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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 alledged drunk, he called a local TV. station to video tape it! Of course the station jumped all over it, taped it, and distributed 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 parish 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.

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This clip has been viewed 19922 times.
This clip debuted on FuzzyMemories.TV on Sunday, March 22nd 2009.
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WSNS Flashback - 1976

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Most Recent Site Comments

Comment posted in Spout (Commercial, 1979) by HUdson 3-2700 on Monday, July 21st, 2014 at 7:55pm CT

I don't remember this...


Comment posted in Old Chicago - "Monsters of the Midway" (Commercial, 1979) by Smctopia on Thursday, July 17th, 2014 at 8:57pm CT

I know there was an ad to the tune of "Let's Twist Again" but the lyrics went "Let's do it again at Old Chicago".

And wasn't there one of a tap dancer on the dome of the building?


Comment posted in WPWR Channel 60 - Music Video 60 - "Get Well Fast Michael" (1984) by Szake on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 at 9:09pm CT

Brian: True, but Channel 60 was licensed to Aurora, Illinois. When they moved to Channel 50, the city of license was Gary, Indiana.


Comment posted in WGN Channel 9 - Bozo's Circus - "Skylab Synchronicity" (1979) by ChitownTVFan on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 at 7:19pm CT

Another thing about the plummeting of Skylab is no one was injured.


Comment posted in WTTW Channel 11 - Promos & Dr. Who Open (1984) by HUdson 3-2700 on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 at 6:55pm CT

Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth. Fred always said that Rita was his favorite dance partner. She was just beautiful.

This was the episode wheer Romana regenerated from Mary Tamm to Lalla Ward. It was the season after "The Key To Time" story line.


Comment posted in WPWR Channel 60 - Music Video 60 - "Get Well Fast Michael" (1984) by Brian1978 on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 at 5:01pm CT

It should be pointed out that WPWR 60/50 was licensed out of Gary, Indiana, the birthplace and childhood home of Michael Jackson.


Comment posted in WSNS Channel 44 - TV44 Sports Spotlight with Jim Durham - "The San Diego Chicken, Pre-Demolition" (Part 4, 1979) by BigZMan102 on Monday, July 14th, 2014 at 11:22pm CT

Unreal, just amazing--especially after seeing Harry Caray's promo.


Comment posted in WSNS Channel 44 - TV44 Sports Spotlight with Jim Durham - "The San Diego Chicken, Pre-Demolition" (Part 2, 1979) by ArmitageNLowell on Monday, July 14th, 2014 at 12:51pm CT

I think the chicken gimmick would have been more effective in interviews if he didn't break kayfabe (character). After all, Ted did win the lawsuit! Reminds me of that episode of Married With Children where Kelly is dating an actor who was a cat food mascot named Neuter; He can only be intimate and extroverted if he wore the head from the costume. I wonder if Ted was that way?


Comment posted in WSNS Channel 44 - TV44 Sports Spotlight with Jim Durham - "The San Diego Chicken, Pre-Demolition" (Part 2, 1979) by Smctopia on Sunday, July 13th, 2014 at 7:54pm CT

"Every now and then in sports, there are sideline stories that make bigger news than the sports happenings themselves."

Perfect thing to say right before the game that contained Disco Demolition!


Comment posted in WSNS Channel 44 - TV44 Sports Spotlight with Jim Durham - "The San Diego Chicken, Pre-Demolition" (Part 1, 1979) by W.B. on Saturday, July 12th, 2014 at 1:21pm CT

"(please excuse the ghosty picture quality and buzzy audio)"

Given that this historical pre-show interview was preceded by, of all things, the half-forgotten cartoon series "Funky Phantom" (speaking of ghosts and buzzes), a rather apropos comparison, no? ;-)


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