Omaha, NE Famous Circus Performer Killed, Apr 1963
CIRCUS AERIALIST FALLS, DIES.
United Press International.
Omaha, Neb., April 19. -- YETTA WALLENDA, a veteran circus aerialist, fell 45 feet to her death last night in a performance billed as "skirting on the borderline of eternity."
MISS WALLENDA, whose husband said she once performed with the famed, tragedy-stricken WALLENDA circus troupe, fell from a fiber glass pole to a concrete floor.
She performed without a net.
The 6000 persons in the Omaha City Auditorium watched breathlessly as MISS WALLENDA, 42, billed at "MISS RIETTA," began a head stand atop a swaying pole.
But they gasped when she fell backwards as she adjusted a foot strap, then burst into screams as her scantily clad body plunged downward. Her body struck a guide rope about 15 feet from the floor, then spun so that she hit the floor face down.
A clown act which followed in the Shrine Circus performance came on as scheduled. But most of the eyes in the audience, many of whom were school children, followed an ambulance crew as they put the broken performer on a stretcher.
She was dead on arrival at a hospital.
MISS WALLENDA was known as YETTA, or HENRIETTA WALLENDA. Although official sources said she was not actually a blood relative of the famed WALLENDA troupe.
The great WALLENDAS have often had close scrapes with death during their years of aerial feats. Two of them died 18 months ago when a human pyramid of seven collapsed.
DIETER SCHEPP, 23, and RICHARD FAUGHNAN, 29, the son-in-law of KARL WALLENDA, the patriarchof the family, died. MARIE WALLENDA was crippled for life. JANE SCHEPP, DIETER'S sister, lived because HERMAN WALLENDA and KARL caught her as she plunged by them.
This was also during a Shrine Circus, in Detroit, Mich., in January, 1962.
El Paso Herald-Post Texas 1963-04-19
TRAGIC DEATH OF CIRCUS AERIALIST.
Omaha, Neb. (UPI) -- A veteran circus' aerialist faltered as she stood atop a 50-foot swaying pole Thursday night, then tumbled to her death in the green sawdust below.
HENRIETTA GROTOFENT, 42, a fifth generation circus performer and a former member of the tragedy-haunted WALLENDA aerial troupe, died almost instantly.
MRS. GROTOFENT, who was billed as "MISS RIETTA," performed without a net. Her act was known as "skirting on the borderline of eternity."
Fellow performers said MISS RIETTA was "extremely nervous" the past few days.
"She was just plain worried," said BARBARA WOODCOCK, who has a trained animal act. "I think it got a little worse each day."
The 4,666 spectators at the Shrine Circus were stunned into silence as a spotlight followed her fall and then -- for just a few seconds -- lighted her crumpled body as it lay face down.
Suddenly aware of the tragedy, the crowd began to scream.
Performers said she had not looked at all well Thursday night before she began her act on the swaying fiber glass pole.
But she insisted she go on as scheduled. "I'm all right," she said, "I'm always all right when I'm up there."
Until about 12 years ago, MISS RIETTA had been a member of the WALLENDA troupe. Sixteen months ago, two members of that troupe were killed and a third was crippled when a high-wire snapped during their act in Detroit.
The cippled survivor of that act, MARIE WALLENDA, has been living in Sarasota, Fla., with the GROTOFENTS.
Her husband was a half-brother of KARL WALLENDA, the family patriarch.
GROTOFENT, also a fifth generation circus performer, and his wife quit the WALLENDA troupe to form their own act. RIETTA'S husband had supervised the erection and rigging of RIETTA'S swaying pole and the suspension system.
Their parents both owned circuses in Europe.
Logansport Pharos Tribune Indiana 1963-04-19
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!