Miami has always been a high-performance city, but on November 15, 1951, that accolade was taken to new heights.
The Wayne-Marlin Trio rehearses atop the chimney of the Lord Tarleton Hotel, Miami Beach, on November 15, 1951. George Wayne Long supports Glenn Marlin Sundby and Sundby’s sister, Dolores, with no apparent effort, 25 stories above the ground.
Before the days (or rather nights) of Champagne sparklers and the world’s greatest DJs spinning dance beats till sunrise, it was Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack who made Miami a showplace. But it wasn’t just all that jazz that set the stage for what would be decades upon decades (half a century and counting) of stuntin’ performances. Case in point: that time the Wayne-Marlin Trio maneuvered a handstand 25 stories above sea level for some good old-fashioned fun.
Glenn Marlin Sundby (the latter part of Wayne-Marlin) was an acrobatic stuntman who got his start on Santa Monica’s famed Muscle Beach in the late 1930s and would go on to cofound the US Gymnastics Federation, establish the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, and single-handedly publish a plethora of acrobat magazines, including the still-standing International Gymnast. He and former wrestler and bodybuilder George Wayne Long met at the beach, instantly formed a connection, and developed a traveling acrobatic act with Sundby’s sister, Dolores.
Natural-born performers, they showed off their abilities all around the country, including at Radio City Music Hall and on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was Sundby’s walk down all 898 steps of the Washington Monument on his hands, however, that skyrocketed him to national prominence, earned him a cartoon drawing in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and prepped him for the pinnacle of his career, in 1951.
On a typical November day in Miami (sunny, not a cloud in sight), the triad rose to the occasion 25 floors above the Art Deco Lord Tarleton Hotel (which was resurrected as the Thompson just last year). While standing on the hotel chimney, Long locked arms with Dolores and squatted slightly to balance the smiling, tilting performer on his thighs, while a fearless Glenn Marlin Sundby did a handstand on Long’s outstretched right arm.
A true to shirtless form Miami moment, this daringly dexterous, yet effortlessly graceful, spectacle remains evidence that like gymnastics, life in the Magic City is a perpetual balancing act of work and play.
Photography by: photography by Underwood archives/getty images