Stripped of inhibitions

Streakers make some events memorable for wrong reasons

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These are tough times for practitioners of the fine art of streaking, the act of running naked through a public place as a prank, a dare, for publicity or as an act of protest.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/06/2018 (1618 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

These are tough times for practitioners of the fine art of streaking, the act of running naked through a public place as a prank, a dare, for publicity or as an act of protest.

Consider the fate of a streaking fan who was flattened by B.C. defensive back Marcell Young during the Lions’ CFL opener last Saturday night against the Montreal Alouettes.

The hapless (and pantless) man, wearing only an orange Lions jersey and blue boxer briefs, sprinted onto the field during a stop in play in the first half and was promptly levelled by a shoulder hit from Young.

Two other Lions players congratulated the defender following the hit with a chest bump and a high-five as a security guard apprehended the fan on the ground. The defensive back has faced some public criticism for his actions.

The semi-clad spectator, who was fined $115 by Vancouver police and banned from BC Place stadium for a year, has since retained the services of a Toronto law firm specializing in personal injury cases.

“Our client suffered serious injuries, including a mild traumatic brain injury, as a result of being violently struck by B.C. Lions player Marcell Young,” Preszler Law Firm claimed in a statement this week.

Whether the case will end up in court remains to be seen, but what is clear is that this young Surrey, B.C., resident will never earn a spot on today’s totally buff list of Five of the Most Infamous Streakers in History:

5) The fleet flasher: Lady Godiva

The maximum exposure: The 900-year-old legend may not be the naked truth, so to speak, but Lady Godiva easily qualifies as the world’s first streaker — albeit on horseback — in the minds of many non-historians.

We all know the story: staggering beneath the yoke of oppressive taxes, the medieval residents of Coventry, England, pleaded in vain for relief. Their pleas reached the ears of Lady Godiva, wife of Leofric, the powerful lord who had imposed the crippling levies. Lady Godiva repeatedly urged her husband to lessen the people’s tax burden, and time and again he refused. Godiva persisted, and one day, in exasperation, Leofric told her he would lower taxes when she rode a horse, naked, through the streets of the town at midday.

“Determined to help the public, Godiva stripped off her clothes, climbed on her horse and galloped through the market square with only her long flowing hair to cover herself,” according to history.com’s recounting of the legend. “Before leaving, she ordered the people of Coventry to remain inside their homes and not peek, but one man, named Tom, couldn’t resist opening his window to get an eyeful. Upon doing so, this ‘Peeping Tom’ was struck blind.”

As the story goes, Godiva demanded her husband hold up his end of the bargain and, true to his word, he reduced the people’s debts. It’s an awesome bit of history, but, sadly, most medieval scholars agree it never happened. There was, in fact, a real Lady Godiva — or “Godgifu” — an 11th-century noblewoman known for her generosity to the church, but contemporary accounts of her life make no mention of a naked horseback ride.

“That story appears to have first cropped up some 100 years after her death in a book by the English monk Roger of Wendover, who was known for stretching the truth in his writings,” history.com says. She didn’t make chocolates, either.

 

4) The fleet flasher: The Grey Cup streaker

The maximum exposure: Despite the often-bitter cold, flashers have historically been fond of plying their buff business at Canadian sporting events. For instance, there was that guy at a Calgary Flames game in 2002 who climbed over the glass wearing nothing but socks and managed to catch his “family jewels” on the top before falling to the ice, where he had to be taken away on a stretcher.

Freelance photojournalist Ian Bradshaw shot this now-iconic photo at a 1974 rugby game of Michael O'Brien, Britain's first sports streaker. (Ian Bradshaw photo)

Or the guy sporting nothing but a beard and dark socks who streaked at a Calgary Stampeders game in 2011 before being nabbed and covered with a blanket by stadium security.

And who can forget the guy wearing nothing but a T-shirt and a single sock who streaked across the ice at the 2003 Heritage Classic hockey game at Commonwealth Stadium, before diving over the barrier between the ice and sidelines and being photographed bottoms-up on a McDonald’s sign proclaiming: “I’m lovin’ it!”

But, in our mind, the most infamous Canuck sporting streaker was Nadia Stooshnoff, a young woman who soared to infamy in -20 C temperatures at the 1975 Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium when she streaked during the opening coin-toss.

The Edmonton Eskimos won that game against Montreal 9-8, but the only thing anyone seems to remember is Nadia. Here’s what beloved Winnipeg sportscaster Don Wittman, who passed away in 2008, recalled in a 1993 video: “The fans attending that game weren’t concerned with making a fashion statement. They were wearing winter underwear, parkas, tuques, scarves, warm mitts, winter boots, anything to ward off the -20 C temperatures. The pre-game ceremonies were just concluding… when suddenly a young lady appeared in the field and she began a dance that warmed up the crowd. This young woman, wearing nothing more than a smile, made a lasting impression in frigid Calgary while oblivious officials tended to the coin toss. Thinking back to 1975, some people might remember it was the first time that a Grey Cup had ever been played on the Prairies, that Don Sweet’s missed field goal gave Edmonton a 9-8 victory, but everyone who was here will remember two things: the cold and the streaker.”

Now that’s what we call a flashback.

 

3) The fleet flasher: The Oscars streaker

Nadia Stooshnoff at the opening ceremonies of the 1975 Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. (Calgary Herald files)

The maximum exposure: Our most memorable Oscars moment involves suave British actor David Niven, who, at the 46th Academy Awards in 1974, proved nothing could ruffle his debonair feathers onstage.

“And now to divulge the contents of this year’s most important envelope is a very important contributor to world entertainment,” Niven gushed as he prepared to introduce presenter Elizabeth Taylor. Which is when, without warning, a dark-haired nude man jogged behind him flashing a two-fingered peace sign, becoming the first person to appear fully naked at the Oscars.

The audience roared, but Niven was unflappable. After the briefest pause, he beamed and chirped: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen. But 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.”

The streak instantly became part of Hollywood lore, as did the streaker, Robert Opel, a conceptual artist, photographer and gay rights activist.

“The Oscar streak wasn’t Opel’s first. As a member of the L.A. hippy scene, Opel had shown up naked to a few Los Angeles city council meetings to protest the ban on nudity at area beaches,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. Tragically, Opel’s time basking in the naked limelight was short-lived. In 1978, in San Francisco, he established Fey-Way Studios, the first gay art gallery in the United States. “The very next year, Opel, who was just 40 years old at the time, was murdered when two men burst into the studio demanding money and drugs,” the Hollywood Reporter recalled. “They ushered Opel and two friends into a back room and tied them up. Then they shot Opel in the head.”

 

2) The fleet flasher: The famous photo streaker

The maximum exposure: If you don’t know this photo, you have probably been living in a cave for the past 44 years. It was taken in the spring of 1974 by freelance photojournalist Ian Bradshaw, who had been sent to Twickenham, about 16 kilometres west of central London, to shoot an exhibition rugby game between England and France.

He ended up capturing a now-iconic photo of a fan named Michael O’Brien, who became Britain’s first sports streaker.

The famed photo shows a bearded but buck naked O’Brien, arms outstretched in a manner reminiscent of Jesus, surrounded by British bobbies, one of whom is strategically placing his iconic black helmet over the streaker’s (ahem) Big Ben, while an obviously exasperated older gentleman huffs and puffs towards them carrying a “modesty raincoat.”

Bradshaw’s photo became a sensation, going on to become World Press Photo of the Year, Life magazine’s picture of the year and People magazine’s picture of the year.

It all began when O’Brien, a 25-year-old Australian-born accountant, made a bet with his drinking mates — he’d shed his clothes, sprint across the field and touch the stands on the far side, all for 10 pounds.

As players left the field at halftime, O’Brien made his dash, but was soon surrounded by police. Officer Bruce Perry, owner of the well-placed helmet, let him touch the other side to win his bet.

“I was so embarrassed. I told him that he didn’t have to say anything and all that, but he just shouted at me: ‘Give us a kiss!’ It was a cold day and he didn’t have anything to be proud of, but I didn’t think twice about using my helmet. We took him down to the nick, but he was back for the second half,” Perry recalled in 2006.

As for his iconic photo, Bradshaw later noted: “Every time I pressed the button, the streaker was exposed. I thought, I’ve got to get one frame where his damn private parts are covered!”

He did, and the rest is history.

 

1) The fleet flasher: The King of the Streakers

A streaker appears on stage surprising David Niven, right, who isn't quite sure what's happening behind him. (Associated Press files)

The maximum exposure: He has called himself the “World’s Most Prolific Streaker” and was featured in a TV documentary entitled Streak! The Man Who Can’t Keep His Clothes On.

For Liverpool resident Mark Roberts, it all began in 1993 as the result of a drunken bar bet in Hong Kong. “The rugby sevens was happening there, a two-day event, and I drunkenly said in a bar one evening that anybody can streak. The owner of the bar dared me to do it the next day during the final. I was only talking through the alcohol. I had no intention, but the next day, a guy came and dragged me out of the apartment,” Roberts told the Guardian newspaper in 2015.

By 2013, the year he announced his retirement, Roberts had streaked a reported 519 times at an astonishing array of events, including Mr. Universe, Miss World, the bull run in Pamplona and Wimbledon.

Two streaks in his career stand out. In 1995, he famously streaked a live broadcast of the British daytime TV program This Morning, during which he swam onto presenter Fred Talbot’s floating weather map and proceeded to emulate Talbot’s trademark leap from Scotland to Ireland.

“I don’t have a compulsion to take my clothes off. It’s only the laughter that matters. It’s nothing like flashing. There’s nothing sexual about it — it’s just comedy nudity,” he told the Daily Mail in 2013, when he formally hung up his birthday suit.

His second legendary streak came in 2004 at Super Bowl 38 in Houston, where, before the start of the second half, he ran onto the field disguised as a referee, undressed and performed a little dance clad only in a thong. He was eventually tackled by members of the New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, police and stadium security.

After being taken into custody, he was fined US$1,000 for trespassing.

The game was also famous for “Nipplegate,” wherein singer Janet Jackson’s breast was briefly exposed in an infamous “wardrobe malfunction.”

In one last fling, he came out of retirement at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, hopping on the ice in a pink tutu and skimpy underwear with the words “peace and love” emblazoned on his chest.

All in all, his career has gone by in a flash.

 

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Mark Roberts was the subject of a documentary. (Nerd TV)
Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs
Columnist

Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.

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