It was LIFE magazine’s “Picture of the Year”, it won a World Press Photo Award. However, a more fitting moniker comes from People Magazine, which named it, “Picture of The Decade”. Indeed this Ian Bradshaw photo of streaker Michael O’Brien–arms outstretched as if he were Jesus–captured the peak of the social unrest and the changing values that defined the 70s–hippie culture, raising political awareness, increasing political and economic liberties, political advocacy for world peace and against nuclear weapons, and the battle against authority of government and big business
The photo was taken an England-France rugby match at Twickenham in February 1974. During the half-time break, O’Brien, an Australian accountant, dashed naked before a crowd of 53,000, including Princess Alexandra. Constable Bruce Perry took off his helmet to cover O’Brien’s private parts. “I feared he would be mobbed, or that other people would follow suit. I felt embarrassed so I covered him up as best I could,” he added, “It was a cold day – he had nothing to be proud of.” O’Brien claimed that he did this for a bet. The next day he was fined the exact sum (£10) he had won in the bet, and he subsequently lost his job with a London stockbroking firm
He was Twickenham’s first streaker – and the first at a major sporting event, too. Yet, O’Brien opened the way–or at least showed it–for many other streakers: the next year, Michael Angelow, a navy cook at the Ashes; in 1982, ‘Busty’ Erica Roe on the same hallowed grounds of Twickenham; Melissa Johnson in front of the Duke of Kent at Wimbledon in 1996, Geordie Brynn Reed in front of the Queen’s Rolls Royce on her Jubilee visit to Newcastle in 2002 and most notoriously, Mark Roberts–the ‘serial streaker’–who had exposed himself for over 150 times.
The Ian Bradshaw photo on the other hand became a famous icon. In 1974, the word ‘streaking’ first entered the English language. The Rugby Club in London erected a statue by Walter Keethner, based on the shot. It appeared on greeting cards and billboards in Britain, and in Australia Holeproof used it as part of an advertisement in 1991, much to O’Brien’s disgust. “[It] implies I am in some way endorsing Holeproof products, which isn’t the case,” he said. The ad had him asking the bobby for directions to a “20 per cent off Holeproof underwear sale.” In 1995, a British telecommunications company used to photo to advertise that phone numbers were having a digit added.