76°F
weather icon Clear

Las Vegas Strip artist Lijana Wallenda: ‘It’s not in me to quit’

Updated June 24, 2019 - 6:04 pm

They’ve never been called The Quitting Wallendas.

No, they are The Flying Wallendas, gravity-defying family of acrobats who have thrilled circus fans for seven generations.

But Lijana Wallenda was not sure if she really wanted to go way back up there again.

“I honestly wanted to quit. It was terrifying. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I really was,” she said in a phone chat Monday. “It was so hard I would have nightmares. I would wake up, totally stressed out, wondering what was wrong with me. But then I thought, ‘I don’t quit. It’s not in me to quit. That’s not me.’”

There is little question why Wallenda, great-granddaughter of family patriarch Karl Wallenda, popped awake, doubting her ability to continue in the family business. The longtime member of the “Absinthe” production team was seriously injured in a fall from about 30 feet during a human-pyramid act at Circus Sarasota on Feb. 8, 2017.

Wallenda suffered a broken left heel, lacerated liver, broken rib, fractured left humerus, punctured right ear canal — and had fractured every bone in her face.

“I woke up with a tracheotomy tube, a feeding tube and my jaw wired shut,” she said. “It was a pretty traumatic way to wake up. I remember every moment of the fall, all the way to the ground, the ride to the hospital, all of it. I knew how seriously hurt I was. I really had flashbacks, over and over, of the ground coming toward my face.”

Which makes what Wallenda achieved Sunday night, live on ABC-TV, all the more stunning. Wallenda and her famous daredevil brother, Nik Wallenda, walked a tightrope some 25 stories above and 1,300 feet across Times Square. The siblings started at either end, and Lijana ducked between her brother’s legs as they duo continued their path.

Lijana actually mentioned the incident in Florida while looking down on the thousands of fans who turned out for the suspense-tinged stunt.

“I was actually thinking about the accident,” she said. “I didn’t want it to own me. I couldn’t let the fear control me. I had to control it. It was a very emotional, very poignant moment.”

The routine was not without some drama, as Lijana had to re-fasten her tether on her balancing pole midway through the walk. But the two finished off beautifully and hugged it out afterward as the crowd roared.

The idea was originally Nik’s, who has wanted to walk in New York for years. He suggested the Times Square location as a way to follow up the duo’s walk across Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2013.

“He asked me about it, and then we talked to our parents and we all felt it would be the right way to come back,” Wallenda said. “But I had no idea it would be so much work, mentally and physically. My ankle was throbbing through the training. Mentally, it was so hard. Having been on the wire all my life, I really hadn’t expected it would be so difficult. I didn’t even tell my family at the time what was going through my mind.”

The Wallendas are not planning to perform together, at least in the near-future. Nik has plans to traverse an active volcano. Lijana has always toyed with the idea of a walk across the Strip, as a way to promote “Absinthe” or simply as another made-for-TV spectacle.

But for now, she’s finishing off a flurry of media sessions in New York and Florida before returning to work at “Absinthe.” The event in New York was Wallenda’s crowning achievement, professionally, artistically and personally.

“I needed to get myself back, to be who I am again,” she said. “It’s such a triumphant feeling to come back in such a big way.”

ShowBuzz!

Bronx Wanderers notched their 100th show at Mat Franco Theater on Thursday. They are also at 925 shows overall in Las Vegas, counting their days at Windows Showroom at Bally’s, where they opened Sept. 22, 2016 …

No movement until further notice on the dynamite cast of “Ester’s Totally Outrageous Brunch” at SLS Las Vegas. Count it as a closed situation until a plan is announced …

A new day: Caesars Entertainment entertainment officials have had no comment, yet, as to what their company’s merger with Eldorado Resorts means to the company’s plans for ongoing shows, or anything in development, in Las Vegas …

In a budget move, Human Nature is letting go of popular Vegas trumpet player Isaac Tubb. His last day after five years with the quartet from Australia is July 19. Marking its 10th year on the Strip, HN is in the process of moving off its “Jukebox” theme in favor of an emphasis on Motown songs at Venetian’s Sands Showroom …

Award-winning illusionist Criss Angel has been making bank on the road, with upcoming headlining dates in such locales as Stephens Auditorium in Ames, Iowa; the Peoria (Ill.) Civic Center and Casino Rama Resort in Canada. But his “Raw” show is a far tougher sell on Broadway. His final scheduled at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre at 7 p.m. July 7 was canceled, despite discounts from $299 to $99 per ticket. Many seats are still available for his July 2 opening night and seven other dates at Lunt-Fontanne.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
The Hangover is served at The Crack Shack in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Khine Moore, executive chef at The Crack Shack at Park MGM in Las Vegas, makes The Hangover with a fried chicken breast or thigh dipped in honey-butter, sprinkled with Crack Seasoning and topped with an egg. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dessert Before Dinner winner Becky Quan
Nine of Las Vegas’ top women pastry chefs offered original creations built around Girl Scouts Trefoils shortbread cookies Saturday night at Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada’s annual Desserts Before Dinner Gala. The top dessert, as voted on by the audience, was an homage to Good Humor’s old-fashioned Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars created by NoMad’s Becky Quan. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chef Sammy D is cooking again in Las Vegas
Sam DeMarco served his first public meal since returning to Las Vegas on Sunday, with a pop-up brunch at 7th & Carson. And the veteran of the First Food & Bar, Rattlecan and Sam’s American has more in store for the downtown spot. The chef, known as Sammy D. to his friends, is taking on a consulting chef role with restaurant that will see some of Sunday’s offerings added to the regular menu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Carl’s Donuts in Las Vegas celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day
Carl’s Donuts, a Las Vegas-based company that’s been serving the city since 1966, celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day with specialties themed to fall. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Harrison of "Pawn Stars" has a new store - VIDEO
Rick Harrison, the Pawn Stars co-star and owner of Gold & Silver Pawn, talks to the Review-Journal’s John Katsilometes about his soon-to-open Rick’s Collection retail outlet of mostly mid-century masterworks at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa - VIDEO
Because of popular request, the 1-year-old Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa, with shrimp, ground pork, neither or both. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trial by Fire cocktail at the Golden Tiki in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Adam Rains, head bartender (also Grand Poobah and a few other things) at The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, makes one of the bar’s tiki drinks, (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gordon Ramsay renovating Las Vegas steakhouse - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is preparing to re-launch his Paris Las Vegas restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cats owners compete for top show awards
The annual Jazzy Cats event is taking place at the Rio Convention Center this weekend attracting cats owners from around the country and the world to compete for the top show awards. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas serves blackened Cajun catfish - VIDEO
Troy Remer, sous chef at Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, blackens Cajun catfish on the grill before serving it with mashed potatoes and collard greens. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon at Mr. Chow - VIDEO
This just may be the gold standard for the filet mignon. Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has introduced The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon, which is coated with real 24-karat gold. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working as a mermaid in Las Vegas - VIDEO
McKenzie Kawano works as a mermaid at the aquarium at the Silverton in Las Vegas. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinkbox Doughnuts opens third store in Las Vegas area
Las Vegas-based Pinkbox Doughnuts, which opened its third store at 9435 W. Tropicana Ave., specializes in doughnuts such as the new Station Wagon, with Butterfinger; pink-velvet Pretty in Pink; and hybrid Glazed DoughCro Bites. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal, with image courtesy of Pinkbox Doughnuts
Starbucks brings back Pumpkin Spice early
Starbucks declares Aug. 27 the first day of fall as they make their pumpkin spice items available a full month early. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo at Carmine’s in Las Vegas
Roberto Leon, a line cook at Carmine’s at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, makes Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo with eight pounds of lobster, a pound each of mussels, clams and shrimp, two pounds of pasta and two gallons of sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'American Idol' auditions in Las Vegas
“American Idol” was in Las Vegas Monday looking for singers to compete in its upcoming 2020 season. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan part of the Harlem Globetrotters
Scooter Christensen, who grew up in Las Vegas, will play with the Harlem Globetrotters at The Orleans in Las Vegas Sunday, Aug. 25. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa Returns To Red Rock. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa at Red Rock Resort is set to open on Aug. 26.
Hubert Keller’s Backyard Kitchen
Chef Hubert Keller of Fleur and Burger Bar shows off his backyard kitchen in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Watermelon Mojitos and Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Bartender Cassy Leedom and Chef Norberto Ortega make a Watermelon Mojito and Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at The Venetian in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas celebrates National Fajita Day
Cook Ruben Fuentes and general manager Taylor Pulliam of Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas prepare steak and shrimp fajitas with the restaurant’s signature fiery treatment. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pasta Shop Ristorante serves a watermelon-shrimp salad
Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson serves a summer salad that combines watermelon with greens, feta and shrimp. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Factory Kitchen in Las Vegas makes classic affogato
Jorge Luque, pastry chef at The Factory Kitchen at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes affogato with two simple ingredients - house-made gelato and fresh espresso. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review Journal with image from The Factory Kitchen)
The Cereal Killerz Kitchen serves over 100 cereals
Christopher Burns, owner of The Cereal Killerz Kitchen at Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson, makes a Milk & Cookies Shake from his more than 100 varieties of cereal. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in Las Vegas makes a State Fair CrazyShake
Bianca Zepeva, a shaker at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes a State Fair CrazyShake with a kettle corn rim, caramel, corn-based ice cream, popcorn brittle, crushed kettle corn, sprinkles and a cherry. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Balboa Pizza Company makes Thai peanut chicken wings
Irma Perez, kitchen manager at Balboa Pizza Company at The District at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, near Las Vegas, brines chicken wings for 24 hours before roasting and frying them and finishing them in various styles such as Thai peanut. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
New Venetian pool deck
Final touches are currently being added to the hotel’s main tower pool deck, which consists of five pools. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who is Vegas Vic? (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada State Museum Director Dennis McBride explains the origins of the Vegas icon.
Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas serves a 4-pound Big Island Feast Burger
Cindy Sun, general manager of Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas, makes the Big Island Feast Burger with 2 1/2 pounds of the house bacon/beef blend, Napa-cilantro slaw, six slices of American cheese, a can of grilled Spam, six slices of chargrilled pineapple, four fried eggs and a drizzle of teriyaki and serves it with macaroni salad. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST