He dons his principles daily -- but nothing else


November 18, 1992|By Michalene Busico | Michalene Busico,Knight-Ridder News Service

BERKELEY, Calif. -- On the street where the Naked Guy lives, neighbors are getting used to seeing a lot of Andrew Martinez.

Except for the peace sign and house key that dangle from a chain around his neck, Mr. Martinez is completely naked when he walks to his classes at the University of California at Berkeley. He's naked when he's around his house, a rambling white co-op just off campus. He's naked when he fixes lunch in the crowded kitchen. Until the university told him to cover up, he was completely naked in class, too.

Just now, he's naked on his front porch, as he prepares his outfit for the day: a band of black nylon and a crumpled red bandanna. He hastily folds the bandanna into a triangle, ties two corners to the nylon band and stuffs it in his backpack.

He lopes off, wearing only sandals. As soon as he crosses Dwight Way, he has to compromise and cover up. He quickly adjusts the little bandanna over the front of him, leaving all else uncovered, and heads straight down Telegraph Avenue toward the campus main gate.

The most amazing thing is this: Hardly anyone reacts. There are some tiny glances. A few gritted teeth and smirks. A guy passes and asks, "How's it hanging?" A man yells from an open window, "Put your clothes on!" Otherwise, the smiling, 19-year-old Mr. Martinez blends into the crowd as well as any 6-foot-4-inch naked man could.

You'd think this would make Mr. Martinez happy, or at least relieved. But he is disappointed. An activist does not want to blend in.

Mr. Martinez thought taking off his clothes would change the world. But on this day, at least, he causes hardly any gazes to shift.

"The thrill is over," he says, waiting to cross at the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph, remembering the commotion the first time he ventured out. Today, dozens of cars go by -- including a Berkeley police car -- but no one honks or hollers. "I guess this was the ultimate goal."

Mr. Martinez, who grew up in Cupertino, Calif., took his first nude walk a couple of years ago, strolling down Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road. Last year, he went to class bare-chested. This fall, layer by layer, he worked his way down to nakedness and then had about two dozen other people join him at a "Nude-In" he organized Sept. 29 in Sproul Plaza at the university. The idea was to demonstrate his feeling that clothing is useless and repressive.

"It took a lot, a lot, the first time, to step out without clothes on," he says.

The Nude-In led to national exposure in newspapers and on a long list of television shows. He has appeared -- nude -- on "Bay Sunday," "Hard Copy," "Maury Povich" and "Doctor Dean." On "Montel Williams" he had to wear a bikini brief.

"It's cool. It's like free propaganda," he says. "But on all the talk shows, they make it seem like here I am, a good all-American student, with middle-class values and a normal way of life, except for one thing: I think that clothes are kind of stupid. That's not who I am at all."

Mr. Martinez has arrived at his first class: Russian History through Peter the Great.

He slips into a back row. He pulls a sweat shirt from his backpack, plops it on the seat and sits crunched into the narrow aisle. He puts his feet up on the chair in front of him and begins to pick at his toes.

No one notices. At least, no one seems to notice.

"One of the fundamental things to remember about the Berkeley campus is there's something like a law that one does not notice," says John Tinkler, a rhetoric professor who has Mr. Martinez in one of his classes. Mr. Tinkler isn't bothered by having a naked guy attend his lectures, as long as it doesn't disrupt things.

Late last month, the chancellor's office did make a statement. After some students complained that Mr. Martinez's nudity constituted sexual harassment, the university issued a policy banning public nudity, indecent exposure and "sexually offensive conduct." Mr. Martinez, found without G-string on campus, was suspended for two weeks; then the suspension was suspended on a technicality. His academic status is now in limbo.

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