The Mad Streaker

What follows is a reboot of some stuff I’ve posted previously about the streaking fad, along with some new stuff.

The craze began almost exactly 40 years ago, early in 1974. A small item showed up in papers around the country late in January explaining that “streaking” had become a fad at Florida State University. United Press International defined it as “a male running nude across campus.” Although there would eventually be female streakers, the fad was largely gendered—or at least the reportage was. Within a couple of weeks, more streakers were reported, from the University of Maryland, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Gonzaga University in Seattle, plus North Carolina, Maine, Auburn, and Alabama. At Western Carolina, 138 students held a mass streaking in mid-February and claimed to set a world record, although later in the spring, over 1200 showed up to streak at the University of Colorado. From the end of February and all through March, rare was the day when a newspaper somewhere didn’t report a streaker somewhere.

It wasn’t long before streakers were no longer confined only to college campuses, or even to the United States. Concerts by Yes and Gregg Allman were interrupted by streakers; Mike Love and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys streaked their own show once. On April 2, 1974, a streaker interrupted the Academy Awards, just as David Niven was about to award the Oscar for Best Picture. There’s some suspicion that the Oscar streaking may have been staged; in the weeks to come, the guy responsible hired himself out to streak Hollywood parties. The very week of the Oscar streaking, Ray Stevens released “The Streak,” which debuted on the Hot 100 during the week of April 13, and went from 84 to 54 to 19 to 6 to 2 for the week of May 11, and to #1 the week after that.

At about the same time, at WCFL in Chicago, even the late Larry Lujack grabbed hold of the fad, recording a novelty called “Ballad of the Mad Streaker.” Credited to B. Whiteside, D. Naylor, and E. Rusk, and billed to “Larry Lujack Superjock,” the record was released on the Curtom label, founded by Curtis Mayfield and located in Chicago. It appeared on WCFL’s surveys for four weeks in April and May. Although ‘CFL charted 40 songs, “Mad Streaker” was shown its first week as #99, then #98, then #97, and finally #96. Although I was listening to WCFL a lot that spring, I don’t remember hearing it until recently. It’s remarkably terrible, and my suspicion is that Lujack may have done it under duress. If you’d like to hear it, go right here.

“The Streak” was the only streaker-themed record Chicago (and most of the nation) needed 40 years ago this spring, and after three weeks at #1, it remained in the top 5 into July. By then, however, newspapers were writing about how the streaking fad had passed. It remained a thing for a few years thereafter, however. During the spring of my sophomore year at college—this would have been 1980—an organized streaking took place on campus. Male residents of my building and the one next door announced plans to streak the all-female dorm across the way one fine spring night. In the runup to the event, it was made to sound like dozens would participate. When it finally happened, there was just a handful.

No. No I did not.

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5 responses

  1. That Lujack thing couldn’t have even looked good on paper.

    We had the Ray Stevens record in rotation at the college station that Spring, but the one that generated all the buzz was Mickey Shorr’s “Streakin’ ’74” effort on Detroit’s Eastbound label, credited to Shorr’s Streakers. Its deliberately-camp Peter Lorre-as-your-reporter spin on the shopworn break-in formula had us doing our own bad impersonations. That one taught us a valuable lesson not offered in any college classroom: if you’re going to do either a good or bad novelty record, make sure it’s fun.

    Lesson #2: Re-badging a stiff under a hot, trendy name does not a hit record make. Especially if it’s an instrumental. (Tim Weisberg’s “Do Dah” —> “Streak-Out”. Nice try, A&M.)

  2. That was the winter I was in Denmark. Four of our 100 or so St. Cloud State students – three guys and a gal – decided to streak three of the four meeting rooms we rented at the local sports center as well as the public cafeteria. (They wisely did not streak the room used as a faculty office.) The streakers wore bags over their heads, but no one was fooled; we were too small a group. Besides, there was evidence: Cameras were not nearly as omnipresent then as now, of course, but a couple of folks had both cameras handy and quick reflexes.

    1. “we were a small group.” These jokes write themselves.

      I’m doing a research project and last weekend went through my entire 45 collection and found about a dozen streak-related records, none of which I can remember as I type this. The most recent acquistion was one on ABC-Dunhill with a bad Howard Cosell impersonation. How 70’s is that?

  3. For many years, I shared a radio studio with the first person arrested in Wisconsin for streaking, and Jim, you’re of his acquaintance. Right now, he’s the GM of the Mid-West cluster in Madison. He was a student at UW-La Crosse when he became the first Wisconsinite to get a ticket for this short-lived trend. Ask Rick about it next time you see him in the building; he won’t mind.

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