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(Almost) Naked in New York: The Naked Cowboy
December 30, 2011 By Byron Beck
Robert Burke goes by another, perhaps more familiar, name: The Naked Cowboy.
Burke, as The Naked Cowboy, is literally one of New York City's hottest tourist attractions. He may not be the most historic of Manhattan sightseeing hotspots, like Lady Liberty or the Empire State Building, but this cowboy still has his share of curious fans who flock to see him strut his nearly naked stuff in the middle of Times Square nearly each and every day of the year.
So how did Burke become "The Naked Cowboy?" By stripping off his clothes, of course. Over a decade ago, Burke was playing his guitar on the boardwalk in Venice Beach, Calif. He didn't make much money until a photographer suggested he take off his shirt. Burke took it one step farther and went down to his underwear.
And the rest, as they say, is Naked Cowboy history.
In 2000, Burke moved to New York City and started busking in Times Square, quickly becoming a fixture. He has been performing there ever since — as well as on "The Howard Stern Show" and other high profile shows. In fact, he's so successful, Burke has franchised his Naked Cowboy (and Naked Cowgirl) brand to several other cities across the country.
So how does he stay warm in the winter, considering all he has on is a hat, a pair of boots and a pair of briefs?
"I am the strongest man in the world," says Burke. "No, the truth is, I just perform shorter sets. If it is 20 degrees I only perform for 20 minutes. If it's above 30 or 35 degrees I can last about an hour and a half."
Clearly, Burke does not let much stop him. He was one of the first people back in Times Square following this year's big hurricane. "I just put on a life vest and let it rip," says the media savvy cowboy, who returned to Times Square as much for the media attention as for the tourists. "I want to be famous," says Burke. "And being the Naked Cowboy has made that happen."
On December 22, Burke finished up his shift in Times Square, packed up his gear and hit the road for his hometown outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, where he planned to celebrate his 41st birthday on December 23. Along for the ride was a large quantity of his "Naked Cowboy Oysters" and some of his signature hot sauce, both of which he shared with fans and friends at a birthday celebration in his honor. Yes, even Naked Cowboys need to hang up their briefs every so often. But not for too long... a few days later, he was back in Times Square and ready to rock, as always.
Catch the Naked Cowboy in Times Square daily just before lunch and check out the other fun things to see in NYC.