Philippe Petit in NYC

On Aug 7, 1974 Frenchman Philippe Petit (an illegal street juggler, pickpocket, poet and the grandest tightrope walker) walked a tightrope strung between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center.  He spent 45 minutes balancing, walking, and dancing back and forth, and back and forth between the towers on his tight rope stretched 1,340 feet above the city streets.

It took all night to sneak into the building and complete the rigging, securing the steel cable a quarter of a mile in the sky across the 130-foot gap separating the towers. Wall Street was just beginning to come to life when, at a little past seven on the morning Philippe Petit stepped onto the wire stretched out across the sky.

Below, people stopped in their tracks — first by the tens, then by the hundreds and thousands — staring up in wonder and disbelief at the tiny figure walking on air between the towers. Sgt. Charles Daniels of the Port Authority Police Department, dispatched to the roof to bring Petit down, looked on in helpless amazement. “I observed the tightrope ‘dancer’ — because you couldn’t call him a ‘walker’ — approximately halfway between the two towers,” he later reported. “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….everybody was spellbound in the watching of it.”

The police, however, were not so thrilled with Petit’s daring stunt.  He was arrested immediately after stepping foot off the wire.  But when the act made headlines around the world, all formal charges were dropped on a single condition – Petit was to perform a free show of juggling for a few children in Central Park. Instead, he transformed it into another high-wire walk, in the Park above Belvedere Lake (which has now become Turtle Pond)!

An incredible movie has been made about the event (Man on Wire), and a Caldecott Medal winning children’s book, Man on Wire! The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, was published in 2003.

But if you are lucky enough to live in NYC, you can go see Petit in person this June 16-18 at the Abrons Arts Center. His show, WIRELESS! is a 90-minute, one man tour de force that is touching, funny, and clever. Philippe reveals and demonstrates how he taught himself magic, juggling and the high wire. Mixing tales with drawings, audience participation, and even magic tricks, he shares his experience as a street juggler, pickpocket, writer, barn builder, bullfighter, and engineer. Tickets are on sale now.  Click here for more info.

Abrons Art Center, Henry Street Settlement

466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street) New York, NY 10002



2 thoughts on “Philippe Petit in NYC

  1. I don’t like hights, never understood the madness of building these two towers, realy like the way Phillipe made a long nose to the americans.
    Watched the film yesterday, on Dutch television. Exitement en tension (!) builds up in the right way.
    Don’t like people that play with their lives, but in a way, I can understand his way of thinking.
    A bit late, but …….go Phillipe!!!

    (why is he called ‘illegal’?)

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