Philippe Petit refuses to make a living off his art, says David Segal in The Washington Post. On Aug. 7, 1974, the French aerielist and performance artist strung a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center and proceeded to walk, bounce, and dance across the chasm for 45 minutes, 1,300 feet above the ground. He not only captured the world’s imagination, he attracted lucrative offers from all over. For $100,000, Burger King wanted him to dress in a Whopper costume and wire-walk over Eighth Avenue; MGM tempted him with a cool seven figures. Petit turned it all down. “I could have become rich in 12 days if I wanted to,” he said. “But I just couldn’t do it. I am a self-taught artist and I can’t be bought that way. I cannot sell my art cheaply. I have never done a commercial in my life and I never will.” Today, Petit lives frugally near rustic Woodstock, N.Y., in a farmhouse he built using 18th-century tools. At 58, he ekes out a living by wire-walking at carnivals, street fairs, and other venues. “I will pass the hat, and after that if my hat is full, I will invite my friends for dinner. If there is no money, I’ll steal something to eat. I am a dreamer. My life is a beautiful mess.”
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June 4, 2008
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