Sheila Lynne "Cleo" Odzer was born on April 6th 1950 .
She grew up in a wealthy Jewish family in Manhattan, New York City and attended Franklin School (now Dwight School) and Quintano’s School for Young Professionals, graduating from the latter in 1968.
Smoked and sat with groups when she was fifteen in a Manhattan discotheque called The Cheetah. “Every two weeks there was a new band, and every two weeks I had a new boyfriend”. She says in an interview with Marcus Robbin in Goa, India (January 2000).
At seventeen she was going to a club called The Scene. The first hang out in New York for British bands like The Cream, Deep Purple, she also mentions Terry Reid (Reed in that interview).
At about that time, she began writing about the music scene for a small Greenwich Village newspaper. She met Keith Emerson, then member of
the rock band The Nice and later of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, at The Scene nightclub and they were briefly engaged. According to Odzer, Emerson broke off the engagement when he saw a February 1969 Time Magazine article that published her photo and described her as a "Super Groupie." Shortly thereafter in 1969 she recorded an album called The Groupies. The first on-the-scene recorded documentary study of the groupie phenomenon, as revealed by the girls themselves (1969). It was produced by Alan Lorber. To be listened at here
In the early 1970s, Odzer traveled in Europe and the Middle East and worked as a model. She spent the late 1970s in the hippie culture of Anjuna, Goa in India. Her experiences there, including heavy use of cocaine and heroin, the international drug smuggling used to finance the stay, and her subsequent two-week incarceration, would later form the basis of her second book, Goa Freaks: My Hippie Years in India (1995). For a time she followed the teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in India.
After her return to the United States in the late 1970s, Odzer underwent drug treatment at Daytop in New York. She entered college, then graduate school, and in 1990 obtained a Ph.D. in anthropology from The New School for Social Research in New York City with a thesis on prostitution in Thailand. Her experiences in Thailand were described in her first book, Patpong Sisters: An American Woman's View of the Bangkok Sex World (1994).
While in the States she wrote other book published in 1997: Virtual Spaces: Sex and the Cyber Citizen. The new frontier. By explicitly chronicling her own life and adventures on the web, she reveals our own deepest wishes, our darkest desires, and our universal need to connect. She tackles such controversial issues as net sex and pornography, ethics in cyberspace, digital obsessions and love affairs. In the end, she discovers a virtual community as rich and diverse as any real-life counterpart--a brave new world of e-mail, chat rooms, and video-conferencing that, despite its modern trappings, provides a direct line to the most basic of human desires: the need for intimacy, passion, a sense of belonging, and love. A brave and exiting voyage into the sexual cybersphere.
Disappointed with life in New York, in 1999 Odzer returned to Goa, where some of the remaining old-time hippies disliked her because of the publicity her book had brought to the scene. She died there in 2001.
A good friend of hers who had been corresponding with Odzer during her final stay in India, "Cookie" (with whom she recorded The Groupies), reports that Odzer's doctor (who had been away when she died) said she probably died of a stroke related to very high cholesterol and serious circulatory problems that she was being treated for during her final year, and that her body had been cremated after a small service. But a researcher, Arun Saldanha, who interviewed members of the Goa community about Odzer, reports being told by a psychiatrist at the Goa Medical College some ten months after her death that her body had lain unclaimed in a morgue in Mapusa for more than a month until finally she had been buried in Mapusa without a funeral, and that she had had AIDS. Saldanha also reports having seen Odzer use cocaine during an interview he had with her sometime before her death.
The 2002 documentary Last Hippie Standing by Marcus Robbin covered the Goa scene and featured some of Cleo Odzer's old super-8 footage from the 1970s. She was interviewed by Robbins for the film in Goa shortly before her death, and said: "I don't know what the future brings, but I know what I don't want: New York is what I don't want, that culture is what I don't want; it's not right. I don't know what is right. I don't think our old life was right. I don't see a new culture that is right, but we have to continue trying, that's the best we can do, that's the best any of us can do, to keep trying. To make something that is peaceful for everybody, that makes people happy, that is fair to everybody. And that's all I want". The film was dedicated to her memory.
Below: Cleo and Keith Emerson, 1968/69.
Below: with her friend Cookie at the time when they recorded 'Groupies' (1969):
Also with Miss Harwlow
Below: Goa (India), 1970s.
Later photos of Cleo:
We run a fansite for her, where you'll find more pics and links to other interesting sites about her:
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