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Second wire-walker to give Falls blockbuster summer

Call it the Niagara Falls high-wire act, part two.

On the heels of Nik Wallenda's history-making wire-walk across Niagara Falls, another daredevil who has long had his eye on Niagara will walk between two of its tallest buildings.

Jay Cochrane will walk every day for 12 weeks this summer between the Skylon Tower and the Niagara Fallsview Hilton.

He won't be suspended above the mighty cataracts of the falls, and he doesn't expect a prime-time TV deal, but Cochrane will teeter 50 stories above the hot pavement -- more than twice the height of Wallenda's walk.

When he finishes his final walk Sept. 24, Cochrane will have traveled the distance from Buffalo to Niagara Falls -- all without a tether.

"It'll be a continuation of a blockbuster summer," Cochrane said Thursday at a news conference atop the Skylon Tower. "If you weren't here to see Nik Wallenda walk you won't be disappointed. You'll get to see a wire-walker."

Cochrane, a slender 68-year-old who has completed more than 5,000 walks in his lifetime, wire-walked from the Niagara Fallsview Casino to the Skylon Tower in 2005.

Two years later, he made a failed attempt to convince authorities he should be allowed to make the U.S.-to-Canada walk just completed by Wallenda.

A native of northern Ontario, Cochrane has also walked across the Yangtze River in China and holds world records for the longest and highest tightrope walks in various countries. He said he has spent more time on a wire than any human in history.

He called to congratulate Wallenda after the daredevil made his famous walk June 15 and even offered to donate his equipment to Wallenda after he retires later this summer.

But Cochrane played down comparisons to Wallenda's walk, giving the 33-year-old credit for his nationally televised feat while adding he is not seeking to one-up Wallenda, who was forced by ABC to wear a tether for the special.

"I think he did a wonderful job," Cochrane said of Wallenda. "I think he did the industry justice, and I think he did what he was supposed to do, which is bring people to Niagara Falls."

He made it clear, though, that he was not inspired to make his latest Niagara Falls wire-walk by his younger counterpart. "I was doing walks like this before he was born," Cochrane said.

What exactly does Cochrane have up his sleeve?

"I've got some ideas," Cochrane told The News. "But I want to talk to Nik first."

Cochrane's 1,300-foot wire will be one inch wide, or half the width of Wallenda's. It will be fastened by 35 miles of guy wires. Unlike Wallenda, though, Cochrane didn't have to do much to convince officials here that he should be allowed to make the walk. They have dubbed this season the "Summer of Skywalkers."

In fact, the Tourism Partnership of Niagara will pay Cochrane $170,000 to complete the walk. He said that purse won't leave much after setup costs of the wire, which will be raised from the Skylon Tower today.

Cochrane said he will have to contend with high winds during his 1,300-foot walk, in which he will actually travel 60 feet uphill to a final height of 581 feet.

Cochrane wants the walk to be inspirational to his fans, who will be able to hear Cochrane talk to them from a headset.

The daredevil will sell autographed photos and DVD movies after each walk to benefit charities in Niagara Falls, Ont., he said. Cochrane said he has raised millions of dollars for children and helped build a school in China. He met Thursday with children from the Boys & Girls Club of Niagara.

All of Cochrane's performances begin at 7 p.m., weather permitting. His first show is next Friday. No tickets are necessary.

email: cspecht@buffnews.com