Naked Guy

One Saturday back in the last decade, I stood at the corner of University and Shattuck avenues, downtown Berkeley’s always faintly shabby main intersection, waiting for the light to change. I noticed a tall, well-built, handsome young guy on the opposite corner. I think he wore sunglasses and sandals, and nothing else. His name was Andrew Martinez, and by the day I spotted him he’d become a local celebrity known as the Naked Guy. He came by the name through his one-man campaign to liberate the human spirit by going naked to class at Cal (and just about everywhere else, including a court date to defend himself against a charge of indecent exposure).

Anyway: Me and Andrew Martinez, Shattuck and University. I wish I could say I high-fived him as we passed or said something memorable, but all I recall is trying not to stare. For me, the idea of being naked in public is the stuff of unpleasant dreams, not liberation. That was the first and last I saw of the Naked Guy. Sooner or later, Martinez left Berkeley. I remembered him, though I never thought of what became of him.

Today’s Chronicle had the story, or at least its end: Martinez, who was 33, died in jail in San Jose last week, an apparent suicide:

“… After his days as the Naked Guy, Martinez spent the next decade bouncing among halfway houses, psychiatric institutions, occasional homelessness and jail, but never getting comprehensive treatment, his family said. His life ended in an apparent suicide Thursday morning.

” ‘It was an endless cycle of trying to get answers but never getting any,’ said his mother, who requested that her name not be used. ‘It was endless, endless, endless.’

“… But before his mental illness wreaked havoc on his and his family’s lives, Martinez was a bright, charismatic, sweet-natured youth with a promising future.”

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4 Replies to “Naked Guy”

  1. Everyone knew the Naked Guy. When I read this sad story over breakfast on Sunday, I looked up at my wife and said, “Remember the Naked Guy?” She responded, “Of course.” I told her the story, about how he died in prison, and we recounted Naked Guy stories. A friend of mine went to high school with him in Cupertino. Everyone knew the Naked Guy — you always wondered what became of him. Sorry to see that this was it.

  2. Hi,I’m from Malaysia and I remember Andrew Martinez a.k.a ‘The Naked Guy’ of Berkeley since he made headlines in asian dailies more than a decade ago, somewhere in 1993 I guess. I’m a nudist at home, and have always made Andrew Martinez, my idol. Till today I use him as my role model, until yesterday, I checked to find recent photos of him on the internet, but was shocked to read that he had died on May 18 2006, of an apparent suicide while in prison. You will always be my inspiration, Andrew Martinez. If only I had the b*lls to go naked in public like you, I would. But then again this is asia. You will be missed.

  3. That is a sad story. I feel bad for his family as well as him. It must be hell trying to get someone you love to “turn the corner”, overcome an addiction or get a handle on mental illness. There seem to be a few places in the country that allow people to pretty much act out as they please. Berkeley, the bay area is one, NYC is another. While I have not seen any naked dudes walking around Brooklyn, one does see mentally ill people wandering about the streets, manifesting various symptoms. I occasionally wonder what some of these people were like before they “drove off the cliff”.
    It is particulaly sad to see that the guy died in jail. No Hollywood ending.

  4. I’m also from Asia. Andrew Martinez seems to have gained worldwide fame from his public nudity. Hollywood should cash in on this, just like they did with 9/11. I’d love to see Jesse Bradford doing full frontal nudity.

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