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
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!