In front of Molly Bloom's bar on South Washington Street, a rock 'n' roller named Jim speaks to the press. Jim is loose.
"I want people," he said, "to get loose."
In furtherance of that, Jim is carrying his clothes in his right hand. He is naked, and if he weren't walking unsteadily he might have been running, streeeeeeaking, for Oklahoma State University's sixth annual streaker night.
When they first held it here in '74, the college president denounced streaking as a "national sickness." But now nobody else does it and they're still having streaker night here.
Streakers repant. Your end is in sight .
ad in the OSU Daily O'Collegian
And so every Thursday before spring break -- as they did this past Thursday -- they begin milling, gathering and drinking along a five-block stretch of Washington Street, just off campus, for streaker night, which this year was marked by at least three different brands of streaker-night T-shirts, two rock bands, a few street fights, one car rolled over and a jillion cans of beer, all of it 3.2 and much of it still in six-packs affixed to various people's belts, holster-like.
But it was different this year. Payne County has a new D.A. and he ordered the arrest of anyone "outraging public decency" -- the formal charge against anyone who wanted to strip and run naked in the street, thus offending the 10,000 students and non-students who had come to see people strip and run naked in the street.
The public did not seem outraged when Jim walked repeatedly through the crowd start-naked. The worst thing was that some people didn't even notice and one who did just put her hands over her eyes. She was sitting on the shoulders of some guy and looking down at Jim.
"This is our Mardi Gras," said Ward McGorder, a junior in political science from Miami, Okla., drinking a Coors in the home of someone who had posted a sign out front identifying it as the frat house of Delta Gramma Hash, the '70s equivalent of Tappa Kegga Day.
Past years have seen broken windows and other vandalism along Washington Street. But April 3, Stillwater will vote on a referendum that would ban drinking of 3.2 beer on city streets, something that despite Oklahoma's strange inquor laws is legal now and which really makes streaker night possible by allowing the public consumption of alcohol.
A beer-ban would just about kill off streaker night since the main activity is walking around Washington Street drinking 3.2 beer and hoping somebody else will streak.
Because the referendum really seems directed against streaker night, the spirit this year was to ease up on the vandalism so the voters wouldn't get too miffed. "Everyone is kinda taking it easy because of this alcohol ordianance and set a good example," said McGorder.
Christians pray; no streaker night in '79 .
another ad in the O'Collegian
Up at the Wesley Foundation, the organized Christians have laid on a table of hot choloate and coffee and popcorn as your basic alternative to beer, streaking and general rowdiness. Last year they ladled out 800 cups of hot chocolate, but down the street it is said that 1,000 cases of Coors were stocked in one supermarket alone.
One girl from the Wesley group is seen getting a free beer at The Sting. Why wasn't she drinking hot chocolate?
"I don't want to drink hot chocolate," she said. A pause, then guilt. She holds up a brown paper bag: "But I am eating popcorn."
Streakers believe. No Christians in '79 .
Yet another ad
The tradition of the spectacle began on an unusually warm night in 1974 right before spring break. The carousing and the drinking were not too unusual, but five years ago the National Fad was streaking among students who didn't have war to protest. Oklahoma State University at Stillwater was no exception, national sicknesses being what they are.
So year by year on the Thursday night before spring break, streaker night has grown -- in streaking, in crowds and in vandalism. And on March 8, about 7 p.m., people started showing up in earnest. They gathered in clutches in front of places like the Mason Jar, Pistol Patties (freshmen, mostly), The Brewery and Molly Bloom's.
"Widespread illegal activites and general law violations will not be tolerated during the spring break activities this year," D. A. Jim Langley had warned.
But how was the county and city jail with a capacity of 80 going to handle that?
It was getting near 10. No one had streaked.
The rock band was howling and Jim was walking barefoot through the broken glass and squashed beer cans of Washington Street. Soon he would be naked -- one of a half dozen to do so -- but a casual and inebriated stroll is hardly a streak.
Then another, suddenly, dressed in a red beard and black cowboy boots. He zipped down Washington Street along the sidewalk. Then in the alley next to DuPree's Sporting Goods, a campus cop and a Stillwater policeman grabbed hold of him. Down the dirt and gravel alley they tussled with the bearded streaker who begged the encroaching crowd to save him from the D.A. He called the crowd and the police unflattering names. The crowd threw beer cans at the cops.
Two pairs of handcuffs later, the police had him pinned to the ground and were calling for help. Public decency had been outraged and the authorities had acted. Soon, Herman, as he identified himself, a non-student, was led off toward a squad car.
It seemed an unncessarily unhappy conclusion to the gratuitous Streaker's Night tradition, whose appeal was expressed by a girl variously identified as Julie or Mary, who had traveled to Stillwater from Arkansas:
"I party all the time," she said. "I don't know what I'm doing here."