The tragic story of Robert Opel, the 1974 Oscar Streaker

Thanks to social media, one can make a fortune through shameless publicity stunts and infamy. In any other era, Danielle" Bhad Bhabie" Bregoli couldn't have built a multi-million dollar empire by threatening to beat her mother on live television. Novelty fame/infamy isn't as fleeting as it used to be. Prior to the internet, becoming famous overnight was already a rarity, but sustaining the bump in relevance was even harder. Rober Opel, the infamous streaker from the 1974 Oscars, is a perfect example of how the fame wick used to burn out almost as quickly as it was lit. 

While introducing Elizabeth Taylor at the 1974 Oscars, David Niven was interrupted by a shaggy-haired man, Robert Opel, who bolted across the stage in his birthday suit. Considering how dry the Oscars usually are, the incident was the night's highlight and formerly served as one of the most unpredictable moments in the award show's illustrious history. After the exposure, Opel tripped into a lucrative bit of infamy. Becoming a streaker for hire, Opel crashed Hollywood events and performed some stand-up comedy. Eventually, his "star" crashed back to earth. 

Opel, a bisexual man, owned an art gallery in San Fransisco that catered to a homosexual clientele. During what should've been a routine evening at his store, Opel was shot dead by two thieves after a botched robbery. Although Opel kept performing after his Oscars infamy— including presidential run in 1976—to the world at large, he vanished from the limelight until the news of his death.

However, assigning Opel such a reductive label as "Oscar streaker" would be a disservice to his memory. Opel was a writer and vocal supporter of gay rights. Fey-Wey studios also played an essential role in LGBTQIA+ history, as it was San Fransisco's first gay art gallery. Since Opel's death, people have reevaluated his legacy beyond the streaking incident. In recent years, Opel's Fey-Wey studios even saw a resurrection thanks to fans of his work.