Feature

Streaking: A timeline

A man trying to win a million-dollar prize got naked at an Obama rally. But he's hardly the first to bare all in public

Juan Rodriguez hoped to win $1 million when, to promote a billionaire's website, he ran naked through the crowd at a Phildelphia rally for President Obama last weekend. Instead, he got an undisclosed, smaller sum (because he didn't get close enough to Obama), along with an indecent exposure charge. But he also earned a mention in the long history of one of the world's favorite fads — streaking. Rodriguez did it for money, but others have been motivated by everything from a desire to protest taxes to plain old peer pressure. (Watch a gallery of streakers through the years.) Here's a look back at some of the streaking's best moments:

11th century: According to legend, Lady Godiva, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman, rode naked on horseback through the streets of Coventry to protest her husband's strict taxation policies. The incident also spawned the term "peeping Tom" — so named for a town resident who disobeyed Lady Godiva's order that nobody watch her nude voyage. Tom, according to lore, was struck blind or dead for his indiscretion.

1804: George William Crump becomes the first American college student arrested for streaking. Crump is suspended for the term from his Virginia school, Washington College (now Washington and Lee), but goes on to serve in Congress and as ambassador to Chile. With Robert E. Lee's blessing, streaking later becomes a rite of passage for Washington and Lee men.

Late 1960s/early '70s: As the free-love movement hits college campuses, running around naked catches on as a popular prank. Old-school larks such as swallowing goldfish and cramming people into phone booths fall out of favor.

1973The term "streaking" is coined, according to Newsweek, when a Washington, D.C., reporter tries to give a live description of a mass nude run at the University of Maryland. "They are streaking past me right now," the reporter says. "It's an incredible sight!" The phrase is picked up by the Associated Press the following day, and the rest is history.

March 1974The University of Georgia organizes the largest streaking event ever, with 1,543 students participating.

April 2, 1974During the 46th Academy Awards, Robert Opel, who had posed as a journalist backstage, disrobes and, flashing a peace sign runs naked across stage — interrupting an awards presentation by actor David Niven. "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life," Niven says, "is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"

April 20, 1974Michael O'Brien becomes the first known streaker at a public sporting event when he runs onto a rugby field in Twickenham, England, during a match. Ian Bradshaw's photograph of him — O'Brien resembles a streaking Jesus, his genitals covered by a policeman's helmet — becomes an iconic image. And his run inspires a generation of streakers at rugby, soccer, and cricket matches in England and Australia.

May 1974What fad would be complete without its own novelty song? Future Tea Party hero Ray Stevens does the honors, and his anthem "The Streak" rockets to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. 

March 1982Bookseller Erica Roe runs onto the same Twickenham field that Michael O'Brien graced in '74 — but this time, male fans are likely more excited. Few accounts of the incident can resist mentioning Roe's 40-inch chest, which was covered by a police officer's hat as she was ushered out of the stadium. (Female streakers often go shirtless, not completely naked.) Roe remains probably the most famous female streaker since Lady Godiva.

July 1996Melissa Johnson, a catering student who worked at Wimbledon, runs onto Center Court during the men's final wearing only an apron. She flashes the Duke of Kent — who laughs — before being hauled away by police. Mal Washington, who lost the match to Richard Krajicek, says Johnson's run "flustered" him.

February 2004Mark Roberts, the world's most prolific streaker, runs naked onto the field at Super Bowl XXXVIII before being shoved to the ground by Patriots' linebacker Matt Chatham. Much to Roberts' chagrin, though, his stunt is overshadowed by a more scandalous bit of nudity — Janet Jackson's exposed breast during the halftime show.

Sources: BBC, Life, Guardian, ESPN, Webster's Online Dictionary

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