Streak of Genius

We were young, wild, invincible and naked

Read all about it: Kids with underwear on their heads run wild.

Mark was standing at the door of third period senior English, where Miss Patrusky couldn’t see him though everyone else could, beckoning to me frantically. I raised my hand for a hall pass to the bathroom.

“We’re going streaking!” Mark whispered.

It could have been, “We’re hitchhiking to Malibu” or “I put a bag of weed in your locker” or any number of things that got us in never-ending trouble. Mark and I were always following one another down the rabbit hole.

“Where?” I asked.

“Valley College,” he answered. Valley College was adjacent to our high school.

Mark and I walked quickly, too quickly through the halls of our school — his disco platforms and my towering wooden wedgies echoed loudly. Students turned to look and a teacher yelled, “Let me see your hall pass!” We dashed around a corner, impervious to trouble, especially on an adventure.

We paused at the entrance to the college. Where would we put our clothes? We decided on the women’s bathroom in the art department. As we undressed, I fretted that someone might steal our things.

It was Mark’s idea to put our underwear over our heads (fortunately this was before thong underwear). This eliminated any possibility that art students would think we were nude models, which I had hoped as we walked past their classrooms.

Outside, Mark grabbed my hand and we ran, barefoot, naked. It was exhilarating to be led, to give over any sense of geography or location to Mark. He ran fast and I kept up, keeping a tight grip on his hand, panting, breathless, laughing, over the main lawn, outside buildings where students ran to the windows as we passed, then through the cafeteria and out to the quad.

People were following us and congregating where they anticipated we’d run. I don’t know if they wanted to trap us into stopping or catch us, but Mark circumvented all this by running around a building away from the gathering crowd and ducking in a side door of the art building. I pulled my underwear off my head and looked at him with awe, both of us gasping for breath, coughing and laughing.

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The next day I was called out of class and sent to the Dean of Girls, Miss Shirley Woo. Miss Woo knew me well. I was always in trouble. But she was a kind woman with a soft heart and a sense of humor. When I walked in her office, I could see she was trying to hide a smile. I sat down and she slid the Los Angeles Times across her desk. There on page two was a photo, taken from behind, of a naked couple with their underwear on their heads. The caption read, “EXTRA-CURRICULAR — A young couple streak hand in hand through the campus of Valley College in Van Nuys about 11 a.m.”

Before I could say a word, Miss Woo said, “I know this is you and Mark. I’m not going to suspend you but you have after-school detention …” I don’t remember if it was days, weeks, or months, but it was a long time that I had to sit in the library after school.

Mark and I spent the rest of the day bragging about our notoriety to a worshipful student body.

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Our adventure was right in the midst of a streaking craze. In December 1973, Time magazine called streaking “a growing Los Angeles-area fad.” In 1974, when Mark and I streaked through Valley college, people were streaking televised sporting events, the Academy Awards, group streaks were happening on college campuses and a song called “The Streak” hit number one song on the Billboard charts.

Streaking wasn’t a meaningless act of public exposure. It was part of the hedonistic '70s, a time of sexual revolution and a collective social exhale after the militant and activist '60s. Streaking had no “victims,” since streakers didn’t normally touch or approach anyone. I like that about it. It was liberating; a billboard for the empowerment of the body and sexual freedom.

So when I heard there was a streaker at Fashion Week in New York City, I wondered what the significance of running naked at a public event is in today’s world.

Turns out he wasn’t naked but in a G-string, trench coat, socks, shoes and a crown. That is not streaking but “crashing,” as in crashing a party. Still, it was funny and it turns out he is Vitalii Sediuk, a Ukrainian prankster who is most notorious for sticking his head in the crotches of Leonardo DiCaprio and Bradley Cooper on the red carpet, and walking onstage and congratulating Adele at the Grammys. I’ll leave it to the cultural theorists to interpret Sediuk’s “performances.”

As for streaking, I wouldn’t mind seeing the return of the disruptive solo naked runner or maybe a young couple, hand in hand.

Tags: memoirs

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