The 1974 Oscars Streaker: Stealing The Show By Showing His 'Shortcomings'

By | March 6, 2019

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Robert Opal (left) streaking across the stage at the 1974 Academy Awards; co-host, David Niven (right). Source: (

The 1974 Academy Awards ceremony will always be remembered for its least expected performer -- the Oscar streaker. Robert Opel dashed across the stage in his birthday suit just as David Niven was trying to introduce co-host Elizabeth Taylor. It was not the first shocking Oscar moment -- just the previous year, Sacheen Littlefeather had declined Marlon Brando's Best Actor award -- but it's the most colorful. In fact, it's not just the most infamous moment in Oscars history; the Oscars Streaker Robert Opel's nude dash across the stage is also the most infamous streak ever executed.

Streaking was a huge fad in 1974, so the appearance of a nude man at an event wasn't that out of the ordinary. Streaking had emerged as both a popular way for protesters to attract attention and a mindless way for college students to push boundaries. Those who witnessed streakers often didn't know whether the nude person had an agenda to promote or was just doing it for the cheap thrill. Oscar streaker Robert Opel, it turns out, did have a political viewpoint, although he was also clearly in it for the thrill as well.

David Niven's Response Was Classic

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David Niven. Source: (

Teacher, artist and gay rights activist, Robert Opel graced the stage at the 1974 Academy Awards by running across it flashing a peace sign (among other things) -- before leaving the stage, Opel turned to the audience to flash them one last time before he disappeared, stage right. With that, the stunned crowd erupted in laughter. After gathering his composure, the British actor quipped, "Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen." The audience again burst out laughing; Niven waited for them to settle down, then delivered this unforgettable observation:

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

The unexpected incident became instant lore the second it happened. Even still, the Robert Opel streaking stunt is talked about and regularly tops lists of all-time most memorable Oscars moments.