Tolerant of naked ambition
Streaking across a sports field is something of a national pastime. And, under certain conditions, the naked fuss may be remembered long after the score is forgotten.
This is likely to be the case for Adam Holtslag, the 28-year-old builder who ran naked across the field during the All Blacks game in Dunedin last weekend. His nude dash would have been consigned to a hangover and court documents but for a security guard's hard-hitting tackle, which sparked a national conversation. Was match security becoming too heavy-handed or did Holtslag deserve what he got for messing with the game?
Practitioners of the art are greeted by cheering and applause so the logical conclusion is that spectators see fast-moving flesh as entertainment, not obscenity.
For the most part, Kiwi beaches are not cluttered by topless or G-stringed sunseekers. New Zealanders inherited the prudish genes of their colonial ancestors but we do indulge enthusiastically in a variety of naked activities.
We take part in the World Naked Bike Ride, enter nude ocean swims, and nude rugby is an annual spectacle. We strip for fundraising calendars and in protest. There is nothing new under the sun or the glare of stadium lights.
Life magazine's Picture of the Year in 1974 was of the first streaker to grace Twickenham rugby grounds. The photograph shows a long-haired and bearded Australian accountant, surrounded by policemen, with only a bobby's helmet shielding his modesty. But let us not believe streaking is solely associated with rugby.
There are streakers for award shows. At the 1974 Oscars, David Niven was introducing Elizabeth Taylor as a man streaked past.
There are streakers for cricket. A clip from 1977 shows footage of Australian cricketer Greg Chappell whacking a streaker around his tan-lined bottom.
There are streakers for golf. Englishman Mark Roberts streaked through the British Golf Open in 1995 and was later told by a judge to "see someone" about his predilection after hearing he had done it about 150 times, including during the country's Good Morning television show.
Tennis lags behind other sports. Wimbledon's first streaker wasn't until 1996.
Maori have a tradition of public nudity. Professor Rawiri Taonui says pre- European Maori sometimes performed haka with an erection.
"In fact, there is some literature that says that, unless a man could perform the haka with an erection, he was not adequate. The thinking behind it is that a warrior should have no fear. Maintaining an erection while you're performing a haka would seem to indicate confidence."
The most recent incident Taonui could recall was during the 1983 royal tour by Charles and Diana. Members of the royal motorcade saw what they assumed to be a man performing a haka, only when it slowed to take in the sight, activist Dun Mihaka delivered a whakapohane (mooning).
In the 1930s, an elder was not allowed to speak on a marae so she lifted her skirt "to remind the men where they came from".
The renaissance of kapa haka groups is interesting, says Taonui, because, while women remain in full skirt and woven top, the fashion for men has gone back to wearing "something close to the modern G-string".
Dress for the genders has not moved in tandem as he would have expected.
"Colonialism and the adaptation of Victorian attitudes changed the way we viewed the naked body.
"There is a famous cartoon postcard with two halves that sum it up nicely.
"On one side, two Maori men are standing naked on a beach watched by missionaries who look at them saying it's 'disgusting'.
"On the other side, it's the 1980s. Pakeha are wearing Speedos, while the Maori men are in T-shirts and long shorts. This time it's them saying 'disgusting'."
So why does the streaker streak? One reformed streaker, man who did not want to be named, says it is "100 per cent down to booze". Now 46, the real estate agent is a suit-and- tie man. His days as a hobbyist streaker are behind him.
"I'd say my 20s to 30s were prime time. I'm married with three kids now. I was thinking about the 'why' and all I can say is that it's 100 per cent around drinking. Every single time.
"I mean, if you're streaking when you're sober, you need your head read."
The man, who has streaked in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, England and Scotland, says the catalyst was always a drink and a dare.
His most major event was Christchurch's Cup Day but he has also chanced his way around "special occasions" such as parties, formal balls and even a wedding.
"But that was more of a naked appearance," he says.
He expressed no regrets but is pleased his streaking days were pre-Facebook.
"Thankfully you can't Google me and dig up the dirt. If I had to start my career again, I'd think I'd be a hell of a lot more careful. The risk factor is too high."
What was once a "great laugh" has become "complete overkill" with security.
"I'm a rugby-head but it's mad when you look at the amount of security. Stadiums are dotted in fluoro. It's too PC. It takes the fun out of it. I don't think people are really offended. If I'd thought people were offended, I never would have done it."
While the 2011 Rugby World Cup was being planned, the Government tried unsuccessfully to strengthen streaker laws by amending the Major Events Management Bill.
The idea was to subject streakers, pitch invaders and anyone throwing an object on to the field to a three-month jail term or a fine of up to $5000.
Former Green MP Keith Locke spoke against the amendment.
Locke, who lost a 2003 bet and ended up walking through the Epsom electorate in only underpants and body paint, says the amendment would have been "overkill".
"Three months and $5000 is just unnecessary when these things are covered under law anyway. It was almost a running joke because streaking has the history of just being something to relieve the boredom. There's almost a sense of 'how far is he going to get?' "
Locke's personal view on streaking is that security has become too tough when rugby unions ought to be doing more to discourage more-offensive behaviour such as excessive booing and homophobic name- calling.
Still, no matter the penalty in New Zealand, it is more lenient than in some states in the US, which try streakers for indecent exposure, punishable with a fine and, in some cases, a lifetime on the sex offender registry.
So, what do you recall most readily? The name Lisa Lewis or the score for the 2006 test in Hamilton, All Blacks v Ireland? (It was 34-23).
And what of another notorious Kiwi streaker, Wati Holmwood? Holmwood cut a comically indelicate figure across the field during the final of a State of Origin match last year.
He managed 90 metres before being brought down, covered in a blanket and taken to the cells.
He later received a jail term and public humiliation for his family - all magnified by the public glare he brought upon himself as he ran in front of 83,000 spectators and a TV audience of thousands more.
We must wait and see what a judge decides for Holtslag, the tackled builder. He is yet to appear in the Christchurch District Court for offensive behaviour.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of $1000.
The publicity was all free.
The Dominion Post