With Chicago’s chilling winds howling in the background, tightrope walker Nik Wallenda declared Friday he’s ready to attempt two back-to-back skyscraper crossings, one of them blindfolded.
For Sunday’s televised walks, the 35-year-old daredevil promised to uphold the “Flying Wallendas” family tradition of working without a net or harness. City officials said they’ve decided a state law requiring safety nets for aerial acts higher than 20 feet wasn’t intended for “elite” performers like him.
“For generations, we have walked without nets,” Wallenda told reporters at the aptly named Vertigo Sky Lounge. “It is hard for others to comprehend. But I’m confident that the wire is a safe haven and a net for me.” He would crouch to the safety of the quarter-size-diameter cable, he said, and hold on if winds whip too hard.
The Discovery Channel (4 p.m.) will use a 10-second delay for the broadcast, allowing producers to cut away if something goes wrong. Millions of viewers around the world are expected to watch.
First, Wallenda will walk uphill at a 15-degree angle from the nearly 600-foot Marina City west tower, one of the twin corncob-shaped buildings, across the Chicago River to the top of the Leo Burnett Building. That walk is 454 feet from point to point, more than two city blocks.
Then he’ll walk between the two Marina City towers wearing a blindfold, a shorter walk of 94 feet.
Rowling reveals Umbridge inspiration
Just in time for Halloween, J.K. Rowling has given fans a glimpse of what makes a wicked witch tick.
The creator of boy wizard Harry Potter published a 1,700-word essay Friday revealing the real-life inspiration behind one of her most memorable villains, the supernatural bureaucrat and Hogwarts teacher Dolores Umbridge.
An ice-cold inquisitor dressed in pastel pink, Umbridge first appeared in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth of seven books in Rowling’s multimillion-selling series. She was played by Imelda Staunton in the film adaptations.
In the essay, published on the Pottermore website, Rowling calls Umbridge “one of the characters for whom I feel purest dislike,” and says she is as reprehensible as the saga’s arch-villain, Lord Voldemort.
Rowling said Umbridge was inspired by a real person, “whom I disliked intensely on sight,” who had a “pronounced taste for twee accessories” including frills, bows and undersized handbags.
Rowling did not disclose the individual’s identity, and said she did not share Umbridge’s sadism or bigotry. But, she added, “a love of all things saccharine often seems present where there is a lack of real warmth of charity.”
The birthday bunch
Golfer Gary Player is 79. Country singer Bill Anderson is 77. Magazine publisher Larry Flynt is 72. Country singer Lyle Lovett is 57. Rock singer Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers) is 52. Actress Toni Collette is 42. Actress-talk show host Jenny McCarthy is 42. Actor Penn Badgley is 28. Actor-musician Alex Wolff is 17.
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