Don’t. Look. Down.

Balancing Act

Director James Marsh’s new movie, Man on Wire: A Tale of High Crime, documents French high wire artist Philippe Petit’s August 7, 1974 tightrope walk between the then new, 1350-foot-high twin towers of the World Trade Center.

The film opens next week, Friday, July 25th. Marsh is a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, July 18th, 2 pm ET.

The vertigo-inducing poster for the film, above via, recreates a Petit-view perspective of his transversing the 140-foot gap between the buildings.

“I was here.”I’ve always been fascinated by this event, as I was by the WTC itself. I was ten years old when Petit, then only 24, committed this audacious act. Somewhere, I think my dad still has a copy of the NY Daily News that ran the next day, with Petit on the front page. Also, Readers Digest, the next year, published an account of the event titled Two Towers, I Walk. Their excerpt had an amazing painting that also invoked the all-the-way-down vertical view this new poster gives.

Later, on a visit to the Trade Center itself, I remember seeing Petit’s autograph, signed on a metal beam at the top, as documented here in photographer Brian Rose’s image. (Click on the photo to enlarge it, if needed.)

(There, I also saw the Hancock of George Willig, the man who in 1977 astounded New Yorkers by climbing up the side of the South Tower, much as Alain “Spiderman” Robert, Renaldo Clarke, and David Malone did recently up the side of the New York Times’s headquarters.)

When Petit finally surrendered—because, obviously, no New York City cop, brave as they might be, was going to go out there on the tightrope and get him—he was immediately arrested. He was sentenced to perform community service, which he did by doing a children’s show in Central Park, part of which included a tightrope stroll over Belevedere Lake. (Watch the film, however, to find out how he spent his day between being sprung from jail and performing for children.) Again, the movie opens next Friday, and it’s incredible.

I can’t sing.My interview with James Marsh will be followed by a conversation with Donald Collup, director and narrator of the documentary Florence Foster Jenkins: A World of Her Own. Jenkins, right, established a formidable music career in the 1930s. Problem was, however…she couldn’t sing. Not a lick. (One critic referred to Jenkins upon her death as “the noted hog calleratura.”) Collup’s DVD tells her story, and by treating its subject completely seriously, illuminates the heights and depths of vanity, ego, and self-deception in early 20th century New York society.

You can hear these thoughtful individuals’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, you can check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, check out our archive for up to two weeks after broadcast.



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