View Full Version : Petit to Take a High-Wire Walk in Midtown

April 13th, 2009, 07:16 PM
Petit to Take a High-Wire Walk in Midtown

April 13, 2009, 3:11 pm

By Corey Kilgannon (http://wirednewyork.com/author/corey-kilgannon/)

Philippe Petit last week in his office at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, with an architectural model he used to prepare for one of his wire-walks inside the cathedral.

The most intriguing element of Philippe Petit (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/21/garden/21petit.html)’s daring wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 was its secrecy.

The stealth preparations are what made the walk such a compelling subject in “Man on Wire,” (http://movies.nytimes.com/2008/07/25/movies/25wire.html) the documentary about the walk that won the Oscar for best documentary. Perhaps you will remember Mr. Petit balanced the Oscar statue on his nose onstage — also unscripted and unannounced!

Well, thanks to City Room, Mr. Petit’s next walk will not be a surprise.

Here’s the spoiler: Mr. Petit says he will perform a high-wire walk this fall in Midtown Manhattan. It will be high, it will be long, and it will be outdoors in a very recognizable location that he does not want revealed quite yet — discussions are not final.

Mr. Petit’s Oscar success brought him heaps of mainstream recognition for his unparalleled career as an artistic daredevil, but it has also filled his wire-walking calendar. He says he spent years preparing for the World Trade Center, for which he was arrested afterward. But no need for illegal wire-walks these days. The offers are pouring in from officials all over the world, and Mr. Petit says he is obliging. He has been practicing three hours a day on the practice wire. The Manhattan walk will be part of a series of wire-walks across the country, to raise awareness for literacy.

Things are percolating on the ground, too. Mr. Petit, 59, said he was in discussions with a major Hollywood producer to be the subject of a feature film. He is also completing a book he wrote about building his own barn at his home in upstate New York, he said last week during an interview at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/c/cathedral_church_of_st_john_the_divine_nyc/index.html), where he will appear at a public screening — tickets are still available — of “Man on Wire” on Wednesday at 7 p.m. He will take questions and discuss the film.

Mr. Petit has been an artist-in-residence at the cathedral since 1982 and has performed there more than a dozen times, including a 1980 wire-walk across its nave, and an outdoor walk in 1982 across Amsterdam Avenue to the cathedral’s south tower.

“This is my spiritual home,” he said, overlooking the cavernous space from a perch high up in the cathedral. “I tell people I live in the largest Gothic cathedral in the world.”

“My heart is in this building,” he said. “My inspiration comes from the beautiful architecture and from these stones, which are actually talking to me.”

Mr. Petit has an office in the cathedral where he keeps his archives and several architectural models he made to study and prepare for his well-known wire-walks. He keeps a practice wire strung high across the inside of Synod Hall, on the cathedral grounds. Also in Synod Hall, his duties long included changing the light bulbs high in the chandeliers because the cathedral had no other way to do it. Mr. Petit was the only person with balance and guts enough to climb a tall, wobbly ladder to change them.

“Now you know how many wire walkers it takes to change a light bulb,” he joked.


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