Philippe Petit


Philippe Petit

Philippe Petit (born August 13, 1949) is a French high wire artist who gained fame for his illegal walk between the Twin Towers in New York City on August 7 1974. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Stuntman, Eluding Guards, Walks a Tightrope Between Trade Center Towers; Free Performance Due 200 Planning Trips. |url=http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50B12FA35581A7493CAA91783D85F408785F9&scp=7&sq=%22Philippe+Petit%22&st=p |quote=Combining the cunning of a second-story man with the nerve of an Evel Knievel, a French high-wire artist snuck past guards at the World Trade center, ran a cable between the tops of its twin towers and tightrope-walked across it yesterday morning. |publisher=New York Times |date=August 8, 1974, Thursday |accessdate=2008-04-18 ]

He used a 450-pound cable to do so and also a custom-made convert|26|ft|m|sing=on long, 55-pound balancing pole. Tight-rope walker, unicyclist, magician and pantomime artist, Philippe Petit was also one of the earliest modern day street jugglers in Paris in 1968. He juggled and worked on a slack rope with regularity in Washington Square Park in New York City in the early 1970s. Petit is one of the Artists-in-Residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Other famous structures he has used for tightrope walks include that Cathedral, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Louisiana Superdome, the Hennepin County Government Center, and between the Palais de Chaillot and the Eiffel Tower. Petit currently lives in Woodstock, New York. A documentary film named "Man on Wire" by UK director James Marsh dealing with Petit's WTC performance won both the World Cinema Jury and Audience awards at the Sundance Filmfestival 2008. The film also won awards at the 2008 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C.

Planning the World Trade Center walk

Petit was first inspired while he sat in his dentist's office in Paris in 1968. He came upon an article on the as-yet unbuilt towers, along with an illustration of the model. He then became obsessed with the towers, collecting articles on them whenever possible. Petit also traveled to New York on several occasions to make first-hand observations. Since the towers were still under construction, Philippe and N.Y.-based photographer Jim Moore went up in a helicopter to do aerial photographs of the WTC.

The photographs enabled Petit to make a scale model of the towers to help him figure out the rigging he needed to prepare for the upcoming wirewalk. Petit and three others made fake identification cards (claiming that they were contractors that were installing an electrified fence on the roof) in order to gain access to the towers. Prior to this, Petit snuck into the towers several times, hiding on the roof and other areas in the unfinished towers, in order to get a sense of what type of equipment he needed.

To make it easier to sneak into the buildings, Petit carefully observed the clothes worn by construction workers and the kinds of tools they carried, as well as the clothing of businessmen so that he would blend in with them when he tried to enter the buildings. He also noted what time the workers arrived and left, so he could determine when he would have roof access. He once even claimed that he was with a French architecture magazine wanting to interview the workers on the roof. The Port Authority allowed Petit to conduct the interviews, but the real reason he wanted to be up on the roof was to make more observations. He was once caught by a police officer on the roof, and his hopes to do the high wire walk were dampened, but he eventually regained the confidence to proceed.

Petit and his crew were able to ride in a freight elevator to the 104th floor with their equipment the day before the walk, and were able to store this equipment just nineteen steps from the roof. In order to pass the cable across the void, Petit and his crew decided to use a bow and arrow. They first shot across a fishing line, and then passed larger and larger ropes across the space between the towers until they were able to pass the 450-pound steel cable across. Cavalettis (guy lines) were used to stabilize the cable and keep the swaying of the wire to a minimum. For the first time in the history of the Twin Towers, they were joined. The 'artistic crime of the century' took six years of planning, during which he learned everything he could about the buildings, taking into account such problems as the swaying of the towers because of wind and how to get the walking cable across the convert|140|ft|m|sing=on gap between the towers.

The walk between the towers

On August 7, 1974, shortly after 7:15 a.m., Petit stepped off the South Tower and onto his 3/4" 6×19 IWRC steel cable. The 24-year-old Petit made eight crossings between the still-unfinished towers, a quarter mile above the sidewalks of Manhattan, in an event that lasted about 45 minutes. During that time, in addition to walking, he sat on the wire, gave knee salute and, while lying on the wire, spoke with a gull circling above his head.

Port Authority Police Department Sgt. Charles Daniels, who was dispatched to the roof to bring Petit down, later reported his experience:

I observed the tightrope 'dancer'—because you couldn't call him a 'walker'—approximately halfway between the two towers. And upon seeing us he started to smile and laugh and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire....And when he got to the building we asked him to get off the high wire but instead he turned around and ran back out into the middle....He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again....Unbelievable really.... [E] verybody was spellbound in the watching of it. [ [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/newyork/peopleevents/p_petit.html "People & Events: Philippe Petit (1948-)"] in Episode 8: "The Center of the World" of "New York City: A Documentary Film" broadcast on "American Experience", Public Broadcasting Service in 2003]

He was finally persuaded by police officers to give himself up after he was warned that a police helicopter would come to pick him off the wire. Petit was worried that the wind from the helicopter would knock him off the wire, so he decided it was time to give up. He was arrested once he stepped off the wire. The policendashprovoked by his taunting behaviour while on the wirendashhandcuffed him behind his back and roughly pushed him down a flight of stairs. This he later described as the most dangerous part of the stunt. [cite news|url=http://www.newsweek.com/related.aspx?subject=Philippe+Petit|title=He Had New York At His Feet |last=Yabroff|first=Jennie|date=2008-07-18|publisher=Newsweek|accessdate=2008-08-17]

His audacious high wire performance made headlines around the world. When asked why he did the stunt, Petit would say "When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk."

Consequences of the walk

The immense news coverage and public appreciation of Petit's high wire walk resulted in all formal charges relating to his walk being dropped. The court did however "sentence" Petit to perform a show for the children of New York City, which he transformed into another high-wire walk, in Central Park above Belvedere Lake (which has now become Turtle Pond.) Petit was also presented with a lifetime pass to the Twin Towers' Observation Deck by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. His signature was on a steel beam close to his departure.

Petit's high-wire walk is credited with bringing the then rather unpopular Twin Towers much needed popular attention and affection. Up to that point, people such as technology historian Lewis Mumford had regarded them as ugly and utilitarian, and the not-yet completed buildings were having trouble renting their office space. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9804E5DA163BF935A2575AC0A9679C8B63 "Before & After; Talking of the Towers] "]

In 1977, climber George Willig used mountaineering equipment to scale the South Tower, following a window-washer track. Willig received similar attention from the police, as well as recognition from the crowd and the mayor.

Bibliography

*Philippe Petit, "Two towers, I walk", (New York: Reader's Digest, 1975), ASIN B00072LQRM.
*Philippe Petit, "On The High Wire", Preface by Marcel Marceau, (New York: Random House, 1985). ISBN 039471573X.
*Philippe Petit, "Traité du funambulisme", Preface by Paul Auster, (Paris: Albin Michel, 1997), ISBN 2226041230, (in French).
*Petit Philippe, "To Reach The Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between The Twin Towers", (New York, North Point Press, 2002). ASIN B000UDX0JA, ISBN 0865476519

References

* Gillespie, Angus K. T"win Towers: the Life of New York City's World Trade Center". Rutgers University Press 1999.
* Glanz, James and Eric Lipton. "City in the Sky". New York: Times Book, 2003.
* Petit, Philippe. "To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers". New York: North Point Press, 2002. ISBN 0-86547-651-9

Notes

Further reading

* Mordicai Gerstein, "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" (ISBN 0-7613-1791-0). Children's book and winner of the 2004 Caldecott Award. Subsequently adapted into an animated movie of the same name. [ [http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/SourceFiles/TowersPage/TowersPage.htm MSA - The Man Who Walked Between The Towers] . Co-produced by Michael Sporn Animation and Weston Woods Studio]
* The 2002 graphic novel "" included a feature on Petit, written by David Chelsea, entitled "He Walks on Air 110 Stories High". [http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=24026&utm_source=inform&utm_medium=lobox&utm_campaign=InformBox]
* Ralph Keyes, "Chancing It: Why We Take Risks" (ISBN 0-316-49132-2), 1985. Chapter 1, pp. 7-19 covers Petit, including information on his fears (spiders, marriage, parenthood). Fine quotes on balancing fear and joy.

External links

*cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=A High-Wire Master Touches Down. |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/21/garden/21petit.html?pagewanted=1&sq |quote= |publisher="New York Times" |date= |accessdate=2008-04-18
* [http://www.longliveirony.com/Petit.html Lazarovic, Sarah. 'The daredevil in the clouds', "The National Post", September 09, 2002] Article on the walk
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2003/jan/19/features.magazine7 Higginbotham, Adam. 'On top of the world', "The Guardian", January 19, 2003] Interview with Petit
* [http://www.flickr.com/photos/kentbarrett/sets/72157594338880215/ Photos of the Expo 86 walk]
* [http://www.wcbs880.com/topic/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=857408 1974 - Philippe Petit Walks a Tightrope Between the Twin Towers] A report from Tom Kaminski of WCBS Newsradio 880 (WCBS-AM New York) Part of WCBS 880's celebration of 40 years of newsradio.
* [http://www.brianrose.com/outtakes/0906.htm Philippe Petit Signature visible in the 1980s]


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