The media buzz leading up to the Wallenda event was a PR person’s dream. We had the last male Wallenda descendant. We had a nice looking blonde woman in her 20s who had overcome an abusive home, drugs and alcohol, and cancer. She was an amputee who walked the tightrope without a net.
And we had a cute three-year-old blond boy who was walking the wire with his dad.
Mansfield University was sponsoring it to raise money for Angel’s cancer treatment.
The talk was international.
The caveat was that if anyone of these players fell, the publicity would sour in an instant and be attached to Mansfield University forever.
The evening came. The gym filled to capacity with around 3,000 people. All the local media showed up. The national media included the four major TV networks, Associated Press and a batch of national freelancers.
Steve Wallenda’s circus friends and other performers did their acts and it all worked the way it was supposed to. The audience was entertained while they waited for the main event.
Finally Steve came out in an outfit Angel made for him. He walked the wire back and forth, did a few quiet stunts, then put his son on his shoulders and walked again. The crowd loved it.
Then, as an extra attraction and fund-raiser, the basketball coach, visibly nervous, climbed the ladder, grabbed Steve’s shoulders, and followed the famous Wallenda across the wire and back. The sports media ate it up.
The climax, of course, was the appearance of Angel. 3,000 people watched her every move as she climbed the ladder, her prothesis in full view (remember this was 1990 when these things weren’t talked about and were usually hidden).
The suspense was nearly unbearable as she took the pole from Steve and stood there, hefting the pole for balance. She was pale, but full of confidence. You could see her blotting out the rest of the world as she zeroed into total focus for what she was about to do.
Slowly, almost hesitantly she stepped out onto the wire.
And I and 3,000 others stopped breathing.