Robert Opel (23 October 1939 – 7 July 1979) was a photographer and art gallery owner most famous as the man who streaked during the 46th Academy Awards in 1974. He sneaked backstage posing as a journalist (he had worked as a photographer for the well-known LGBT publication The Advocate, shortly before) and ran naked past David Niven flashing a peace sign while Niven was introducing Elizabeth Taylor.
Unfazed, Niven turned to the audience and quipped, "Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen... But isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"
Later, some evidence arose suggesting that Opel's appearance was facilitated by the show's producer Jack Haley, Jr. as a stunt. Robert Metzler, the show's business manager, believed that the incident had been planned in some way. During the dress rehearsal, Niven had asked Metzler's wife to borrow a pen so he could write down the famous ad-lib. Opel apparently had to cut through an expensive seamless background curtain in order to reach the stage.
In March 1978, Opel opened "Fey-Way Studios," a gallery of gay male art, at 1287 Howard Street in San Francisco. The gallery helped bring such erotic gay artists as Tom of Finland and Robert Mapplethorpe to national attention. Opel was murdered on the night of July 7, 1979, during a robbery of the studio, by Robert E. Kelly and Maurice Keenan.
- Los Angeles Times, March 29, 1993, page F1, "What You Won't See at Oscars On Cue: Behind Those Cameras on Oscar Night," by Steve Harvey
- "PEOPLE v. KELLY (1986) 183 CA3d 1235", Court of Appeals of California, First Appellate District, Division Three, July 31, 1986. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
- "Robert Opel's Fey-Way Studios". Retrieved 12 June 2007.
- Biography from Matt & Andrej Koymasky
- David Niven at the Internet Movie Database (contains above version of Niven's quote)
- "Biron on Robert Opel and other artists", Interview by Philip Vincent, San Francisco, 1996. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
- The Gay Book of Lists, By Leigh W. Rutledge, 2003, ISBN 1-55583-740-9. Google books link.