Champagne flowed, confetti fluttered and 21 guns fired to salute a troupe of perspiring actors who climbed 1,710 steps to the top of the Eiffel Tower today for the centennial of the Parisian landmark.
Balloons and a brass band added to the festivities, in which the 30 huffing and puffing performers followed in the footsteps of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. On March 31, 1889, he marked the completion of what was then the world’s tallest tower by climbing 1,000 feet to the top and unfurling a blue, white and red flag.
For the centennial celebration, the three levels of the pig-iron tower were transformed into outdoor cafes soaring above Paris in bloom: Fuchsia dogwoods marked the path to the Palais Chaillot across the Seine, rectangular beds of yellow, red and purple lined the Champs de Mars.
Tables overflowed with hundreds of invited guests who sipped champagne served by gracious waiters in black vests, white aprons and stick-on mutton-chop sideburns.
Television monitors scattered around the periphery of the tables tracked the progress of the actors up the stairs.
Not everyone who started at the foot of the tower a century ago with the energetic 55-year-old engineer made it to the top. Some were too pooped to go beyond the first level. One man, suffering from vertigo, had himself blindfolded at the second level and finished the climb.
“This is where I get off, thank goodness,” said 67-year-old actor Pierre Pauron, sitting down with a glass of cool champagne in the breeze at the second level 410 feet over Paris. “Monsieur Viguier, the man I am portraying, did not make it beyond here.”