The performer died of natural causes in Sarasota, Florida, on Saturday morning, according to her son Rick Wallenda

By Gabrielle Chung
March 09, 2021 09:40 PM
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Carla Wallenda
Carla Wallenda
| Credit: Vivian Zink/NBCU

Carla Wallenda, a member of The Flying Wallendas and the last surviving child of the troupe's founder, has died. She was 85.

The performer died of natural causes in Sarasota, Florida, on Saturday morning, according to her son Rick Wallenda, who shared a copy of her obituary on Facebook.

"It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of one of the greatest performers of all time, and my mother, Carla Wallenda," he wrote. "Just one day after the anniversary of my brother Mario's passing."

Born on Feb. 13, 1936, Carla was the daughter of Helen and Karl Wallenda, a high-wire artist who founded The Flying Wallendas, a group known for performing dangerous stunts without the use of a safety net.

Carla began her career at the age of 4 when she appeared on the Warner Brothers newsreel Hi-Wire Lay Off with Lou Jacob and Little Carla, in which she walked across a high-wire, according to her biography on The Flying Wallendas' website.

Carla Wallenda
Carla Wallenda (center)
| Credit: Walt Disney Television

From then on, she became a part of The Flying Wallendas, appearing alongside her father and mother as the troupe toured with the Ringling Bros. Circus.

Carla spent seven years with the famous traveling show before her family opened the Wallenda Circus in 1947. At the time, she appeared in several aerial acts.

In 1951, she joined the family's high-wire act after her father challenged her to do a handstand on top of their famous seven-person pyramid. She performed the daring feat during a show in Cleveland, becoming the only woman from The Flying Wallendas ever to accomplish the stunt successfully.

Carla left her family's troupe in 1961 to star in her own act, but returned four years later after two members of The Flying Wallendas were killed during a performance of the pyramid and her aunt, Rietta Wallenda, died following a fall from her swaypole.

The performer departed The Flying Wallendas in 1969 to appear in other circus acts with her then-husband, Richard Guzman. (Guzman died in 1972 after falling 60 feet during a skywalk in West Virginia.)

Still, Carla continued to perform, working well into her 70s. She retired in 2017 at the age of 81 after doing a headstand atop a 80-foot sway pole on a Steve Harvey TV special.

In the final years of her career, Carla also appeared in Miley Cyrus' "Younger Now" music video.

Carla is preceded in death by her parents, her husband of 39 years Michael Morgan and her son Mario. She is survived by three children and 16 grandchildren.