We sat down (virtually) with the Naked Cowboy from NYC who is known as one of the most famous entertainers in New York City for the past 20 years. We wanted to get an in-depth look at who the real Naked Cowboy is and how he became to be one of the most sought after entertainers in the city. Whenever we run into him, we’re always amazed by his positivity but also his personality. Even in times like this, the Naked Cowboy came out to sing on Times Square before the city went under lockdown.
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The Naked Cowboy for sure is a living tourist attraction in Times Square and promises his fans to make their snapshots really special. The people love him, we love him and he is part of New York City just like the yellow cabs and the Empire State Building.
Thankfully, Robert John Burck (Yes, that’s his real name) took the time to answer some of our questions. Here’s what he had to say about the early days of his career, his personal life and what challenges he is facing while working on one of the busiest places in the city.
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Meet the Naked Cowboy from New York City
How did everything start? Why NAKED and why the COWBOY? What brought you to NYC?
From my earliest memories, I always wanted to be in the spotlight and to have everyone’s attention. In 1998, I was an aspiring country singer/bodybuilder/actor/model that flew out to California’s Venice Beach Boardwalk to shoot for ‘Playgirl’ magazine. I was a male stripper all through college and danced in various venues of all sorts. It was business as usual as I was just taking what work I could find.
On the trip to Venice Beach, I had a few days off from shooting the magazine, I went to the boardwalk to try my country singer routine, fully dressed at the time and ignored the entire day. When I returned to the photographer’s apartment where I was staying he suggested playing the guitar in my underwear to garner more attention.
I did so the following day and it was an immediate hit. I arrived back in my hometown of Cincinnati days later on a mission from God to be ‘the Most Celebrated Entertainer of all Time.’ I drove city to city across the entire United States for more than two years calling the news and the police on myself, creating endless news and fan fair, almost always ultimately ushered away and would head off to the next town.
In Times Square everything took off. No arrests, endless media, tourist dollars, and excitement.
A good friend suggested touring up the East Coast explaining that I could get arrested more frequently as the cities are closer together. I found myself in Times Square, NYC. In Times Square everything took off. No arrests, endless media, tourist dollars, and excitement. I returned the following day, and again, and again for 20 years, 7 months and 28 days today. All days missed were for Naked Cowboy appearances in other countries or cities around the world.
Who is Robert John Burck and what does he love doing aside from the Cowboy business?
As Robert Burck, I pretty much just exist as a more subdued individual, far more serious, and in a constant state of active preparation. I work out, I read, and spend quiet time with the wife or family. All of this helps me prepare for the next days’ performance. I’m in it to win it, my work is my passion and it’s as fulfilling as it has been since day 1.
How many hours per week do you work and what are the biggest challenges?
I work as long and as hard as I can. In the summer I work all day and in the winter, I work until I’m exhausted. Blizzards, heat waves, rain storms, terrorist attacks and now coronavirus make the mission a tad more challenging and that’s fine with me, I not only welcome strife, but I also seek it out.
What do you love the most about New York City?
I love the energy and the unpredictability of the city, the way the landscape is transformed endlessly by different people. In over 20 years I’ve never seen a Broadway Show, eaten at a fancy restaurant or been on a double-decker bus or sought out a pizza joint. I’m here strictly for business.
What was the funniest thing that ever happens to you in NYC?
A funny thing, albeit not for me at the time, I was playing on the center island in the middle of the street with a big crowd watching. Cars passing on both sides of the island. Someone in the crowd dropped a full plastic bottle of Coca Cola, sealed, and it rolled into the street.
No one bothered to pick it up and presumably was going to just roll on out of the scene. Well, as luck would have it, an explosion occurred when a car ran the bottle over. I was bending over doing an ‘ass shot’ for the crowd and the bottle cap nailed me directly in my rear end, dead center, with brown soda pop soaking the briefs appearing as if I’d exploded. It’s one of the many unscheduled wardrobe malfunctions over the years.
If you could change one thing about New York what would that be?
Wouldn’t change a thing…
When does the Naked Cowboy appear on Times Square?
The Naked Cowboy appears in Times Square daily just before lunchtime if he is not booked for an event. Look for the cowboy hat, guitar, and boots.
Photo by: Photographer Ryan Lahiff
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