Interview with Cleo Odzer Part One: MANHATTAN: THE GROUPIE YEARS
- Interview with Cleo Odzer
January 2000, Goa, India
By Marcus Robbin
Copyright: Marcus Robbin (®2000-2008)
This material is for private use only. Any commercial use strictly prohibited.
All rights of Marcus Robbin are reserved. Used by permission of the author.
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MANHATTAN: THE GROUPIE YEARS
Interviewer: You grew up in New York? Could you tell me about your age 14 or 15?
Cleo: Well, when I was fifteen, that's the year I went WILD. It was 1965, (whispers) I'm so
old. It was in the middle of the Viet Nam era, so that was really the middle of the Hippie
movement, the antiwar demonstrations, the drugs, the women's rights battle. This was
the time I became an adolescent, sort of a "human being", and growing into the worldall
this was taking place, and this shaped my personality.
So, um, politics, I didn't really care so much about politics. I understood the war, but... I
liked the idea of free love, and free drugs, and partying. So when I was fifteen I started to
go out wild every night. There was this discotheque called The Cheetah, and it was right
next to my house. So my friend and I used to go. And because we were cute little girls I
had fake ID, everybody had fake ID, and the legal drinking age was eighteen, so it said I
was eighteen (I was fifteen), and I went every night. I would sneak out of my house. I
would pretend I was going to bed and then when everybody was asleep I snuck out the
kitchen door, and it was only a few blocks to this discotheque called The Cheetah and I
started to hang out, and party, and do marijuana (everybody was doing marijuana).
Nobody knew what the smell was like, we could smoke it anywhere, and they didn't know
what the smell was like. It was amazing.
And then, at the Cheetah there were, um, "groups". Every two weeks there was a new
group. And at that time, the Hippies were just starting to come into fashion, so guys with
long hair were the fashion. And the musicians were the guys with the long hair. So if you
went into a nightclub, the cutest guys were the guys with the long hair, the musicians,
and they had the velvet clothes, and fringes (I love fringes), so sexy. So I started to I had
a new boyfriend every two weeks. Every two weeks there was a new band, and every two
weeks I had a new boyfriend. It was heaven.
Everything was just perfect. And then I just started to... party. I was a party girl from the
age of fifteen. I still went to school (that's another story) and I stayed in school (and got
really good grades at the end, but that's another story). But mostly I was just going out
every night, getting stoned, smoking, LSD, with the boys in the band with the long hair
and the velvet clothes.
And there was also the antiwar movement, which wasn't so close to me, but it was part of
the anti-establishment. So it was part of what made me... "me", at that time. Because we
were against the Society, and the people who knew more, knew that we were against the
war. But for me it was just...we were against Society. And Society said guys have to have
short hair, guys have to have a job... and for me, I was against that. I was a party girl, I
just wanted to have fun.
And then later came my groupie days. (laughs) Which is a whole... other story.
Interviewer: What's a groupie, exactly?
Cleo: (clears throat, sighs) There's been a lot of definitions of groupies, and it's changed
over time. But my group really defined the groupies of that time. I made an album called
The Groupies. And I was on David Susskind's show as a "groupie". We were on a panel... I
was famous... Super Groupie Cleo. I was in Time Magazine as Super Groupie Cleo.
And, for me, I never considered myself a groupie. It just happened that I would go to the
clubs and the cutest guys were the musicians! I like talent, I liked beautiful guys, I like
long hair, I liked velvet clothes, I liked sexy guys, and they happened to be the musicians.
And this was also the time that rock stars were coming from England. We had the Rolling
Stones, but before that, we didn't know about bands from England. And they started to
come into New York, that was their first stop, New York. And I'm from Manhattan, so I
used to hang out at a club called The Scene. And the first stop for these musicians was
The Scene. Nobody knew them, The Cream, Purple...something... Deep Purple, all these
groups that later became famous, at that time nobody knew who they were.
They just came to The Scene, and there were a few of us women there, and we looked at
the guys and said, "I want that one," and my friend would say "I want that one," and... we
Part of the movement that was different and specific to this time was the birth control pill.
Before that, you could only rebel so much as a woman. You could have sex but still... if
you got pregnant you were in trouble. So the birth control was really what set women free,
and that came out just when I came out. So I had my birth control, I had free passes into
any club because I was this cute little blonde thing... at this time I was seventeen... and I
had my pick of all the guys.
These guys were not famous yet, they had just come from London, they had played a few
bars in London, they just arrived in the States, nobody knew them, and they came and they
were really impressed, they were in the United States. And here we were, waiting for them.
And we'd say, "Oh, who's the band tonight"? "Oh, Terry Reed, he's cute, I want him. So I
would just... collect them.
You know you see the old Western movies, where the gangsters make a mark on their
bedpost, how many people they've killed? For us it was how many cute guys in a group
we'd slept with. "I got another one last night!" (laughs) It was part of... the groupies. The
women, the female groupies, had their own little culture.
And then I fell in love... of course, there's a big love affair. And at that time he was with a
group called The Nice nobody has ever heard of The Nice, and his name was Keith
Emerson. And later he became famous from the group Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. But at
that time, nobody knew who he was. But I saw him... he played the organ... he was dressed
in fringes, he had long hair... he was so talented... I was in love. Oh, was I in love!
And at the time I was writing for a village newspaper called The Downtown. I had a
column about the new groups coming in. "Pop Sounds By Cleo," it was called. So I had a
good excuse to meet the guys. So I saw him, I wanted him, I got him. And we had a
relationship, while he was in New York he was with me. And I went to England twice to see
him. And then we got engaged. And then all of a sudden this whole scandal about
groupies came out, and it was in Time Magazine, and they mentioned my name, they had
a picture of me, "Super Groupie Cleo." But they had a quote from another woman who
called herself Cleo. I didn't say that, because I never thought I was a groupie. I did not
say that quote. But it had my picture. And when I had gone to London before, the
secretaries from the office they knew me and they were jealous, they were catty, because
I had the cute guy. So one day they made him sign his check on the Time magazine article
that had my picture as "Super-Groupie Cleo." And he got really angry and he broke off the
engagement and I was heartbroken... I was heartbroken. This was the first love of my
life, and it just... killed me.
So that was the end of my, uh... Well, no, actually it was the beginning of my career as a
groupie, because for revenge I never believed I was a groupie, but for revenge I said, "If
he's going to call me a groupie, I'm going to be the most famous groupie." So I made an
album called "The Groupies," where we talked about all the different groups, and the sex
we had with them, and how this one was good, and this one didn't know what he was
doing, and this one was too small, and this one was too big... (laughs). It was a lot of fun.
And it was called The Groupies, and we did a lot of publicity for it, magazine articles, I was
in Cashbox, which is an American magazine for music.
And then I went to, I ran away to California for a while. In New York I was East Coast Girl of
the Week and in California I was West Coast Girl of the Week. And I was always Cleo the
Super Groupie, and I would be reporting on what the groups were doing. But meanwhile I
never believed I was a groupie. So... that was really the end of that. After that I decided,
"I'm out of the business." I don't want to know about music, I don't want to know the
names of rock stars, I've had it. So that was the end of that period, my groupie period.
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