Mark Roberts: A compulsive streak
He's had more exposure than any other nudist in the world, but now he's bowing out. What makes him do it?
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday, covering Sarah Cassidy’s maternity leave. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Sunday 10 February 2013
He's going to put it away ... but not just yet. The world's most notorious streaker has decided to hang up his novelty cod pieces and keep his clothes on – but he wants to go out with a bang and he's determined to drag everyone else into it.
Mark Roberts, 48, from Liverpool has streaked 518 times, including at the Super Bowl; on a live weather forecast on This Morning; at Miss World; at the Ryder Cup; and at the bull running in Pamplona. Now he wants the public to join him.
"I'm retiring, but I want to do one last mass streak with hundreds or thousands of people, where I go on first and whistle for them," he told The Independent on Sunday.
So far he hasn't had many takers, but he is hopeful his appearance in a Channel 4 documentary on Thursday, called Streak! The Man Who Can't Keep His Clothes On, will garner him some recruits: "I put a message on my website but I only got one or two people answering it and I'm pretty sure one was a policeman."
Mr Roberts, who is now single and jobless, says he has decided to keep his clothes on for the sake of his children, Rebecca, 24, Mark, 19, and Georgie, 15. "They said it's time you finish. When I suggested The X Factor they said, 'Dad, please don't do that, my friends watch it'."
This month marks the 20th anniversary of his first streak, at the Rugby Sevens in Hong Kong, the result of a pub bet. The experience got him hooked on public nudity: "I ran round the whole stadium and 65,000 people were cheering and laughing – it was the most amazing feeling."
Since then he has made sure there are few sporting contests left that haven't included a guest appearance in his birthday suit. "I've done the Winter and Summer Olympics; the Super Bowl; the Champions League; the Uefa Cup; the FA Cup Final; the Commonwealth Games; the Wimbledon final. I don't think there's any final I haven't streaked at," he said.
Despite his best efforts, however, he has not been included in the record books. He said: "I was approached back in 1997 by Guinness World Records when I'd only done 30-odd, but they changed their mind, saying they didn't want to encourage the behaviour".
Hired by the artist Benedikt Dichgans, Mr Roberts even streaked in a pink tutu at Tate Britain and the Turner Prize. As with many of his streaks, it ended in arrest, though this one made him indignant. "A public order offence? How absurd," he said. "It was the Turner Prize – the most outrageous prize in art. They've had blow-up dolls in sexual positions on there." The judge agreed with him and threw the case out.
He hasn't always been able to evade the law, though. After he disguised himself as a referee to break on to the pitch at the Super Bowl in 2004, he was held in a Texas jail overnight and fined $1,000 for trespassing. "I was in a cage with 30 other people and I still had my adapted referee uniform on. I was sitting in the corner and realised all the Velcro had come undone. Then someone said in a really sinister voice: 'Look at the referee'."
For a few years his streaks were sponsored by an online casino. But his pranks have also affected his attempts to find real work. In the Channel 4 documentary, he is shown being interviewed for a job at a dog groomer's, interspersed with clips of him streaking at Crufts. When the interviewers ask for a criminal records check, he knows his chance of getting the position is gone.
Mr Roberts worries that he will miss the buzz of streaking now he has decided to give it up. "It's addictive, making people laugh and seeing them on their feet, cheering," he said. "I need something else for the adrenaline. I might take up skydiving."
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