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Naked At Woodstock

I was sitting on the deck of our rented Fire Island house sipping coffee and reading the Sunday New York Times when my art director friend, Gary Geyer, pointed to a small, unassuming ad and said, “Hmm, this looks interesting.”

The ad said something about a concert that was going to be held in a few weeks in a place called Woodstock.

Gary said, “This sounds like it could be fun, wanna go?” “Nah, I’m not really into concerts” I said.

That was the end of the conversation until the following weekend when the ad appeared again. “C’mon Howie, let’s go, it could be cool.” Again, I said thanks but no thanks. But when the ad appeared the following weekend and Gary was still pestering me, I finally caved. “Alright, alright, I don’t want to go, but I’ll go.”

Little did I know that I had just agreed to attend an historic event that would literally change my life. Two weeks after the concert, I met my wife Carol and began a romance that has lasted for more than 40 years. One month after the event, I grew the beard that has never left my face since 1969.

And within a year and a half, my partner Bob Pasqualina and I broke through creatively at Wells, Rich, Greene, with our career changing, life altering commercials, “Try it, you’ll like it” and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”, which both earned a place in the Clio Hall of Fame.

Was it coincidence? Or was it the impact of an explosion of music by immortals like Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Jimmy Hendrix and many of the greatest rockers of all time?

Was it the drugs? They were everywhere and they were good. They made the music sound better, the people look prettier, and the brownies taste outrageous.

Or was it the experience of sharing it all with 400,000 people huddled together under tarps and blankets in the mud and the wind and the rain? The answer is yes, yes and yes! It was all of that and something more:

It was “the pond.” On the morning of the second day at Woodstock, Gary and I were walking up a path toward the concert grounds when we passed a body of water that looked like a small lake or a large pond.

Out of the corner of our eyes, we noticed that many guys and girls were stripping down to their skivvies, bras and panties and bathing themselves in the water. And then, they were taking it off – all off! Gary said, “Maybe we should go down there.” This was a Gary suggestion that I could really embrace.

We made our way down to the bank of the pond as hundreds more people began to join in, whipping off their clothes, jumping into the water, and splashing like children. I felt an involuntary smile come over my face. Gary and I mustered up all of our courage and stripped down to our tighty whities, stood in the water watching all of the naked people, and then we did it…we bared it all!

Somehow, letting it all hang out in a crowd of young, exuberant, giddy people had an emotional impact on me. In that moment, I felt different, liberated, free! Woodstock opened up my mind and lifted my heart, and I believe the experience contributed in a big way to the important changes that were about to happen in my life.

In August, 1989, on the twentieth anniversary of Woodstock, Life Magazine devoted an entire issue to this historic event.

It was filled with photographs and personal stories supplied by the people who were there—the real Woodstock-ers. My story was one of them, complete with a full page photograph, supplied by Gary, of me standing in the pond in my underwear. (Yep, that’s me in all my glory.)

To publicize this important issue, Life Magazine arranged for me and three other “credible witnesses” to appear on Good Morning America. The three of us were sitting in the green room waiting to go on when I looked up at the monitor and saw a promo for our upcoming segment.

There, up on the TV screen was that same photograph of me in my skivvies, full frame. But since this was network TV, they felt obligated to cover up my private area with one of those blurry circles. To be safe, they used a really big, over-sized circle.

I never felt like such a manly man.

Like my stories? Please comment here or send questions to And if you like it, spread it. © 2011 Howard Cohen, All Rights Reserved


Comment from Rich Ferrante
Time December 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Funny, I went to Woodstock, in my silver Porshe. 4 of us, including my then future and present wife, Janet. But we never got there,—at least to the festival. About 10 miles away after being rerouted so many times and stuck in unmoveable traffic on some back country road, with a broken heater that was on since the West Side Highway, I managed to turn my car around, and we all agreed to go straight to Fire Island. Little did I know the historical, but muddy weekend I was giving up. 90 miles per hour on the Thruway toward the Island. We stayed at a director friend’s place—Bill Hudson. Fire Island was beautiful that weekend. I did my Woodstock drugs there. I still have my two Woodstock tickets.
Never got to any “Green room”.
Rich Ferrante

Comment from Cynthia Clotzman
Time January 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Hey Howie,
Glory be…. that is quite a photo. Thanks for sharing.

Pingback from 45 Years Ago: Howie and Gary at Woodstock
Time August 14, 2014 at 12:45 pm

[…] Howie’s experience click here Gary Geyer is Chief Editor at Let Life […]

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