Robert Opel: The original 1974 Oscars streaker


robert opel oscars streaker

What a shame John Cena’s faux streak at the 2024 Oscars didn’t draw more interest to Robert Opel, the original 1974 Oscars streaker.

Mainly remembered now for his naked dash across the Oscars stage, Robert Opel was a photographer, speech-writer, English teacher and activist. He protested for gay rights, peace and legalised public nudity.

A friend of both Divine and John Waters, he sometimes performed with The Cockettes. And he promoted the work of Tom of Finland and Robert Mapplethorpe.

The 1974 Oscars

Streaking was quite the thing in the early seventies. People ran naked through sporting events, civic occasions, uni graduations and shopping malls. 1974 Oscars host David Niven’s initial response seemed to reference the ubiquitousness of streaking at major events.

“Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen…”

While security or police ended the runs of most streakers, Robert enjoyed a brief sortie before heading backstage unmolested. Out the back, the crew found him some overalls and facilitated a press conference.

“People shouldn’t be ashamed of being nude in public,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, onstage David Niven delivered what would become a much-quoted witticism.

“Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”

However, an Oscars official later claimed Niven borrowed a pen from his wife two hours before the incident to write down the ad-lib.

Robert Opel previously streaked through a local council meeting to protest laws against nude beaches. Despite lingering suspicions, he always denied that the streak was pre-arranged with the Oscars producers

NSFW! Click Here: Robert Opel streaks by David Niven full-frontal nude.

After the Oscars

After the notorious 1974 incident, Robert focussed on his photography and activism. In 1976, he ran for president using the slogans “Nothing to Hide” and “Not Just Another Crooked Dick.”

He opened a gay male art studio in 1978 and became one of the first to promote Tom of Finland and Robert Mapplethorpe. He died in 1979, shot dead during an armed robbery at his studio.

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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