Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

The Twickenham Streaker

with 13 comments


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.


Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 30, 2009 at 8:22 am

13 Responses

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  1. i love the photo it exprees liberty

    marcelo martinez

    September 2, 2009 at 2:51 am

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    Pavelu Bento

    January 28, 2010 at 4:14 pm

  3. […] is still a very difficult game to master, without automation) – – – also, towards ocmw: The Twickenham Streaker Iconic Photos __________________ We rely upon the poets, the philosophers, and the playwrights to articulate […]

  4. there are many greeting card options that you can see in online stores but i love those that generate cute sounds ,`;

    Chinese Girls

    November 17, 2010 at 3:55 am

  5. […] förevigades i ett numera klassiskt foto, där en polisman döljer O’Briens vitala delar med sin […]

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  7. Where is Michael O’Brien now days?
    In the article it said he lost his job, I hope he got a better one than the one he had with the stockbroking firm


    December 7, 2012 at 7:51 am

  8. I was there ! at the tender age of 11.5 and my name is Michael O’Brien [no relation]


    March 1, 2014 at 11:37 pm

  9. […] picture credit: Ian Bradshaw […]

  10. […] Luckily for him, PC Bruce Perry actually walked him to the fence whilst covering his nether regions with his police helmet and allowed him to complete the dare before arresting him. The iconic image of O’Brien’s arrest won a World Press photo award and became Life magazine’s “Picture of the Year”. […]

  11. Reblogged this on Parties by Paradise ☼ and commented:
    Ahhhh, the ’70s! Incredible times.

    ♀ Paradise Kendra ♀

    February 28, 2016 at 1:33 am

  12. […] The Twickenham Streaker – Alec Selwyn-Holmes recounts the tale of Australian Michael O’Brien and his history-making dash at the Iconic Photos blog […]

  13. […] In 1974, the popularity of streaking exploded, with mass runs at universities across America. On April 20 of that year, a young man named Michael O’Brien ran out on the field during a rugby game in England. A shot of this historical moment would become Life Magazine’s ”Picture of the Year,” showing a police officer trying to cover O’Brien’s impropriety with his helmet. […]

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