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35 Years Ago Today: George Willig,"The Human Fly," Climbed World Trade Center's 110 Stories

In spite of security guards shouting things like, "Hey! Crazy man! Get down here right now!" a 27-year-old Queens man climbed 1,350-feet (110 stories) of the World Trade Center's south tower on May 26, 1977. George Willig, a toymaker and mountain climber, had designed gear to fit in the window washers' tracks and spent 3.5 hours making his ascent. He was given three summons and the NYPD filed a $250,000 lawsuit against him (they were "afraid we might be dealing with a new sort of adventurer's club"—hello, Philippe Petit!) but eventually was only fined $1.10 by Mayor Abraham Beame, a penny for each of the WTC's stories.

Willig's younger brother Steve was one of a few people who helped him get ready; he told Sports Illustrated, "The Port Authority cops were running around like chickens with no heads. Not one of them knew what to do. Then this guy came in and said, 'You're all under arrest,' and they had us fill out this stack of forms. Then they fingerprinted us three times each—once for the city, once for the state, and once for the FBI. After that they handcuffed Jery and Ron to a safe, and Randy and I were handcuffed to a chair. Pretty soon they deduced I was George's brother, and they asked me, 'Is George sane? Is he doing this for any political purposes? Is he going to wave signs or something? Is he doing it for a commercial reason?' I told them he was doing it for his own satisfaction, no other reason, and that he was as sane as I was, which I think confused them."

Naturally, Willig's antics drew a huge crowd of spectators. According to WNBC 4 at the time, around the 65th floor, the Port Authority sent cops down in the window washing bucket to try to get Willig—one officer, Dewitt Allen, practiced his line, "We have to stop meeting this way—my wife is going to get annoyed" on the way down—but then ultimately decided it was easier to let Willig continue his climb then try to maneuver him into the bucket.

Here are some videos from back in the day (vintage Chuck Scarborough!)—check out these photos from the Daily News, too:

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