Interview with Cleo Odzer Part Four: INDIA: THE GOA FREAKS
- 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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INDIA: THE GOA FREAKS
Interviewer: (asks question)
Cleo: Oh! I came over the hill from Baga, and the first thing I came to was Joe Banana. And
I was looking for a house. I saw him and I said, "This is where I want to live". And I asked
Joe Banana if there was a house, and he said, "No, you have to go look." And I said "Can I
leave my bags here?" and he said "Yes". And there was a guy sitting there, and he said,
"I've seen you before." And I said "Where?" [corrects herself] No, no, no, no, no. I asked
him, there was a guy sitting there and I said, "Do you know where I can find a house?" And
he looked at me and he said, "You asked me that same question before." And I said
"Where? That's impossible." And he said "On Ios, in Greece. You were walking out of town
and I was walking into town, and you asked me, `Where can I find a cave?' in that same
voice". And it was just unbelievable. It was the same person that I had met on Ios, looking
for a cave, and now here I was in India looking for a house. It was such a coincidence.
The toilet... it was... I had to adapt to a lot of things. In the six weeks from Europe to India.
Sanitation, food, washing, toilets, toilets was one of the biggest things. As you went east,
the toilets got more and more disgusting! (laughs) And after the fingerprints of shit on the
wall, you would think that would be the worst, but no, it got worse, and when I came to
Anjuna Beach I found out they had a system here, of pig toilets, and it was all very neat, so
the humans went on top and the pigs went underneath, so the pigs ate shit. But they don't
eat toilet paper. So I was always being lectured, "Don't use toilet paper! Pigs don't eat
paper!" But I'm such a JAP (in New York that stands for Jewish American Princess), spoiled
brat is what that is (I'm such a spoiled brat!), that I said, "I'm not going to use water, I
don't care what they say, I'm going to use toilet paper." So I always had my toilet paper,
and I'd leave the toilet paper, and I knew I was doing a bad thing, but I didn't care.
(laughs) I'm my own kind of freak.
Interviewer: How about your first approach?
Cleo: When I first saw the sea it was so beautiful. The whole of Anjuna Beachit was a
dream; it was my fantasy. It still makes me want to cry to think about it. But it's tears of
joy because it was so beautiful. It was something that was so beautiful that... I didn't
know I wanted it... I didn't know it existed, I was looking at a piece of art, and saying "Oh
my God, this is beautiful!" And it wasn't just the sea; it was the Freaks. They were naked.
They were naked. They were lying on the beach, there was a group of men playing
volleyball, and they'd hit the ball and their penis, it did a little jump, and I was like, you
know, "Ooh woo, that's fun!" And all these naked people, and they were playing Frisbee,
and when you throw a Frisbee naked, your body moves, and here's this beautiful sea, and
palm trees, and they were all young, they looked to me all young people, they looked to
me... (laughs) I'm such a baby!
It was such an important part of my life, when I found this spot. It hits part of my heart.
Because it was so beautiful, and it represented so much, that people had the freedom to
be naked. And they were all Freaks. There weren't any tourists at that time. It was just his
group of Freaks. Naked. And to be naked is to be free, there was such a freedom in being
naked on the beach, and not worrying about who's looking at you. And that says a lot . .
you don't need an explanation of "Why are all these people naked?" You just know that
there's something more happening here, there's a freedom here, that allows these people
to be naked.
And they were a family, they knew each other, they would wave, they were in the water,
they came out of the water, they all sort of sat together on the south end of Anjuna Beach.
It was a family that I didn't know that I was missing. It was something I didn't know I
needed. I knew... it was a freedom I didn't know existed... in some kind of sense I'd heard
of freedoms, but I didn't know that this type of freedom existed. And by seeing the sea
and all the naked bodies, and they were . . there was such harmony, with the palm trees,
and the sea gulls, and the Frisbees, and those little penises jumping up when they hit the
volleyball, (laughs) That it was a work of art, it was just beautiful, it was a beautiful
picture of freedom.
Interviewer: For me it's hard to believe how do you join such a scene? You just came
over the hill, went down to the beach, and said "Hello"? What did you do then? Was it so
Cleo: Another part that was so amazing to me is, as I left Joe Banana and I headed down
Anjuna looking for a house, there would be people washing themselves by the well, and
they would be there naked with soap, shampooing, and I would go by and they'd just say,
"Hi!" And they'd smile at me, and I'd pass another house and the people would be on the
hammock, and they'd say, "Hi!" And I'd go further on and there'd be more people coming,
just walking along the path, and they'd say, "Hi!" Nobody looked away as though I didn't
exist. In New York, you know, people are anonymous; you don't look anybody in the eye,
because you're invading their space. And here, everybody I met saw me! They saw me, I
was a person, I was a friend. They smiled at me, they welcomed me, I belonged here.
There was no question, there was no doubt that this person was not my friend, it was
instant friendship... unconditional friendship. They didn't want anything from me, I didn't
want anything from them, I was just... their friend.
Interviewer: You remember some of them? Maybe some are still here?
Cleo: My destiny is incredible, things just work out the way they worked out. And the first
day, I was walking along Anjuna beach, and I almost got to the end, and I remembered I
didn't ask for a house. And the first guy I asked, it was near the end, where the rocks are,
and I said, "Do you know where I can find a house?" And he said, "Sure, I have one." And
his name was Ram Dass, he was a German guy, he was not the famous Ram Dass, he got
the name Ram Dass from Poona [India], from... Bhagwan. But he gave me he just
happened to be going to Poona for a week, and I needed a house and there he was, he had
a house for me. I had a house, and I settled in. And he was with a woman named Rosie,
and Rosie has died since then, but she had a baby, and I'm still in touch with a lot of the
people from those days, and they told me about the baby. So that baby is part of our
family. Because Rosie was part of our family, and Ram Dass was part of our family, so...
even if we don't know somebody specific, we know connections.
Cleo: When I got that house I felt, "This is my destiny." And when I found this group of
people, I found a community. I didn't know that that was what I needed in my life... A
community of people who were like me, because I felt I was so different in a lot of ways.
And to find this beautiful beach and the naked people. And the freedom, and the ideals,
that I didn't know I had but were part of the Hippie movement that had become part of my
ideals... I didn't even know I had them. But I came here and it all just came together. Here I
was in this house, and I was part of the community, they just accepted me. And I was one
of them and I just felt so complete. I was so happy. [tearful] It was so joyful. I felt so
complete. I found it; I'm home! It was the feeling, "I'm home," and I never had that feeling
before. I had a community. (laughs) My family life is another story. (laughs) That's not
home. But this was, this was home, and I just wanted to be one of them so badly. And I
So I just sort of had to figure out the lifestyle, and how people were living. And I saw that
the Freaks were different than Hippies in that they had money. So they were always talking
about the places they had been during the last monsoon, because people would come
here for most of the year, and then when the monsoon came, they would travel to some
other exotic place. So they had money. And even though they were naked, they had
jewelry, they had a lot of jewelry, around their waist, antique Indian jewelry, and around
their necks, and men had the jewelry, and then there was a lot of cocaine. So much money
worth of cocaine, and every night it was party... party, party, party, party! Every night there
was a beach party, and before the beach party, we would go to somebody's house, and
people would give out cocaine. So life revolved around cocaine. And I really never
wondered how people got their money, somehow I never wondered how people got their
money. All I knew was, "I'm home and I'm going to stay here forever, this is my life now."
And then... the monsoon came, (laughs) and by accident I discovered how people made
their money. I had run out of money, I was in Bombay, and I had left some money, I don't
know, maybe sixty dollars worth of traveler's checks, with my modeling pictures with
somebody in Bombay, and they were stolen! And I was at a Freak hotel, there are some
hotels that are known as Freak hotels, and I was staying in one of them and I walked out,
and I realized I had no money, and everybody I knew was gone, and I was like, "Oh, no,
what do I do now?" Here I am, lost, I never thought I never thought beyond Goa.
(laughs) And suddenly it was the monsoon, and what was I going to do for money?
And there, right there in the lobby, right on the steps of the hotel I found a friend, Kadir,
who I knew from Goa, who was part of my family. And I said, "Oh, Kadir, I have no money,
what am I going to do?" And he said, "Shhh, don't worry. Don't worry about it." And he
took me upstairs to a room, and there was my friend Ashley, and Norwegian Monica, and
some other people, and they offered me food, and they said, "Oh, you need money, here's
500 rupees," and I said, "I don't know when I can pay you back," And they said, "Don't
worry about it, here's another 500 rupees." (laughs) And there was cocaine, and everybody
gave me cocaine, and I just felt, "Oh! This is my family, I'm safe, I'm home, and
everything's OK". And then I found out... the way, the way people made their money was
by smuggling drugs. So they asked me if I wanted to do a trip to Canada, carrying...
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