Sometimes the naked truth about American history really is, well, naked.
Springtime always reminds me of a crazy fad from the 1970s. It arrived out of nowhere, flying by in a fleshy blur that left some people horrified, others amused, plus a good many unsure just what to make of it. And in a flash, it was gone.
This is the short, strange story of streaking.
Before we skinny dip into the depths of this bizarre phenomenon, let’s strip away the years and revisit the early 70s.
America was in a profound funk. The nightmare of the Vietnam War had finally ended, replaced by a seemingly endless scandal called Watergate. New phrases like “energy crisis,” “Arab oil embargo,” and “runaway inflation” entered our vocabulary. There was the uneasy feeling that things weren’t only bad, they were getting worse.
Amid this gloom, some unknown person, somewhere in America, decided to take off all his clothes and run past strangers as fast as he could. In broad daylight, no less. At that moment streaking was born.
Americans have always been bonkers for fads. But this one was different. While other goofball crazes caused annoyance, streaking was intended to playfully traumatize. You never knew when or where a streaker might come whizzing by. Which was part of its appeal.
To borrow from Richard Nixon, let me make this perfectly clear: Streaking was totally different from flashing or indecent exposure. People who commit those crimes do so for sexual gratification. Streakers, most of whom were Baby Boomers who delighted in tweaking the noses of their Greatest Generation parents, did it for shock effect. There was a strange innocence to it.
Streakers tended to be overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) male and in the full bloom of youth. Which worked to their advantage since young people run fast and aren’t encumbered by trying to put various body parts back in their original place.
Best of all, anybody could do it. All you needed was a birthday suit, a pair of running shoes and perhaps a hat (if you were so inclined; headgear was strictly optional).
Original publication 8 April, 2021
Posted on NatCorn 23rd April 2021
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