For Nik Wallenda, there was no turning back once he stepped out on the tightrope and began his perilous journey, step by step, over Niagara Falls.
“Once you start, you’re committed. Besides, where else was I going to go?” Wallenda said, punctuating his remarks with a wry laugh.
Wallenda began on the American side of Niagara Falls and ended in Canada when he successfully completed his 1,550-foot, high-wire walk in front of a national television audience June 15. His next stop brings him to Atlantic City, where he and his family will perform more thrilling stunts during a summer show at Tropicana Casino and Resort.
“I can promise you, it will be quite a spectacle,” Wallenda said during a news conference Monday to promote “Beyond the Falls: Nik Wallenda and the Wallenda Family Experience.”
The Wallenda show in Tropicana’s theater is scheduled to run Aug. 12 to Sept. 22 and will feature a variety of acrobatics for which his family is famous, including high-wire acts and performers twirling on silk curtains suspended above the audience.
Wallenda is also planning to perform a free public stunt outside Tropicana in early August, but he is not yet ready to divulge details. In April 2011, he thrilled hundreds of people on the Boardwalk by performing on the “Wheel of Death” a 50-foot spinning contraption attached to the exterior of Tropicana’s South Tower, 240 feet above the ground.
“Everything I do, I try to be unique. This will be unique, too,” the 33-year-old Wallenda said of his upcoming public performance.
Wallenda’s high-wire trek 173 feet above Niagara Falls put him in the history books. He became the first person to cross the falls on a tightrope, doing so during a live ABC broadcast that attracted millions of viewers.
“It was just unreal — the emotion, the excitement,” Wallenda said.
Wallenda recalled the raging water below him that churned like a giant cauldron. Wind-whipped mist stung his eyes while he tried to concentrate on what was billed as a “death-defying” stunt.
However, Wallenda noted he was connected to a safety harness that had been demanded by ABC as a condition of its financial sponsorship. He said he reluctantly agreed to the tether, although it turned out he didn’t need it.
“To be honest, it was more of an impediment than anything,” he explained.
Carol DeSimone, who was among some Tropicana customers who posed for pictures with Wallenda on Monday, said she was captivated by the Niagara Falls stunt. She plans to return for Wallenda’s Atlantic City show.
“It was heart-pounding,” DeSimone, of Brooklyn, N.Y., said of Wallenda’s Niagara Falls performance. “I just told another woman that I’m glad that he’s not my son. There is too much fear.”
Tony Rodio, Tropicana’s president and chief executive officer, said two names come to mind when the public thinks about death-defying stunts — Wallenda and Evel Knievel, who became famous in the 1970s for his televised motorcycle jumps.
“It boggles my mind how you were able to accomplish that,” Rodio told Wallenda of the Niagara Falls crossing.
With casino customers looking on, Rodio jokingly tried his luck on a mock tightrope that was only about a foot high. He took a few tentative steps before losing his balance. Wallenda followed Rodio and easily made his way across the tightrope.
“Showoff,” Rodio shouted to Wallenda.
Wallenda’s aerial acrobatics are reminiscent of the zany publicity stunts performed decades ago during Atlantic City’s heyday as one of America’s top tourist destinations. Tourism officials hope that more Wallenda-style entertainment will help break the city’s current five-year casino slump by luring more visitors to town.
Liza Cartmell, the CEO of the Atlantic City Alliance, a casino-funded marketing coalition, said the city and state are busy trying to recreate the seashore resort as a “city of spectacles.”
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