“Just a note aside, I had the pleasure of viewing Jay Cochrane live in Niagara Falls, what a showman”!! Maria Rekrut
Jay Cochrane, the highwire performer known as the Prince of the Air, was a great friend to Niagara Falls over the years. News of his death Wednesday saddened a town he came to love and whose people came to love him – even though, by many accounts, he was a difficult man to get to know.
Since 2002, Cochrane’s blue, sequined jumpsuit and platinum blonde hair, were fixtures in Niagara Falls. He was a colourful entertainer who constantly pushed the boundaries of his art to new heights. In the summer of 2012, he thrilled spectators daily by walking a tightrope from the top of the Skylon Tower to the rooftop of the Hilton hotel.
When news broke that he lost his battle to cancer at the age of 69, it prompted a well deserved outpouring of tributes from the thousands of people who witnessed his hundreds of highwire performances or who dealt with him through the children’s charities for whom he devotedly raised money.
Journalists at The Review who interviewed and photographed him over the years got to know him as the consummate professional. Charming, but aloof. A brilliant showman despite some eccentricities. (The trumpet fanfare from the Superman theme song announced he was about to begin his show).
He adopted us. And we embraced him. He didn’t just breeze into town for a one-night stand and then move on to the next spectacle.
He’ll always be one of the lingering “what-ifs” in Niagara Falls history. What if the Niagara Parks Commission had dropped its longstanding opposition to stunting when Cochrane asked 10 years ago, instead of when Nik Wallenda got the green light in 2012?
But Cochrane has earned a rightful place in the legion of endearing colourful characters whose exploits make Niagara Falls history the thrilling, unique place it is.
Where else but in Niagara Falls could you look 750 feet up in the sky, see a man walking a tightrope between two skyscrapers and say, “Oh yeah, that’s Jay… It must be 7 o’clock.”
He was so good you could set your watch to his performances. He often said he had to be perfect in his line of work.
Cochrane was a class act, a thrill to watch and a delight to know.