I asked Tino why he revived the stunt that claimed the lives of two of his family members.
"Since our accident in 1962, our name has become the butt of many jokes," he told me. "If you're careless, you're a Wallenda. We needed to re-establish our legacy in the circus world. So we got back up there on the wire and we're proving ourselves again."
Tino's 9-year-old son Alex (a dead ringer for kid actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas) looked somewhat less concerned about restoring the family name to its former prominence. In fact, he and several of his young kinfolk looked downright bored during their curtain calls--a pretty neat trick, considering they'd just tottered over our heads on a slender length of cable.
By this point, the kids in the audience were pretty anxious to get out of there, too. They wanted to see Flora, who'd adjourned to her pen out front, where she posed for photographs and, presumably, signed autographs.
As we filed out of the sparkly tent, dodging piles of Flora poop, my friend the clown stopped me. "Thanks for being a sport," he said. And I looked him square in the face and stomped on his big rubber shoe.
Circus Flora wraps up with performances at 2 p.m. Thursday, December 31; 2 p.m. Friday, January 1; noon and 4 p.m. Saturday, January 2; and the same times Sunday, January 3, at Chaparral Park in Scottsdale. Call 994-2789 or 784-4444 for tickets.