College Hijinks Have Resurfaced
Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 13, 2013
“Be sure your sins will find you out.” Numbers 32:23
A full 39 years later, a Western Carolina University public relations officer has contacted me about a delicate matter from my past.
On a lark in 1974, your esteemed editor — now a doting grandfather — doffed his clothes and ran across campus with two other fools, wearing nothing but tennis shoes and high-top socks. There, I said it. Confession is good for the soul, even if harmful to the reputation. Like a caught politician, I need to get the story out before WCU’s alumni magazine exposes me, so to speak.
We were totally sober but obviously out of our heads. It was dead of winter cold.
Going through the university files, public relations officer Randall Holcombe last week emailed me a very flattering photo from our streak. He’s doing a story about the night WCU made world history with the largest coed streak on record.
I’ve never told my mother. In a way, she was responsible. She sent me Newsweek magazine. Dorm mate Rich Hall, who later had a stint on Saturday Night Live, read my magazine about a new college phenomenon, running naked. Streaking. The University of Maryland had set a record with 125 coed participants.
He vowed to beat it. First, we had to learn how to streak. Three of us staged a media event to advertise our plans to break Maryland’s record.
A college newspaper photographer was staged on the lawn of the University Center. A car would drop us off and meet us 100 yards on the other side. It took three passes by the car before we had the courage to bolt. I was first.
Ten steps later it occurred that I might be running alone. I looked back to see the other two climbing out of the car … holding their clothes. Amateurs.
To our chagrin, hardly anyone noticed three naked guys running like fools in the night. But the picture, as planned, made the front page of The Western Carolinian the next morning, prompting the mass streak a couple days later.
Amazingly, the Dean of Housing assisted to make sure nobody got hurt. He mapped the route and held the door for the guys to rush out of one dorm. The girls left from another dorm. Everybody ran together for maybe 200-300 yards and quickly retreated to their respective dorms. One student in a wheelchair participated, his buddies pushing him.
It was bitter cold. Sub-freezing temperatures do funny things to the naked body. It was hard that night to tell who were the guys and who were the girls — not a flattering moment.
A further confession: I did not participate in the mass streak. I had a deadline to get the story to the newspaper. Professional journalistic ethics prohibited me from being part of my own story, of course.
In assembling his story, Holcombe is trying to contact people who participated. Beware, I warned him. Like at Woodstock, hundreds more claim they streaked than actually participated.
For a few days, WCU held the world record for mass co-ed streaks. We broke Maryland’s record with something like 175. Newspapers across the country took note.
Our parents were so proud. Our university received publicity money couldn’t buy …