Aug 16, 2013

Spring 1974: They Called Him the Streak

In the spring of 1974, when I was in the eighth grade, streaking was all the rage: in high schools and colleges, at sporting events, on Main Street, young men would doff their clothes and run naked past a shocked and titilated public.

On April 2nd, a streaker named Robert Opel ran across the stage during the live broadcast of the Academy Awards, causing presenter David Niven to comment on his "shortcomings."  A novelty song called "The Streak," by Ray Stevens, hit the top of the pop charts with humorous lyrics about a hick constantly exhorting his wife "Don't look!" as the streaker ran past.

They call him the streak -- he likes to show off his physique.
If there's an audience to be found, he'll be streaking around,
Inviting public critique.

Who could refuse to participate in such an iconic 1970s moment, and plus get to see a lot of naked guys?

My friends Darry and Dan positively refused to do it, remembering the fallout from our protest of evil-lution two months before.  But Craig, who you remember from the Swim Team post and the graduation party -- he had a last name close to mine and therefore sat next to me in every class from third grade to high school -- agreed.

Plus a tall, husky Asian guy appropriately named Peter, who went swimming with us at Longview Park Pool, and a ninth grade Viking whose name I don't remember, but who turned out to not have any "shortcomings."  I don't think any of them were gay.


We waited for the last day of school, where you could sneak out without causing much attention.  Just as the principal called a final assembly, we found a deserted art room, left our clothes with a confederate, and, flushed with joy and fear, ran down the hallway.

To our disappointment, it was deserted.

Peter led us to a side door, and onto the stage, where the principal, vice-principal, and guidance counselor were sitting on folding chairs.  The band was playing the theme of "The Entertainer."

And we ran.

Laughter and applause filled the room as we dashed across the stage, pausing only to give peace signs.  I got a glimpse of the principal.  He was grinning.

We ran down the hallway again, ducked into the art room, threw our clothes on, and hid until we could make our way out of the school in the crowd of students.

We weren't punished.  The administration, heavily embarrassed, acted as if nothing had happened at all.

We didn't even make it into the yearbook.  To this day, alumni argue whether the streaking incident happened at all.

My friends often asked how a conservative fundamentalist boy, who carried a Bible around and couldn't even go to movies, managed to pull off such a stunt.

I did it to see naked guys.

We've gotten much more conservative in the U.S. since.  Today streakers are arrested and charged as sex offenders.

See also: The Naked Pumpkin Runs.