N. Barry Greenhouse

Photo of N. Barry reading to children

It's the fall of 1969 and Barry and Linda Greenhouse are enjoying the good life during an extended visit to France. While dining one evening in Paris at the brasserie of the Coupole Restaurant on Boulevard Montparnasse, they look out their sidewalk window and see a young street performer who skillfully combines acrobatics, juggling and tightrope walking between two trees, much of it while perched on a unicycle.

Above Photo: N. Barry Greenhouse reads a children's book on
Phillipe Petit's historic walk to a 3rd grade class in Long Island

A few years pass and Barry and Linda return to Paris. Once again they are at a street-side table at the Coupole for dinner and they witness the same unforgettable scene with the same street performer only a few feet away.

Fast forward to June 1974. Barry is making his way through the lobby between the two towers of the World Trade Center, when he spots a familiar face in the crowd, a face very much out of place. It is the tightrope artist from the streets of Paris.

Not knowing if he speaks English or if Barry's lousy French will suffice, he diplomatically asks the kid what the hell he is doing there. The kid returns the question and Barry informs him that he works for the NYSID, which has just moved to the WTC on the highest occupied floor in the South Tower.

The young man with the thick French accent seems interested. After a brief conversation, they shake hands and part ways. Barry regrets not inviting him to dinner for he’s sure Linda would have enjoyed meeting him.

As it turns out, Philippe had been wandering aimlessly. His team from Australia — the team which had helped him tightrope across the towers of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and whose expenses he had paid out of his street performance earnings — had returned to Australia after several WTC arrests. They had concluded that Philippe’s dream of crossing the twin towers on a high wire was not possible.

Philippe, minutes after walking away from the mustachioed, goateed, pony-tailed civil servant, suddenly realizes that this mysterious man could hold the key (or as it turns out the ID card) to fulfilling his dream.

Philippe decides to simply prowl the WTC lobby for days until he meets Barry again. He succeeds. Soon, Barry and Linda are having dinner with Philippe and his girlfriend/assistant Annie. Barry is sucked into what Philippe likes to call the "coup" or what others have called a criminal conspiracy and the dream has a new beginning (as Philippe wrote in a Readers Digest article at the time).

OK, that's enough background, the rest is now a film. See it!