Philippe Petit - The Daredevil Wire Walker

Published: Aug 06, 2016 17:18

Philippe Petit is one of the most daring person, best known for his 1974 high-wire walk between the twin towers in New York City. Philippe Petit was born in 13 August 1949 in Nemours Franch. At early age he discovered magic and juggling. He loved to climb, and at 16, he took his first steps on a tightrope wire. In June 1971, Petit secretly installed a cable between the two towers of Notre Dame de Paris. On the morning of June 26, 1971, he "juggled balls" and "pranced back and forth" as the crowd below applauded.

Franchman gained fame for his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, on the morning of August 7, 1974. For his unauthorized feat 400 metres above the ground, he rigged a 200-Kg cable and used a custom-made 8 metre long, 25-Kg balancing pole. He performed for 45 minutes, making eight passes along the wire, during which he walked, danced, lay down on the wire, and saluted watchers from a kneeling position. Office workers, construction crews and policemen cheered him on. There was extensive news coverage and public appreciation of Petit's high-wire walk; the district attorney dropped all formal charges of trespassing and other items relating to his walk. In exchange, he was required to give a free aerial show for children in Central Park. He performed on a high-wire walk in the Park above Belvedere Lake. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gave Petit a lifetime pass to the Twin Towers' Observation Deck. He autographed a steel beam close to the point where he began his walk. Petit's high-wire walk is credited with bringing the Twin Towers much needed attention and even affection, as they initially had been unpopular.

Since then, Petit has lived in New York, where he has been artist-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, also a location of other aerial performances. He has done wire walking as part of official celebrations in New York, across the United States, and in France and other countries, as well as teaching workshops on the art. In 2008, Man on Wire, a documentary directed by James Marsh about Petit's walk between the towers, won numerous awards. He was also the subject of a children's book and an animated adaptation of it, released in 2005. The Walk, a movie based on Petit's walk, was released in September 2015, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit and directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Petit still has one major walk on his wish list, however—he has been trying to organize a walk over the Grand Canyon for years. He has also written six books, including 1985's On the High Wire, and a one-man show about his life and work called Wireless. With his daring and creative acts, Petit has inspired countless others. He shares his knowledge and insights as an artist-in-residence at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. He also continues to train for several hours each day at his home near Woodstock, New York, where he lives with his partner, Kathy O'Donnell.