Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The act starring the Esteemed Gentlemen of the High Wire in “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace is a real showstopper.
It actually does stop the show, as it is the wickedly inventive circus production’s final specialty act. The routine features a trio of adept high-wire artists operating just 10 feet above the stage, but with sky-high proficiency. The act is popular with fans and celebs alike; when Broadway, TV and film star Neil Patrick Harris (who is trained in a variety of circus acts) visits Las Vegas, he hops on the wire with the trio of Esteemed Gentlemen.
But the act has been absent from “Absinthe” for more than a month. The reason: One of the Esteemed Gentlemen has been cut loose from the production after being arrested and charged with domestic violence after a late-night altercation with his wife.
Anthony Hernandez, better known by his stage name, “Tony Tightropes,” was placed in custody and charged with misdemeanor battery domestic violence after he allegedly tackled and punched his wife, Lijana Wallenda-Hernandez, during an argument late on the night of Aug. 12. Hernandez was out of the show about a week later, and the Esteemed Gentlemen of the High Wire Act has not been performed since Hernandez’s departure.
According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department incident crime report of the events of that night, officers responded to a call at the Hernandez residence just before 2 a.m. Aug. 13. The report says one of the officers spoke with the female member of the couple, who said her husband and she were in a verbal dispute earlier in the night.
The name of Wallenda-Hernandez is redacted (or deleted) throughout the version of the report made public, but the report does refer to the woman as “being in a domestic partnership (married)” with the male involved in the incident. It also once specifically refers to the woman as “Lijana."
As of this writing, messages to Hernandez for comment about the altercation have not been returned. Wallenda-Hernandez did respond, but declined to comment for publication.
From the report, the Metro officer on the scene reports that he was told: “During the dispute, Anthony tried to get (redacted) phone from her in order to retrieve photographs that he did not like on the phone. When (redacted) would not give up the phone, Anthony tackled her to the ground and punched her on the right side of her head. (Redacted) attempted to get away and said she hit him with a knee to the inner thigh. Anthony eventually got ahold of the phone and smashed it.”
Wallenda-Hernandez was able to leave the house and call the police at a friend’s house, according to the report. A Metro spokeswoman said she was not sure if the call came through on a 311 (non-emergency) or 911 (emergency) line.
Hernandez’s version to Metro is that his wife and he were “arguing all day” and that she “punched Anthony in the mouth and then he took (Lijana) to the ground in order to stop her. Anthony stated that he did not hit Lijana in any way," according to the report.
But because Wallenda-Hernandez’s injuries (not specified) were more apparent, “It was determined that Anthony was the primary aggressor, and he was placed in custody,” the report says. The nature of the images on that phone was not reported, but those involved in the production who are friendly with Wallenda-Hernandez are concerned they are of Hernandez and “Absinthe” co-star Angel Porrino. The close relationship between those two over the past several months has created tension within the production.
As a result of the altercation, Hernandez was transported to Las Vegas City Jail, booked and held overnight. Less than a week later, he was out of “Absinthe.” Spiegelworld founder Ross Mollison, whose company co-produces “Absinthe” with Base Entertainment, confirmed that Hernandez is no longer in the show but refused further comment because the incident is a "personnel matter."
As her name indicates, Wallenda-Hernandez is a member of the legendary Flying Wallendas family of circus acrobats. On June 24, her brother, Nik, walked across a segment of the Grand Canyon (on Sunday night, that moment won an Emmy Award as the Top TV Moment of the Year). Wallenda-Hernandez, who has actually appeared in the high-wire act in “Absinthe” while subbing for her husband (who is co-founder of a production company in Chicago), is to perform a tightrope act with her brother on Oct. 12 during the events leading to the Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup at Charlotte (N.C.) Speedway. Wallenda-Hernandez also is trained in a variety of aerial acts and is well-liked and highly regarded among "Absinthe" cast members.
As for the future of the Esteemed Gentlemen of the High Wire, the two gentlemen who have been part of the act since it started — Paul Matthew Lopez and Almas Meirmanov — remain. The creative team has been auditioning new members for the act. As has been proven by the departure of “Tony Tightropes,” high-wire routines are best performed onstage, not away from it.
Transport yourself to the opulent and excessive Roman Empire at Caesars Palace. But the ever-changing Caesars Palace is far from ancient. The hotel and casino is constantly raising the bar for what visitors can expect in a Vegas resort experience.
Caesars Palace features 3,348 rooms and suites in five towers, including the new luxury boutique Nobu Hotel and Restaurant, which opened Feb. 4, 2013, in the totally remodeled Centurian Tower. Caesars features 129,000 square feet of gaming space, including the Strip’s largest poker room and a 250-seat sports book. Other amenities include about two dozen restaurants, a four-level shopping mall, four pools, a spa, Pure and Poetry nightclubs and Pussycat Dolls.
Dining options include restaurants from world-renown chefs Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay and, on Feb. 4, 2013, Nobu Matsuhisa.
You never know what characters you’ll run into at Caesars with regular performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Elton John and maybe even the emperor himself.