They Call Him The Streak
March 28, 2017
A cultural phenomenon swept through the United States in the spring of 1974, exposing the public to, uh, ‘things’ never before seen. I’m talking, of course, about ‘streaking.’
On March 28 of that year, one of the writers for the Tonight Show stripped down and streaked on air much to the surprise of host Johnny Carson.
This was not the first or the last incident and it may have been connected to the release
the previous day (March 27) of Ray Steven’s hit record “The Streak.” The song reached number one on the charts in May 1974 and remained there for three weeks.
Streaking took place at the Academy Awards, on college campuses, and at sporting events for several months. The record for simultaneous streaking was set at the University of Georgia when 1,543 students disrobed on March 7, 1974. By summer, however, the novelty was gone and streaking ran off into pop culture history.
Of course The Infallible Wikipedia has laid itself, um, bare, in sharing information:
“The high point of streaking’s pop culture significance was in 1974, when thousands of streaks took place around the world. A wide range of novelty products were produced to cash in on the fad, from buttons and patches to a wristwatch featuring a streaking Richard Nixon, in pink underwear that said ‘too shy to streak.’
Perhaps the most widely seen streaker in history was 34-year-old Robert Opel, who streaked across the stage of The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles flashing a peace sign on national US television at the 46th Academy Awards in 1974. Bemused host David Niven quipped, ‘Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?’ Later, evidence arose suggesting that Opel’s appearance was facilitated as a publicity stunt by the show’s producer Jack Haley Jr. Robert Metzler, the show’s business manager, believed that the incident had been planned in some way; during the dress rehearsal Niven had asked Metzler’s wife to borrow a pen so he could write down the famous line, which was thus not the ad-lib it appeared to be.”
Of course, Ray Steven’s song lives on as a reminder of far more fun and innocent times in the spring of 1974. Here’s the YouTube video for all to enjoy!
My high school was not immune from the phenomenon. I have a distinct memory of the school being all abuzz with talk that Mel C. had streaked during PE class! Mel was quite the character and of all the students in the school, he was absolutely the one to buck convention and go buck naked.
I knew Mel because, like me, he was on the Reveille staff. Between Mort, the editor in chief, the assistant editor, Dick, and Mel, the copy editor, yearbook class was never boring. Like the time Dick climbed out of one of the second floor windows onto a flat roof adjacent to the room, taking a desk and chair with him, and then sitting outside at the desk. It was Mel who locked him out there. The sarcastic wit and barbs never ceased with that trio.
Our adviser seemed to enjoy the guys’ shenanigans and they never got in trouble. But in looking at the annual, not a single photo or reference exists to chronicle the day Mel C. streaked at Eisenhower High School in the spring of 1974.