If you happened to be in New York City early on the morning of May 26, 1977, and saw what looked like a giant fly moving up one of the World Trade Center towers, you were right. It was George "The Human Fly" Willig, a young mountain-climber from Queens. The former toy designer used a standard mountaineering harness and special grips he had fashioned that fit into grooves used by window-washing crews. It took him 3-1/2 hours to conquer the 1,350-foot tower. And once he reached the top, he was arrested.
"The idea came to me when I was showing some climbing friends about New York," Mr. Willig said in a recent phone interview. "That image of a tiny speck of someone trying to climb one of those buildings.... It was beyond words."
The feat landed him a crush of media attention - and a lawsuit. He appeared on "The Tonight Show" and "Good Morning America."
Willig was slapped with a $250,000 lawsuit for his climb. But thanks to a modest campaign on his behalf, he ended up owing only $1.10 in damages - a penny for every floor he climbed.
He later did four rock climbs in the late 1970s and early 1980 for ABC's "Wide World of Sports."
After working for several years as a stuntman on such TV shows as "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "Hollywood Beat," Willig turned to working in TV as a segment producer. During the early 1990s he did contracting work and remodeled houses.
For the last 18 months, however, he's been project manager for a telecommunications company. He lives near Los Angeles with his wife. While he no longer climbs buildings, he is still an avid rock climber.
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