Andrew Martinez, who as a 19-year-old UC Berkeley undergraduate created national news in November 1992 for getting suspended from the university for attending class in little more than a pair of sandals and a backback, was found unconscious in his Santa Clara County jail cell at 11:19 p.m. on Wednesday and declared dead early Thursday.
Last seen alive at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Martinez, 33, was found under his bed clothes with a plastic bag around his head, leading jail officials to label the incident an apparent suicide.
In custody for three felony charges of battery and assault with a deadly weapon during a Jan. 10 fight at a halfway house where he was living, Martinez was being housed solitarily in a maximum security area in the Santa Clara jail.
Martinez reportedly had a history of mental illness and was seeing mental health professionals for the last couple of weeks. Calls made to the Santa Clara County jail for comment on the subject were not returned.
Martinez was responsible for staging a “nude-in” on campus with over 20 people in September 1992, an action he vociferously defended at the event as well as in the media. Martinez defended his Sproul Hall Plaza “nude-in” by saying that he was trying to make a point about free expression in the birthplace of the 1964 Free Speech Movement.
According to media reports, he told the crowd at the event that “what I am getting out here is there’s a lot of social control going on here.”
His philosophy toward free speech, free expression, and his non-conformist outlook made him a hero in the eyes of those advocating nudity, and his followers included X-plicit Players, a performance troupe from Berkeley.
Because of his nudist exploits on campus, Martinez went on to appear in scores of newspaper articles and was even featured in the October 1993 issue of Playboy and a issue of Playgirl. He also appeared in several TV shows.
Berkeley artist Richard List recalls an incident when cartoonist Ace Backwords used Martinez’s picture as the centerfold in Berkeley’s street calendar.
List said, “I heard that Andy took one look at the picture and told Ace, ‘I am overexposed.’ However I don’t think he meant it to be funny.”
List remembers Martinez as being a confused person.
“He looked like he was perpetually in a fog,” he said. “It’s really sad that they couldn’t cure him of his mental problems.”
An A student at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, Martinez was known as a “math whiz” on the Berkeley campus and was liked by his peers for his kindhearted ways.
The “nude-in” incident led to a few other students coming to class in the nude, and Martinez was ultimately expelled in 1993 from the university for refusing to wear clothes. Martinez was also arrested for showing up with some of his supporters in the buff at a City Hall meeting, because of which he was arrested under the Berkeley city ordinance adopted in July 1993.
Mary Wainwright, then a Berkeley councilmember, had proposed the ban on nudity after Martinez had testified before the City Council in the nude.
After being expelled from school, Martinez lived at numerous halfway homes and psychiatric wards.
Commenting on Martinez’s death, Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington said, “This is the tragic reality that is repeated everyday with mental health cases. We need to prioritize mental health patients rather than criminalizing them.”
Worthington added that Martinez had lived down the street from him, and he had often spotted him on the UC Berkeley campus and at the city government meetings.
“He was a colorful character and definitely made people stop and look,” he said. “His ideas were interesting and he had a novel sort of a way of exposing the humanness in each of us. Andrew pointed out that the clothes don’t make the person—it’s your ideas, the way you live your life.”
Photograph by Rory Merry
Andrew Martinez, ‘the naked guy,’ being arrested outside the offices of the Associated Students of UC Berkeley in the summer of 1992.