Streaking, the act of stripping off and running around bare-arse naked in public, began on college campuses in the USA in 1973. It soon became a phenomenon and spread all over the world. Many people did it at protests and demonstrations to get greater publicity for the cause in question. Some did it as a dare or for a bet. Others did it for the notoriety.
The photos republished here appeared in the first issue of Man Alive in April 1974. Styling itself as Ireland’s answer to Playboy (which remained banned in Ireland until 1995), Man Alive was “Ireland’s first general interest man’s magazine in the modern international mould with a package aimed at today’s increasingly sophisticated Irishman in his 20s and 30s.” It was topical, and launching a new magazine with photos of a naked couple running through the streets of Dublin 4, when the streaking craze was on the crest of its wave, proved to be an impressive coup. Coincidentally, the international novelty hit The Streak reached number two in the Irish pop charts at the same time.
Shot around the Wellington Road area of Ballsbridge at 2.30pm on a sunny March Friday afternoon, photographer Tom Collins captured the streaking young couple and, critically, some local street furniture too. Check out the old CIE bus sign and the classic P&T Telefón box. It’s totally Dublin! All that’s missing is the number 10 bus. And that woman even looks like my nana. The lady with the handbag, I mean. Keen to stay out of trouble with the Irish Censorship of Publications, Man Alive inserted black boxes over the photos. Rectangles for eyes, squares for everything else. Nothing for bums.
For the couple involved, blacking out the eyes was a good call. Around the same time, on St Patrick’s night 1974, three young men, rowdy and intoxicated, ran naked through the centre of my hometown, Dundalk. An unimpressed, District Justice, Dermot Dunleavy sent the men to jail and said it was ridiculous that the maximum penalty for this act was just one month. He sought an emergency bill to amend the law on streakers, stating that, “No one thought in 1935, when the act was passed, that human beings would act in this manner and run around like animals in the street.”
On 2nd April 1974, just as the first issue of Man Alive hit the streets, one of the world’s most famous streaks occurred at the Academy Awards. Elizabeth Taylor was about to announce Best Picture when a naked man dashed across the stage past Oscar host David Niven and a surprised and amused audience. The incident (yes, it’s on YouTube) is considered a classic Oscar moment, with many admiring Niven’s quick-witted reaction.
But others saw it as a hoax, rehearsed and set up to entertain and create publicity. Just like our couple in Dublin