Without a Net
August 7, 2005 6:23 AM   Subscribe

On this day in 1974 French stuntman Philippe Petit walked a tightrope strung between the still-unfinished (and largely unrented) towers of New York's World Trade Center. In the course of a single morning, the unexpected -- and illegal -- actions of a daring young Frenchman and a few of his confederates would change public opinion about the troubled towers, which were courting financial disaster and facing a barrage of architectural and social criticism (pdf).
posted by three blind mice (17 comments total)
While one group of colleagues made its way up the north tower, Petit and two friends slipped up to the top of the south tower, carrying their concealed equipment, including a disassembled balancing pole, wire for rigging, 250 feet of one-inch braided steel cable, and a bow and arrow.

Simple days.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:52 AM on August 7, 2005

Maybe someday we will get there again IndigoJones.
posted by parallax7d at 7:20 AM on August 7, 2005

This is a beautifully illustrated and exceptionally written book for children about the event. Well worth captivating your kids with.
posted by humuhumu at 7:51 AM on August 7, 2005

Those photos never fail to give me vertigo.
posted by dabitch at 8:30 AM on August 7, 2005

Anybody rope-walking here?

Just how difficult is it to walk on a rope with that big balancing pole?

Still, a feat. And a man with guts, balls and a 'touch of derring-do'.
posted by Laotic at 9:44 AM on August 7, 2005

shuttup you derring do nazi. what a surrender monkey. yay 2005
posted by nervousfritz at 10:36 AM on August 7, 2005

shuttup you derring do nazi. what a surrender monkey. yay 2005

This comment disturbs me, but mostly, I think it's because I have no fucking clue what it means.

Back on topic, this was truly an astonishing feat. Thanks for posting this. I have seen this guy on some of the A&E documentaries of the WTC, and he's poetic, fascinating and truly authentic.
posted by psmealey at 11:01 AM on August 7, 2005

I love the fact that New York City punished him by asking him to offer free performances for children.
posted by maxsparber at 11:33 AM on August 7, 2005

Loatic - Just how difficult is it to walk on a rope with that big balancing pole?

I would imagine that an experience 'walker wouldn't have too much problem with a large enough pole - I wonder how bad the winds were up there?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:17 PM on August 7, 2005

PurplePorpoise, sure, it's a feat, besides, myself I could be three stories up and still lose my balance just looking down - but anyway, he jumped on that cable, so I guess unless he was totally crazy, the balancing pole affords a great deal of safety.

Barring the winds.

And the vertigo.

And the rope going slack.

Anyway, nervousfritz, remember the pilate.
posted by Laotic at 1:06 PM on August 7, 2005

Thanks to the immense outpouring of public adulation for his performance, all formal charges against him were dropped, and the 24 year old was "sentenced" to perform his high-wire act for a group of children in Central Park. Soon after his walk, the Port Authority presented him with a free lifetime pass to the observation deck atop the south tower.

Too rare a response.
posted by dhartung at 1:54 PM on August 7, 2005

pshaw, I could do that ;)
posted by Edible Energy at 1:59 PM on August 7, 2005

Not anymore you couldn't.
posted by jonson at 2:53 PM on August 7, 2005

Personally, I'm not impressed by pointless dangerous stunts.
posted by footnote at 2:53 PM on August 7, 2005

I don't think it qualifies as a stunt if it's not pointless.

The thing I don't get is why such a manoeuvre would assist the WTC's economic difficulties? I mean, it's not like one bloke running between the two towers made them more attractive or cheaper or anything. People...
posted by wilful at 5:20 PM on August 7, 2005

Hey I was just in NYC, Washington Sq. Park, and noticed a small poster announcing that Philippe Petit will be performing in the park in the near future, I don't remember the exact date. To those that do not know he used to regularly set up a rope in the park and perform, This was before the World Trade Center walk and afterwards as well.
posted by flummox at 7:39 AM on August 8, 2005

When I was a kid, this guy performed at my school fair walking on a cable installed between two really tall pines we had in the school yard. It was in the early seventies. I remember it because he has the same first and last name than one of my cousin -- something I found striking at the time until I discovered that `Petit' is the most common last name in France.
posted by NewBornHippy at 11:02 AM on August 8, 2005

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