher saved him.)

But, then again, there are those instances such as Oswald being shot by Ruby, 9/11, etc.

Comment posted by armitagenlowell on Monday, March 23rd 2009 at 6:01pm.

Didn't another family member die a few years later? Ok, this is something you couldn't pay me enough to do.
Comment posted by LaPrincess on Monday, March 23rd 2009 at 9:44pm.

You guys are forgetting Budd Dwyer, that politician who killed himself in a press conference after he was convicted of accepting bribes.
Comment posted by Officedrone1 on Thursday, March 26th 2009 at 12:37am.

drone, that was in 1987 I believe. And I had the rather grim take of seeing this video online at another site. I thought I was gonna have nightmares!
Comment posted by BobAnthony on Thursday, March 26th 2009 at 5:25am.

I remember Budd Dwyer on the news the day it happened, but they blanked out the vid after a certain point. As a kid, I was always curious as to what they didn't show...stupidly, I went & found it on the internet a few years ago. Don't listen to the 12 year old kid inside of you.
Comment posted by kietdoke on Thursday, March 26th 2009 at 7:07am.

I remember Budd Dwyer too, kietdoke. He was the State Treasurer of Pennsylvania who got busted for taking kickbacks. I rembered watching the video showing him with the gun and waving people off. But that was it. I did see part of the video showing him pulling the trigger in Michael Moore's 'Bowling for Columbine', but only for a split second.
Comment posted by Loyal32fan on Thursday, March 26th 2009 at 10:04am.

This video is right up there with an old Vietnam war film footage showing a South Vietnamese cop casually shooting a Viet-Cong prisioner in the head as if it was no big deal. Although the anti-war movement in this country started long before the incident happened, it sure must have accelerated the movement even more.
Comment posted by Loyal32fan on Friday, March 27th 2009 at 10:41am.

ABC is turning Nik Wallenda's attempted tightrope walk over Niagara Falls into a prime-time television event with a three-hour special on June 15, 2012 with the daredevil attempt. Part of the show will be an examination of the greatest stunts of all time. His great-grandfather, Karl, fell to his death in a tightrope walk in Puerto Rico in this video clip.
Comment posted by Szake on Friday, May 11th 2012 at 1:00pm.

And Nik recently crossed the Grand Canyon successfully with no safety measures.
Comment posted by VintageCanada on Wednesday, July 3rd 2013 at 5:56am.

Congratulations to Nik Wallenda, whose Great-Grandfather (seen in this clip) was Karl Wallenda. Tonight, Nik successfully traversed, right here in Chicago, a high wire from Marina City's West Tower to the Leo Burnett Building, and then another high wire between the two Marina City Towers.
Comment posted by FuzzyMemories on Sunday, November 2nd 2014 at 10:53pm.

Congrats to Nik Wallenda!
Comment posted by ER3017 on Monday, November 3rd 2014 at 11:19am.

I can't help but wonder if some people were born with the idea to do this. Nik Wallenda said that there were some things that could have caused problems but luckily he made it.
Comment posted by LaPrincess on Tuesday, November 4th 2014 at 4:16pm.

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This clip has been viewed 31312 times.
This clip debuted on FuzzyMemories.TV on Sunday, March 22nd 2009.
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Most Recent Site Comments

Comment posted in KTLA Channel 5 [Los Angeles, CA] - The Snipets - "Acorn Whistle" (1980) by W.B. on Sunday, June 25th, 2017 at 9:16am CT

The answer in how Snipets got around so early to non-Field stations, lay in an ad put up on eBay: Starting in 1978, these segments were nationally syndicated via The Samuel Goldwyn Television Company. This factor may explain why pre-'77 Kaiser-made episode-lets bore Field copyrights. There is still a yuuuuge question-mark as to whether Snipets made it to the biggest TV market in the country, New York City, and if so, on which station?

That this aired within Big Blue Marble also bears some irony. In NYC, that show aired for quite a few years on WPIX Channel 11 (which also ran WLS Chicago-originated Gigglesnort Hotel on Saturday mornings for a few years beginning in '77). Today KTLA is a sister station to WPIX - and therefore, also, to Chicago's own WGN Channel 9.


Comment posted in WTTW Channel 11 - Soundstage (Opening, 1977) by FuzzyMemories on Saturday, June 24th, 2017 at 11:38pm CT

Pushbutton - Great story, thanks for sharing. :-)


Comment posted in Panos Productions (Demonstration Reel, 1978) by FuzzyMemories on Saturday, June 24th, 2017 at 11:36pm CT

TeleFrank - Thanks for the great info, as usual. :-)


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Ending of Oral Roberts And You, Thought For Today & Station Sign-Off (1979) by FuzzyMemories on Saturday, June 24th, 2017 at 11:36pm CT

Rocketboy - Thanks for the ID! :-)


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Ending of Oral Roberts And You, Thought For Today & Station Sign-Off (1979) by RocketBoy on Thursday, June 22nd, 2017 at 10:18pm CT

And in case you were wondering, the music bed on the sign-off is "Romanticarium" by Bill Giant from the NBC production music library.


Comment posted in WTTW Channel 11 - Soundstage (Opening, 1977) by Pushbutton on Thursday, June 22nd, 2017 at 11:01am CT

While this clip aired I was pressing "record" on my little shoebox cassette recorder and pointing my microphone at the TV speaker. I was 14 years old and thought Martin Mull was a real hoot. I played the heck out of that cassette that summer. My friends and I enjoyed Flo & Eddie's "history of rock n' roll thus far" or whatever they called it. Nice to have an exact airdate; thanks for this!


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Lunchtime Fun - "The Monkees" (Commercial Break #3, 1982) by Szake on Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 at 7:45pm CT

Is that Orson Welles doing the voice over for the Time Magazine commercial?


Comment posted in Panos Productions (Demonstration Reel, 1978) by TeleFrank on Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 at 7:15am CT

Panos Productions did not produce the Outdoor Sportsman. Joe Wyer the host and producer of the show may have used them occasionally and they did produce the program open. Other than that Joe produced his show out of Studio B at WCIU-TV's Board of Trade Studios. Often he showed 16mm films produced by others. But I clearly remember the day he prepped a deer for "stuffing" live on the desk of the Stock Market Observer. Joe was a taxidermist by trade. His show was a little different every week.

Ernie Panos the owner of Panos Productions was a Greek born dentist who created Panos Productions to produce his own greek language show. He soon discovered that his fellow ethnic broadcasters would use his services for location shooting and occasionally a commercial. They were cheap and incidentally, since you made such a big deal about it in the description the main draw was the CG. WCIU had an art department but not a CG. Paying for the art department to create a slide or a graphic card was a cost that could be avoided by just typing on the Panos CG. It was amazing for these producers.

Not sure what happened I had left WCIU by then but Panos's show went off the air and I think the production company followed. Some years later I recall that Mr. Panos was in the news for fondling young patients. He was acquitted for that. I think he's dead.


Comment posted in Chicago Cubs Game Promotions (Commercial, 1982) by W.B. on Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 at 7:02pm CT

Sort of reminds me of the New York Mets' 1980 ad campaign "The Magic Is Back" . . . six years before they won the World Series in seven games. But in '80 they had no magic whatsoever.


Comment posted in WKBS Channel 48 - Snipets - "Homework First" (1983) by W.B. on Saturday, June 10th, 2017 at 8:59pm CT

Anyone know which New York City station aired "Snipets"? (Either would have been WNEW Channel 5 or WPIX Channel 11 - unless WOR Channel 9 aired them within "Romper Room.")


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