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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EUROPE: THE HIPPIE YEARS
Interviewer: What did you hear about the Hippies?
Cleo: Um... the Hippies... it was a movement, it was a set of ideals. Mostly it was in
response to the Viet Nam war. It was a rebellion against the war. But people like me, who
at the timeI was only fifteenit was 1965, I was fifteen. I didn't understand politics, but
I understood what they were saying, and on TV you saw people being shot, and killed, and
I knew that this was wrong... I mean, I had a very hard time seeing people die. And I didn't
know that sometimes maybe a war was right and sometimes maybe a war was wrong, I
didn't know that. All I knew was "War was wrong." So, that much I bought. I was against
the war, and the rest of it was about "Tune in, drop out, get high." And that's what I did.
So... Hippies looked a certain way. We had to look as if we were against the normal
establishment, which meant for the men, they grew their hair long; for the women, we
wore long dresses, and a certain style...you could look at certain clothes and say, "That's a
Hippie," and it just, it just announced that we were Hippies, we were against the war, we
were a different way of thinking. We were against the Establishment, we were against
work, we were against what everybody told us, we didn't know what was true and what
wasn't true, and we were gonna have to decide for ourselves. (I didn't think this then; I'm
thinking this now.) At the time I just said, you know, "I'm against Society." And that's what
made me a Hippie. My clothes, my politics.
I can't remember the first time I heard the word "Freaks," but it was sometime before I got
to India. I heard of a different type of person, there was a Hippie and there was a Freak.
And a Freak was a Hippie times one hundred squared. It's a much... you know in the line
from Wall Street to Freak? The Hippie's here, and a Freak is at this end, and then Wall
Street is over here. So a Freak is way at the far end of the Hippies. And when I went to
Goa, I heard that the people here called themselves Freaks. So I was no longer a Hippie, it
never entered my mind; I was a Freak. It's the same meaning but, a Freak is a bigger
Hippie (laughs)... a Hippie-plus. A Hippie-plus is a Freak.
Interviewer: Why did you leave the United States?
Cleo: I left the United States because... (laughs) it's very easy, um... I had to work. I didn't
want to work. I grew up in a very rich family. I was driven to school in a chauffeured
limousine, I went to a French school, I had a governess, I had a nanny, we had a cook, we
had everything. And my father died, of Parkinson's disease, when I was sixteen. And until
then, nobody told me anything about money! Um... work. And... they just never mentioned
it to me. I didn't know you were supposed to work, and make money, and you had to work
to make money. So when I lost that income, it was a big shock.
And suddenly I was supposed to work. And I didn't have any... job. And nobody... my
mother... didn't know anything about this. Nobody knew anything about this. And I had no
skills. Basically, I left because, "Work? Me? You want me to work?" (laughs) I mean... who's
going to clean my room? I never knew how to make a bed! I didn't know how to wash the
floor! I didn't know how to work. So the main reason was because of working, and
emotionally... I had been devastated by the breakup, even though that was a few years
before. Something really broke inside of me because of that. And I just left. I said, "I'm
leaving forever." There was a Hippie movement, I knew, traveling all over Europe.
So I bought a one-way ticket to Paris, and I arrived in Paris with, I think, a couple hundred
dollars. I bought a car for twenty-five dollars! (laughs) And I painted it, it was beautiful, it
had a big smiling face on the front, it had a cracked egg on the roof, and a ghost on the
back, because I was a terrible driver, so anybody behind me who wanted to honk, I had
the ghost going like this, "F*ck you". (laughs) No insurance, and I just, I did the Hippie
Trail. It was the decade of the Hippies. We were everywhere. In Europe, in Asia, in Japan, in
some parts of Asia. It really was a world-wide movement, the Hippie movement, it wasn't
just American. So in Europe there was the Hippie Trail. And we panhandled, we would beg
for money. In Paris... I drove... and then I modeled, also I modeled. I was too short to
model in the United States, but in Europe, in Spain, I made a lot of money. I had blonde
hair. (laughs) They wouldn't like the blue hair (laughs) but they liked the blonde hair. So I
got a lot of work modeling, but I was also selling LSD... and then I went to Bongo Park [?]
which was also part of the Hippie Trail, and I lived in Bongo Park during the summer.
I went to Denmark, and we used to live very easily. In Amsterdam at the Heineken brewery
every noon they would offer you as much beer as you could drink, and some snacks. So
that was my meal for the day. (laughs) And then, I'd spend the whole day going back and
forth to the bathroom. But it was a sort of Hippie... structure. We had a structure for the
Hippies. Everybody knew where the Hippies lived. There was a "cracked" house... not
crack, cracked... cracked meant abandoned, it was an abandoned building, called
Christiana, in Copenhagen. And a lot of Hippies lived there. About six hundred Hippies
lived there. And there was a lot of Hippies all over Europe, it was just the Hippie
movement, the Hippie years.
Interviewer: What did you do the whole day at that time? Describe one day.
Cleo: I would wake up and get stoned and lie there, and if it was in Amsterdam we would
go to the Heineken brewery for lunch, and then we'd go to the park and meet cute guys
and hang out, smoke marijuana, take LSD, and just have fun. It was pure pleasure. Then at
night there was a club called the Acht Auf [?] in Amsterdam, and about six o'clock I would
go begging, panhandling. Now it's something bad, but in those days it was part of the
culture, the Hippie culture to beg for money. It wasn't something, "Ooh, a beggar," it
was... you're a Hippie, "Can I have twenty Gulden please?" And then at night I would go to
a discotech. And I'd look for a cute guy, and if I found a cute guy, we'd have sex, and...
that was life. Sex, drugs... and the rock and roll was out by this time!
Interviewer: And then you went to Greece?
Cleo: From Amsterdam, it got cold. It was very cold, and then I heard that the war broke
out in Israel. So, my parents are Jewish, I'm atheist, but my cultural background is Jewish,
so I decided "I'm going to the war, I'm going to be a volunteer in the war". And I heard
there was a lot of volunteers living in the kibbutz. So I sold my car, no, I didn't sell my
car, I gave my car away. I had twenty-five dollars, and I bought a one-way ticket to Tel
Aviv. I worked from the kibbutz about two months. Working... not so easy for me. And
then I modeled in Tel Aviv, for about three months, I made a lot of money modelling,
because, again, they liked the blonde hair (not blue!), they liked the blonde hair, and then I
lived in a tree house in Nueba in the Sinai, and after Israel I heard about Greece.
So then I went to Greece and I heard about caves on the island of Ios. So I took a boat to
Ios, and I found it was way outside of the village, two hours from the village, and I had to
walk two hours every night to get to my cave. And you had to go up a mountain, and there
was this beautiful cave, it was just rocks. And I put my little candle on it, and it was just
me, just me alone, in this beautiful cave, at night... in a sleeping bag, and sometimes I'd
hear a noise. And it was usually a sheep, or some animal, and I'd go, (gasps) "What's that?
No, I'm not afraid, it's nothing". But usually there was no fear... and the world was a very
beautiful place. For most of my life, I've always felt that there was nothing dangerous, that
there was no evil in the world that wanted to harm me. Um... it was just a very good place
to be. And from Greece, that's when I got to India! I heard of a...
Interviewer: Why India? What was it about India?
Cleo: When I was living, I think it was in Greece, I lived in Greece about seven months
altogether. And it was in Greece that I heard of the word freaks. And they were different
from Hippies. I didn't really know what the difference was, but I knew there was a
difference. And also associated with that word was... India, I heard about India. And I
heard about Freaks in India. And one day I saw a sign that a bus was going from Athens to
Goa. India! I never heard of Goa, I had never heard of Goa. But it was going from Greece
to India, and I said, "I'm going." It was very cheap. So I took the bus. I signed up a couple
weeks before; it was a couple hundred dollars. And it took about six weeks. We went
through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan (which is now gone), Pakistan, India, and Goa. (To
interviewer) I have to go to the bathroom. Can we stop now? (laughs)
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