I watched Man on Wire today on Netflix instant play and looked up the story of Phillipe Petit prancing around on a tight rope between the two world towers on August 7, 1974. This historic act did not seem to phase New Yorkers – as the article is on page 30. There was a much bigger story going on at the time- the resignation of Richard Nixon which capitalized a lot of the news.
The story which can be found here follows the movie fairly closely. Phillipe is only 24 years old – almost 25. He is a street artist who lives off contributions from pantomine and acrobatic acts and he talks with heavily accented English punctuated with a Gallic “bon”. He makes a deal with the police officers – if he does a free show for the children of New York, they will drop charges.
“When I see two towers, I just want to put my wire across, bon!” he said,
After the first crossing I look at the people and that was fantastic,” Mr. Petit said. “New York wake up and what did they discover? There was a high walker on the twin towers. I was not scared because it was a precise thing. I was dying of happiness.”
He was finally brought in by a policeman who shouted, “Get off there or I’ll come out and we’ll both go down.”
Once his sanity is proved at the Beekman Downtown hospital, he is given breakfast and asked about his dreams. Phillipe replies:
Mr. Petit insisted, “I have no ambitions.” But, when asked if he has any dreams, he undoubtedly thought about a French high-wire artist of the last century, Blondin, who had crossed from New York State to Canada in a most unorthodox way.
“I have a dream,” Mr. Petit said. “Niagara Falls, I would like to cross the falls but, who knows? For that I need permission.”
I do recommend this movie, which is done as documentary. There is no suspense because it is all told past tense by the participants.