It was hilarious. This streaker jumped the barriers and ran after John (Leslie). The security guards ran after her. It was like something out of Benny Hill.
- Match spectator.
Streaking dates back to the 1970s when American students bared all for maximum publicity during protests and demonstrations. Gradually the trend caught on in the UK, and dare-devil exhibitionists seized opportunities to cause disruption to sporting events or just grab their own 15 minutes of fame.
Fads come and fads go, but the impulsive nature and snap decision to dispense with your clothing and dodge your way across a venue in full view of hundreds of eye-witnesses and possibly millions of TV viewers with relatively low consequences, holds an appeal which can be likened to the ultimate buzz. Very few official complaints are made to the authorities due to the swiftness of the act, the kudos of having witnessed the streak creates a good talking point, and anyway, who wants to be regarded as a killjoy with no sense of humour? After all, streaking is just a bit of fun, it doesn't do any harm, it's a laugh, it brightens up a boring match - so say the streakers.
Of course the families with small children watching in the crowd or at home may strongly disagree. The ancient Greeks and Romans viewed a nude human body as one of the highest expressions of the perfection of nature, but to have someone else's nakedness flaunted in your face completely unexpectedly can be very offensive indeed and it's not just the puritans who are outraged.
Streaking is illegal in the UK, but that doesn't stop thrill-seekers from showing off their birthday suit and enjoying causing a spectacle, gaining publicity and possible notoriety. Probably the worst punishment you'll get is a fine although it depends on the magistrate in court if the police decide to prosecute. Technically you can be charged with trespass; outraging public decency and/or causing public disorder, so you might end up with a criminal record.
Invading a football pitch breaches the 1991 Football (Offences) Act. For example: Vanessa Richards (see below) was charged with invading a playing area and conditionally discharged for 12 months. Also, remember that employers don't look too kindly on their employees breaking the law: Civil servant Brynn Reed (see 'The Queen's Streaker' below), lost his job. Some streakers end up in jail (see the Prague streaker, below).
What Is A Streak?
The University of Maine held a meeting of the student senate in March 1974 to discuss how to handle streaking. The meeting broke up when a naked man burst in and did a lap of the hall.
There is a difference between streaking and being naked in public - streaking is often a spur-of-the-moment impulse to be naked combined with a need to run. It might well be representative of a subconscious desire to return to nature, celebrating your personal freedom, enthusiastic joie-de-vivre, or it could just be a case of showing off. That many streaks take place at sporting events might have something to do with the combination of good weather, adrenalin and the biggest available audience. Possibly alcohol is also a factor; though not all streakers are intoxicated, alcohol is well-known for lowering inhibitions.
Don't look Ethel!
- 'The Streak' - Ray Stevens (number one record in May 1974).
The first female streaker to hit the headlines was 18-year-old Laura Barton. She streaked across the stage as the curtain fell at the end of a college performance of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Her own measurements have not been preserved for posterity.
So what is it about removing your clothes in a public place1, cavorting naked, preferably in front of TV cameras, then trying to evade capture from pursuing law enforcement officers or security people? Is it a massive ego-trip? Some sort of kinky fetish? Getting one over the establishment? Drunken antics? A bit of a laugh? A peaceful protest? Just a buzz? Attention-seeking? A form of exhibitionism?
It was the biggest buzz I've had in my entire life, it certainly beats sex!
- Vanessa Richards, who streaked at a Middlesbrough football match, and even managed to catch and hug her hero Paul Gascoigne.
Three young men got a nasty surprise while they were running in their birthday suits through a restaurant in Washington, DC. They ended up being the victims of crime as a thief made off with their car (containing their clothes) during their performance. The streakers had left their car unattended and running for a quick getaway. Police later found the three men huddling naked in the restaurant car park in the freezing weather. No charges were brought against them. The attending police officer said:
It was just three kids who decided to fool around. We always tell people not to leave their car running. They learned a lesson.
Dreadlocked-streaker Danni Adey was fined £200 and ordered to pay £50 in court costs but she managed to avoid a ban on future game attendance at her local football ground by the skin of her teeth.
It is advisable to remember what happened to a 31-year old Canadian who, dressed in a blue tutu and white tights, jumped off the three-metre board during an Olympics diving event in Greece in 2004. He appealed against a five month jail sentence imposed by an Athens court, eventually paid a €2,000 fine, and claimed he was beaten up by police. The Greek authorities had spent over £1billion on security for the Games and were incensed by this cock-a-snoop which was witnessed by millions on TV.
German football club FC Hansa Rostock were fined €20,000 by the German Football Association for failing to maintain adequate security at their ground. Their game against Hertha BSC Berlin in 2003 had been disrupted by three streakers and FC Hansa then successfully sued the streakers to recoup their losses.
Of course it's not only your wallet that could get hammered. Bruce McCulley (25), a bare-cheeked runner (although a photograph of the incident reveals that he's definitely not totally naked, as he's wearing a large pair of headphones around his neck) at a cricket ground, was stopped by Australian batsman Greg Chappell who grabbed McCulley's hand and struck his backside a few times with his cricket bat. McCulley was charged with disorderly conduct and fined £45; he in turn bought an assault case against Chappell, who was cleared of the charge.
Jacob Swierc, 21, streaked onto the World Cup Rugby match between Romania and Namibia at Launceston, Tasmania in October 2003. He pleaded guilty to illegally entering a sports arena and was punished with a community service sentence. Swierc is now trying to have photos of his streak removed from a gay website.
Kiwi Aaron Bain got into trouble with his mother after his streak interrupted the Bledisloe Cup Rugby Union match between Australia and New Zealand. Mrs Bain was viewing the match at home, and was shocked to see him running around naked on the field. Bain, who had to pay a fine of $500, said that upsetting his mother, who had 'recognised that butt from about 20-odd years ago running around the loungeroom' hurt him more than the pain in his wallet.
British student Wayne Cleworth, 27, shocked the viewing public of the Czech Republic when he streaked during a televised soccer match in Prague. Cleworth was jailed for two days then deported, with the stipulation that he would not be welcome to return for at least two years.
On the pitch, I was like a man possessed. I heard the stadium go mad. There was this huge roar and flags waving. It was insane. I'll never forget that moment. It seems to me that my punishment was more severe than the crime. I didn't mean to offend anyone, it was all meant as fun.
- Wayne Cleworth - Prague streaker.
If you should escape and need to dress in a hurry, be careful how you re-dress.
Streak? With my boobs? I wouldn't want to eclipse Erica...
- An h2g2 Researcher
Arguably the most famous female streaker is 40"-chested Erica Roe. Erica's name has become synonymous with streaking: 'Doing an Erica Roe' has become a slang term for someone who streaks. When she ran topless (she kept her jeans on) at half-time during a rugby match at Twickenham in January 1982, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, but it ended up making her a household name. The crowd roared their approval at the unexpected sight of a young, well-endowed woman's breasts bouncing free.
The bookshop assistant's flight-of-fancy got more exposure in the national press than news of the Falklands War. Erica made a lot of money from TV and modelling appearances on the back of her impulsive streak, and she insured her natural assets for £100,000. When the media attention became too much, Erica married a Dutchman and moved from Britain, and for five years refused all press and TV interviews. There aren't many people of a certain age who have ever forgotten her.
I know someone who did a streak through [a fast-food restaurant]. Pity it wasn't Erica Roe though.
- An h2g2 Researcher.
Oh yes, they call him the streak
Fastest thing on two feet
He's just as proud as he can be
Of his anatomy
He's gonna give us a peek
The first public streak at a major event in the UK happened at Twickenham in April 1974 during the England versus France rugby match in front of 53,000 fans. Australian Michael O'Brien, 25, was escorted off the pitch by several policemen, one of whom sacrificed his helmet to spare the blushes of the crowd.
The first female streaker at a snooker match shocked everyone during a televised final of the 1997 Benson & Hedges Masters Championship. Lianne Crofts, 22, did three laps around the table because she thought the 'depressingly boring' game needed a boost. Six times world champion Steve 'Interesting' Davis (who eventually won the match against Ronnie O'Sullivan) later complained he only saw Lianne's back because he was concentrating so hard on the game, but he had enjoyed the rear-view.
Lords was also the place that streaker Sheila Nicholls chose in May 1989. Sheila, 19, performed cartwheels stark naked at the England v Australia cricket match.
Melissa Johnson, a 23-year-old student, became Wimbledon's first streaker in July 1996 when she flounced across Centre Court during the Men's singles final. Topless in front of millions of TV viewers, she preserved a little modesty by holding a strategically-placed towel around her midriff.
Some streakers strike it lucky. Student Diane Phillips, 22, of Plymouth, wore just a red G-string for her streak at the British Open snooker tournament in October 2000. Not only did she get to kiss both finalists Jimmy White and Peter Ebdon before she was bundled away by security, but she also won a £100 bet from her friends.
You'd think darts would be a sport safe from streakers. However, Emma Hughes, 24, decided to streak at the Embassy World Darts Championship at Frimley Green, Surrey, on 7 January, 2001. Apparently it was her ambition to be the first streaker at a major darts tournament.
Even Indoor Bowls isn't safe. Waitress Tracy Seargeant, 22, streaked at the Indoor Bowls Championship in Norfolk in January 2000, running across the green to kiss the unprotesting eventual-winner, Scot David Gourlay.
Tiger Woods fever hit The Open for the first time at Royal Troon in 1997 with blonde G-string-wearing Nikki Moffat paying tribute to the talented young golfer in her own special way. With her face painted and tiger stripes all over her body, this was clearly a pre-meditated streak. A lady in her underwear made a bee-line for him in 1999 and got fined £100 for her impulsive urge.
It was the best double top we have ever seen.
- Embassy spokesman.
Justin Lansdell said he'd run down the street in his Union Jack boxer shorts if Australia beat England at football. He tried to back out of the bet and we decided that not only should he carry on the bet, but do it for Comic Relief.
- BBC News website contributor Tina Gibbons.
At a tribute cricket match to raise funds for the family of cancer victim Malcolm Marshall on 27 July, 2000, it was possibly the first time in the history of streaking where the public address announcer requested a female streaker. One brave young woman wearing just her spectacles duly appeared, boosting coffers for the worthy cause.
Scottish comedian Billy Connolly deserves a special mention. He streaked around the Shaftesbury Monument (popularly known as the statue of Eros) in Piccadilly Circus to garner publicity and raise funds for the BBC's Comic Relief (Red Nose Day). Apparently the switchboard was jammed with callers offering money for Connolly to put his clothes back on, and even more demands for Johnny Depp to take his place. Later in the show around 50 naked men wearing Connolly wigs danced a Highland Fling on stage behind Lenny Henry, prompting scores of complaints to the BBC switchboard.
Oh yes, they call him the streak
He likes to turn the other cheek
He's always making the news
Wearin' just his tennis shoes
Guess you could call him unique
Former model and dancer Protima Bedi (1949 - 98) streaked across the streets of Mumbai in 1974, but was unhappy with the resultant pictures so she repeated her streak on Juhu beach.
In August 2001 singer Robbie Williams, fresh from his concert at the Popkomm festival in Cologne, had gone to a club to relax and let it all hang out after the show. He streaked across the floor of the trendy Rheinkassen nightclub and cut a clean pair of heels; so far there have been no objections to the resulting photos appearing on a gay website.
You see, it's interesting...the only thing he will be remembered for are his short-comings!
- David Niven's opinion of streaker Opel.
The Protest Streakers
Gorgeous mum-of-three Andrea Hall, 29, streaked during lunch hour on three consecutive Fridays in the summer of 2005. Running down Tib Street in Manchester in just her trainers, she became quite a local celebrity. A crowd of 50 turned up to witness her last streak. When finally identified and tracked down for an interview, Andrea said:
In December 2003, around 40 German students protested the state of higher education by streaking through the centre of Berlin. Wearing just running shoes and waving placards, the students shouted: 'We're here, we're naked, and cutting funds for education is stupid'. They sprinted through a Christmas market pointedly ignoring the freezing temperatures.
Joan Roney from New York upstaged George W Bush at his 2001 inauguration by streaking through the crowd, her body covered in written slogans of protest.
Half-a-dozen naked protesters who called themselves 'Streakers for the Wilderness' bared their bodies to draw attention to the Sterling Mining Company's plan to build a mine near the Clark Fork River, south of Missoula, USA. The streakers said they feared the mining company would allow water polluted with heavy metals and acids to seep into the river.
A man wearing the Emperor's new clothing ran around the square in China's Changchun city for five hours in November 2003 before he was finally arrested by police. The unknown streaker impressed onlookers by being fit enough to run barefoot around the city for a whole morning in sub-zero temperatures.
Geordie comedian Chris McGlade streaked at half-time during the Coca Cola Cup final in 1997. Wearing just a red suspender belt, black stockings and trainers, McGlade had daubed 'Save Redcar Baths' on his body. Unfortunately his protest didn't save the Baths, but some good did come from his stunt. Using his earnings from a TV appearance, McGlade treated a friend who had a disability to a fantastic holiday.
A 22-year-old USA Iraq war veteran celebrated returning home by running 'sans threads' onto the field at a Major League Baseball game in Houston, Texas. He now faces charges, and if he does it again, he will be labelled a sex offender. While most people found it amusing, there were some who complained because they thought witnessing the act would warp their children for life. Others would be of the opinion that the description '22-year-old war veteran' was the tragedy in that story.
I felt so helpless after the London bombings and I just wanted to bring a smile to people's faces. There has been nothing else in the papers or on TV recently. I'm a mother and I was thinking of all the mothers who might have lost someone and this was my way of expressing my freedom. I think I would only do it again if it was sponsored for charity.
A Greater Manchester Police spokesperson said they had not received any complaints so they were prepared to 'turn a blind eye' and look the other way.
Streaking As A Tradition
This is not a good idea, unless of course you like being naked, causing 'a ruckus', think the local police force have got nothing better to do, or are drunk and graduated. Or all of the above. Concentration is key, as drunk people have problems removing their clothes. Establish an audience, and make sure camera (or mobile phones with such a facility) are primed. This will provide essential evidence that you accomplished your feat of derring-do. Get someone else to start a countdown, which will build up the courage factor, as 'Streaking the Quad' (as it's commonly called on campus), takes balls. When you're done, expect cheers and many slaps on the back, and that best friend you trusted with your clothes? Well, you'll know his trustworthiness and can return the favour when it's his turn.
The BBC News website reports on a ritual of new rugby team players at Harper Adams University College. Following the first away game each season, initiates walk down the street naked except for a tie and shoes. Until someone calls the police, then they run. Two unlucky people who were caught were ordered to pay fixed-penalty fines of £80. The college said in a statement: 'We do not condone such behaviour, and regret the embarrassment caused to residents of Newport'; and 'The vast majority of our students contribute positively to the local community, for example with charitable work, and we are concerned that the actions of these few students will damage the hard work undertaken by many others.' In this instance there were about 40 streakers, normally there are only a few.
The Queen's Streaker
Geordie Brynn Reed, a civil servant, streaked in front of the Rolls Royce that the Queen was touring Newcastle in, during her Golden Jubilee visit in May 2002. He had the words 'RUDE BRITANNIA' written across his buttocks in thick marker pen.
I just wondered what it felt like really. It's also something to tell the grandchildren, and that appealed to me. I was planning to run alongside the Queen's car for the entire journey until I got arrested, but unfortunately I misjudged the timing. I knew I was going to get caught but it's just a practical joke at the end of the day. I was pretty sure that was the way it would be taken. I certainly wasn't out to upset the Queen. I thought I might have got a smirk or reaction out of her, but she was very professional and kept a straight face.
Sadly, Brynn's employers didn't think it was quite so funny, and he was fired from his month-old job. It's possible they didn't like the headline 'The Naked Civil Servant'.
The Serial Streaker
Oh yes, they call him the streak
He likes to show off his physique
If there's an audience to be found
He'll be streakin' around
Invitin' public critique
Not all spectating crowds are lucky or appreciative. Most streakers are men, and the British weather is inclement, so even the girls aren't impressed, but still they streak. There's Mark Roberts, a serial streaker who plans his streaks with meticulous care and attention to detail, and is now open for sponsorship, having become the first 'human billboard'. He calls what he does 'performance art' and runs his own streaking website, although beware, it's a little risqué for sensitive souls. He announces his streaks in advance and also informs the press to ensure maximum publicity.
Roberts has streaked on This Morning, invading Fred's weather map of all things, but Richard and Judy took it in good spirit even though he stole their thunder. They invited him on the show for an interview, giving him more of an airing than he'd ever got from streaking. Roberts also tried to evade security during the 2000 Wimbledon championships, and in 2002 he managed to invade the Men's final. In 2003 he leapt over the net stark naked during the final of the French Open Tennis championships. Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain went on to beat Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands 6-1 6-3 6-2 to win the title, but hardly anyone remembers it for the tennis. In Barcelona, Spain, at the World International Synchronised Swimming Championships, Roberts performed the first ever streak underwater wearing just a swimming cap and a tutu.
Trying his luck further afield (although where he keeps his passport is anybody's guess), Roberts did Superbowl XXXVIII in January 2004. He wore a G-string and his body was covered in daubed slogans, one of which was an advertisement for an online gaming casino. American TV viewers never saw him, because the cameras were kept at wide-angle (it was half-time). Interestingly this was the same Superbowl as Janet Jackson's famous 'wardrobe malfunction' which ended up costing the CBS network $550,000 in fines for showing indecent material. Roberts was tackled to the ground by both sets of players and hauled off in handcuffs. He was charged with trespass, found guilty and fined $1,000.
At the UEFA Cup Final in May 2004, in Gothenburg, Roberts ran around the pitch chased by Swedish police. In May 2005, wearing just a clown wig and trainers (and an advert for a radio station on his chest) Roberts streaked in the National Stadium in Oslo - taking the ball and bringing the game to a standstill.
So far Roberts has managed over 380 exposure-runs in a ten-year streak, seemingly oblivious to the ridicule he sets himself up for.
People come up to me in the street, even policemen and say 'I love what you're doing'. It's supposed to be illegal, but it's just a laugh and the police see it as a laugh. And the magistrates in court laugh.
- Mark Roberts.
When former Blue Peter presenter Richard Bacon joined The Big Breakfast, the temptation to make a pun about his surname was too good an opportunity to miss. 'Streaky Bacon' was an occasional item where Richard would persuade a member of the public to run up and down their street while wearing a bathing suit made of rashers of (fake) bacon. On 1 March, 2002, a crowd including the town's Mayor gathered to watch St Helens fitness instructor Keiron Pickavance brave the morning frost and 'streak' (he was wearing a jockstrap) in front of the television cameras in an attempt to win some bacon. On the very last edition of The Big Breakfast, comedian Johnny Vegas performed a very special - and strangely hypnotic - 'Streaky Bacon' streak.
Over Christmas 2005, BBC Radio 4 serialised a book called Playing The Moldovans At Tennis2 by TV and radio comedian and best-selling author Tony Hawks (one of the BBCs Grumpy Old Men). What has this to do with streaking, you may ask? Well, Tony and his friend Arthur Smith were watching England's football team play against the little-known Eastern European state of Moldova's football team on TV. Arthur bet Tony (as friends do) that Tony couldn't beat all 11 Moldovan players at tennis, with the loser of the bet agreeing to strip naked on Balham High Road and sing the Moldovan national anthem. The moral of this tale is: Don't make bets which involve stripping in public, unless, of course, you're prepared to go through with it.
Don't Look, Ethel!
Let's look at the way broadcasters handle the issue of streaking from an editorial standpoint. Many years ago if a streaker appeared at say, a football match, then immediately the cameras would point to them and we'd see them in their full glory running across the pitch. Nowadays, possibly over the last decade of the twentieth century, the cameras point absolutely anywhere but at the streaker, and our only clue that something is going on comes from the commentators. Why deny a daring individual their moment on centre stage?
It was well publicised that CBS got fined over half-a-million dollars for broadcasting indecent material. (See 'The Serial Streaker' above.) Football clubs have been fined for 'allowing' their pitches to be invaded. There are the easily-offended types in the safety of their own living rooms, having their eyes assaulted by the objectionable sight of someone else's wobbly bits. All bad publicity for the broadcasting stations - so it's entirely possible that camera technicians have had their orders - no streakers.
So your chances of seeing a streaker in full flight are somewhat diminished, unless of course, you happen to be at the right football ground or golf course at the right time, then it'll be up to you whether you ogle, look away blushing, or optically research the entire details of the event so you can recount the story on a boring night in the pub.
Pardon Me Sir, Did You See What Happened?
Newspapers love to run stories about streakers with pictures. Of course the family ones will hide the naughty bits with balloons or their own logo. Eye-witnesses are in big demand by journalists for quotes and mobile phone snaps. So keep your eyes peeled and your phone charged for your chance of making the local press (or national if it's a slow news day). Streaker-spotting is also a good pub story and it'll be something amusing to tell the grandkids.
A streaker ran through a fast-food restaurant in St Ives, Sydney, Australia:
I just couldn't believe it. The guy was wearing only a gold hat. In fact he reminded me of a plucked chicken. He almost put me off my dinner.
- Customer Mr J Cleary
One H2G2 Researcher reports seeing six or seven independent streakers at the Middlesex Rugby 7s a few years ago. Of course, he didn't know where to look.
A number of years ago I was lucky enough to be present at the Australian soccer grand final. I was watching the game, when all of a sudden play stopped. I wondered what was happening, and then noticed something move near me. I turned to see, and about 2 or 3 metres away there was a very large lady wearing only big grey undies running on to the middle of the field. She got cheered loudly by the crowd, and was captured shortly after by the security guards.
- Another H2G2 eyewitness.
Today it's possible to buy toy 'streakers' for Subbuteo, the football game, to go alongside the football strikers. Streaking has become accepted - almost respectable, with few objections to the spectacle. With prosecutions being rare, no doubt we'll be spotting streakers at our sporting events and flashing across our television screens for many years to come.
Here he comes...look...who's that with him?
Ethel, is that you, Ethel?
What do you think you're doing?
You get your clothes on!
The current world record for the most streakers at one time is held by the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado, USA, with 1,200 persons (male and female) streaking simultaneously.
Interestingly, two women were cleared of indecent exposure after a double-streak in Maine, USA, in February 2002. The judge ruled that an offence is committed only when the genitals are knowingly exposed in public, and stated that since women's genitals are largely internal, they weren't exposed.
It's not only women who get away with it. A court in Canada has ruled that you are not naked if you are wearing shoes. Seven men were charged with 'being nude in a public place without a decent excuse' after taking part in a Gay Pride parade in Toronto. The men belong to a group called TNTMEN (Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity). Their defence lawyer, Peter Simm, argued that 'Nude means absolutely, utterly, completely bare without a single solitary scrap of clothing. If you have any scrap of apparel anywhere on your body, no matter where or how flimsy, then you are not 'nude in a public place' under the law'. Crown prosecutors dropped the charges, and the men walked free. Canadian streakers seemingly have the protection of the law, so long as they keep their running shoes on, and remember the name of that lawyer.
A streaker known only as Bare Rider has this to say about streaking:
I'm not sure why I streak. The fact is I love being naked and get high thinking that someone is going to see me disrobed. Going to a nude beach is just not the same - what's the fun in being what you're expected to be? There's no shock value. On the other hand when I streak, the anxiety is palpable - will they see me? What will they say? And this makes me want to do it again and again.
The Great Escape or The Best Excuse
A man was arrested for streaking down a Melbourne street. The man explained to the police officers that he was running away from the local mortuary, where a doctor had just pronounced him officially dead. The newly-revived man was released without charge, but the fate of the mistaken doctor and shocked mortician attendants is unknown.
In the words of Erica Roe: If you're thinking of streaking, get yourself an agent, go on a diet, and enjoy it.