Man completed feat 40 years ago, and plans to do it again

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Man completed feat 40 years ago, and plans to do it again
In this Aug. 7, 1974 file photo, Philippe Petit, a French high wire artist, walks across a tightrope suspended between the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York. Philippe Petit stars in "Man on a Wire," directed by James Marsh. (AP Photo/Alan Welner)
French stuntman and tightrope walker Philippe Petit lies across a cable stretched between New York’s World Trade Center's twin towers, high above city streets in New York City, USA on Wednesday, August 7, 1974. Police reported Petit and two photographers stretched the cable between the structures just before dawn to execute the planned stunt. (AP Photo/Alan Welner)
French aerialist Philippe Petit, 24, balances as he crosses a cable stretched between the World Trade Center towers high above New York City Wednesday, August 7, 1974. Petit walked from one rooftop to a point close to the second rooftop and back again as crowds gathered on the lower Manhattan streets to watch the aerial feat. Police arrested him and two assistants shortly after the walk and took Petit to Beekman-Downtown Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. The Frenchman has performed similar stunts in Paris and Australia. (AP Photo/Alan Welner))
French tightrope walker Philippe Petit, 24, looks back at the photographer as he rests between walks across a cable stretched between New York’s World Trade Center towers high above the city on Wednesday, August 7, 1974. Petit crossed the cable twice and at one point, hung by his heels. The Frenchman and two assistants apparently hid in one of the towers and set the cable up before dawn, police said. (AP Photo/Alan Welner)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 07: Port Authority police officers escort Philippe Petit (right) and his assistant Jean Heck (left), from Beekman Hospital. Petit was arrested after he walked a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center. (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 29: Philippe Petit goes on what amounts to one of the safest walks ever taken at night in Central Park as he negotiates a 600-foot-long cable strung over Belvedere Lake. The diminutive French daredevil uses a 35-pound balancing pole, as crowd of 10,000 watches from lake's shoreline. Petit, who on Aug. 7, took a stroll between 1,350-foot towers of the World Trade Center, climbed up the cable to a point 80 feet up the tower of Belvedere Castle. (Photo by Dan Cronin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
French rope walker Philippe Petit raises up one arms to keep his poise as he is about to reach on his cable the Saint Mari church ‘towers, (out of camera range), in Central Paris on Friday, Dec. 23, 1983, after completing a trick of over 100 yards in the air, from his starting point at the five-stories high Pompidou Museum. Background far left, emerges the Saint-Jacques Tower. (AP Photo)
French tightrope walker Philippe Petit keeps his poise as he walks on a cable towards the tower of the Saint Merri church in Central Paris, France on Dec. 23, 1983. His starting point in the 100-yards aerial journey was the five-storey high Pompidou Museum. (AP Photo/Alexis Duclos)
French high wire artist Philippe Petit walks across a tightrope that is 45 feet out over the Niagara River. The Horseshoe Falls are seen in the background and a 'Maid of the Mist' tour boat is seen below. Oct. 5, 1986. (AP Photo/James P. McCoy)
High wire artist Philippe Petit walks the railing atop New York’s World Trade Center, 1350 feet above Manhattan’s streets on July 14, 1986, during a break in a news conference held to announce his dare-devil plans for the rest of the year. Included in Petit’s future exploits is a high wire walk over the Grand Canyon next spring. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
French high wire artist Philippe Petit walks towards the Eiffel Tower across a cable stretching approximately 2,300 feet. Petit holds a copy of the 200 year old Declaration of Human Rights which he will give to Jacques Chirac, the Paris Mayor, at the other end. Paris, Aug. 27, 1989. (AP Photo/Pierre Gleizes)

French high wire artist Philippe Petit released a dove about halfway across between the Jewish and the Arab sectors of Jerusalem on May 18, 1987, the bird remain close to the daredevil during the rest of his high walk. The distance covered was about 300 meters (1000 feet). In the background the Old City of Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Max Nash)

French high wire artist Philippe Petit walks across a cable between Paulskirche and Saint Bartholomeus' Cathedral in Frankfurt, as part of the city's 1,200th birthday celebration on June. 12, 1994. (AP Photo)
Spectators shade their eyes against the sun, joining a crowd of some 100,000 people watching French tightrope walker Philippe Petit, unseen, during his spectacular walk on a 300 meter-long high wire at 960ft between the towers of the Cathedral and St. Paul’s church in Frankfurt, Germany on June 12, 1994. The walk on the rope was part of Frankfurt’s year-long 1,200th birthday celebrations. (AP Photo/Bjoern Steinz)
**EMBARGOED AT THE REQUEST OF THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS & SCIENCES FOR USE UPON CONCLUSION OF THE ACADEMY AWARDS TELECAST** Philippe Petit, the subject of the documentary "Man on Wire," balances an Oscar on his chin as James marsh looks on after the film won for best documentary feature during the 81st Academy Awards Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Forty years ago today, a French magician named Philippe Petit stunned an enthralled audience as he pranced on a wire tied between New York City's Twin Towers. The fearless 24 year-old high-wire artist declined even the faintest safety precautions of a harness or net when he sashayed across the 130-foot gap between the buildings, balancing on a one-inch thick steel cable illegally strung at a height of 110-stories.

Petit had been inspired to attempt the feat after seeing a photo of the Twin Towers in a magazine in a seemingly ordinary dentist's office, according to MSNBC. Petit spent the next six years of his life planning for the dangerous act.

He never received formal approval for his walk, instead relying on the help of friends to secretly string a 65 yard-long cable between the buildings, according to Long Island's Newsday. Then on that fateful morning in 1974, he tip-toed onto the cable and bounced 110 stories high in the air for 40 minutes. Below, pedestrians paused their days to tilt their heads upward in amazement.

Afterwards, Petit was arrested, jailed and taken for a psychological evaluation before he was finally released, but not in vain. The stunt transformed the Frenchman into an international celebrity and aesthetic hero -- leading New York City to drop formal charges.

Decades later, his story was retold in the 2008 Academy Award-winning documentary, "Man on a Wire," that detailed his crime and the challenges he overcame to accomplish perhaps the most graceful crime of the century.

To commemorate the anniversary of the performance, Petit plans to reconstruct the walk in a less dangerous setting as a benefit for LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York, using the same equipment from four decades ago.

Petit talked to Newsday ahead of his anniversary performance.

"Every year I see that it's going to be the anniversary ... but they are years that are not very interesting: 17, 21," said Petit. "But 40 is a great number, and because I am still here, still doing my art, I must be on the wire that day."

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