Carla Wallenda, high-wire artist with famous Flying Wallendas, dies aged 85
Tightrope walker performed into her 80s
Multiple family members died in accidents
Associated Press in Sarasota, Florida
Sun 7 Mar 2021 16.39 EST
Carla Wallenda, a member of the Flying Wallendas high-wire act and the last surviving child of the founder of the famed troupe, has died. She was 85.
Her son Rick Wallenda said on social media she died on Saturday in Sarasota, Florida, of natural causes.
She was the daughter of Karl Wallenda, who founded the troupe in Germany before moving to the US in 1928. She was the aunt of the aerialist Nik Wallenda.
Carla Wallenda left the family act in 1961 to form her own troupe. The next season, two Wallendas were killed in an accident while performing the pyramid. Her brother was paralyzed. Wallenda rejoined in 1965, replacing an aunt who had died doing a solo act.
Her husband, Richard Guzman, died in 1972 when he fell 60ft in West Virginia. Her father died in 1978, falling while walking a wire across a street in Puerto Rico.
But she would not be deterred from performing.
“Accidents can happen anyplace,” she told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 2014. “I have to make a living and this is the only way I know or want to. I’ve done waitress work and hated every minute of it. Why should I go and do a job that I hate?”
Carla Wallenda was born on 13 February 1936 and appeared in a newsreel in 1939 as she learned how to walk the wire with her father and mother, Mati, looking on. But she said her first time on the wire had been much earlier.
“Actually, they carried me across the wire when I was six weeks old,” she said in 2017. “My father rode the bicycle and my mother sat on his shoulders, holding me and introducing me to the public.”
She spent her younger years traveling the US as her father’s troupe performed in the Ringling Bros circus. She had a brother, Mario, and a sister, Jenny. All performed in the act.
She began appearing in the show in 1947 but not on the high wire, according to her biography on the family’s website. In 1951, her father told her she could join the high-wire act if she could do a headstand on top of a seven-person pyramid. She was able to join the act later that year.
She worked through her 70s, appearing in a Miley Cyrus video. She retired in 2017 at 81 after appearing on a Steve Harvey TV special, doing a headstand atop an 80ft sway pole.
“When I am out there, all of my pain and all that goes away and I am in a world of my own,” she said.
She is survived by her son Rick, two daughters, Rietta Wallenda Jordan and Valerie Wallenda, and 16 grandchildren. A second son, Mario, died in 1993.