The Naked Cowboy Reads Nietzsche

“Everyone in the world knows me, and if they don’t, they will. It’ll be Buddha, Jesus, Naked Cowboy,” Burck says matter-of-factly. Photo: facebook.com/nkdcowboy

In a dimly-lit Times Square parking lot, Robert Burck, a fair-haired man with bulging biceps and tired eyes, lounges in the driver’s seat of his pristine Cadillac Escalade. There, he remains incognito, clad in cargo shorts and a black t-shirt. Most don’t recognize him without his signature underwear and guitar strapped across his chest.

Burck — more commonly known as the Naked Cowboy — has always been one for showy displays of attention. Each morning, he drives the 20 minute commute from his motel in Secaucus, NJ, to the Icon parking lot in Times Square. By noon, he’s working the crowds, serenading tourists and posing in photos for thousands of passers-by wearing nothing but a hat, cowboy boots, briefs, and a strategically placed guitar.

Particularly prone to exaggeration and contradiction, Burck expresses an impatience for people and their faulty cameras; minutes later, he proclaims himself a “social genius.” After reading Tony Robbins’ Unlimited Power, he says, he grew obsessed with writing self-affirmations and personal goals. He reveals a stack of college-ruled papers, perhaps several hundred sheets thick, held together by a large binder clip. The papers are clearly worn: the edges fray and the dark circles and underlines on each page bleed together.

This summer, Burck’s manager sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Naked Indian, who recently started showing up in Times Square. Burck believes he is stealing his act.

The 41-year-old climbs out of his Escalade, takes off his t-shirt and shorts, and slithers into a pair of tighty-whities. They’re a boys’ size 12. “No undies when I’m not working,” he explains. A few swipes of deodorant and a quick guitar tune-up later, he swaggers out of the parking lot into more familiar territory, strumming a tune: I have tons of fun, just shaking my buns, all day long, out here in the sun. Within minutes, a crowd surges around him. Two girls giggle and point: “Oh my God, it’s that guy.” Another couple, struggling with a subway map: “This is so New York.”

Age: 41
Based in:
New York, NY; Secaucus, NJ
Grew up in: Cincinnati, Ohio
Graduated from: University of Cincinnati, Bachelor’s degree; Xavier University, incomplete Master’s degree
Previous jobs: Stripper; waiter at T.G.I. Friday’s; male model
Years in the business: About 13

Where did your identity as the Naked Cowboy originate? In 1998, I was in Venice Beach, California, shooting for Playgirl magazine. I took out my guitar, and the photographer suggested playing in my underwear. I made over $100 that day from tips. I did the same thing a few days later in Cincinnati, got arrested, and made the news. The next morning, I left town in my beat-up BMW and did the same thing driving across the country, getting arrested along the way. I finally landed in New York, and I’ve gotten better at not getting arrested.

How does one get better at not getting arrested? Don’t push the envelope, don’t be a jerk. For two years, before landing in Times Square, I would call the media and the police on myself.

Weather conditions that keep you inside: I don’t go out if it’s pouring rain, because people won’t interact with me. I stand outside during 90% of the winter and wear a full-length mink coat to warm up in between rounds. I don’t get sick; being sick is a state of mind.

A small opening in the top of the guitar collects cash. Burck also glued on a small mirror.

Source of income: I charge $1 for up to 100 photos with me, but most people stop at two. I probably make about $100 an hour, especially in the evenings. Then there’s the money from my three music albums [including an X-rated country album], my endorsement deal with Blue Island oysters, my merchandise, and the Naked Cowboy Bar and Grill that’s opening soon.

Ratio of adults to kids who approach you: Yesterday, I picked up at least 80 people off the ground, 60% of which were old people and grandmas. They’re not scared, because I’m strong as sh*t.

Your driving force: Reading and studying. I read six to seven hours a day, and have for 24 years. I read psychology, philosophy, Spanish. I want to be the smartest motherf*cker on the face of this Earth.

Currently reading: The Art of Seduction, for probably the third or fourth time. I’ve read Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power at least six or seven times. And Emerson’s essays, which are sitting at my hotel – I’ve read those about 100 times.

Your hotel? For the last 13 years, I’ve lived in the Royal Motel in Secaucus, New Jersey, right outside the city. It’s only $50 per night. My mailing address is still my mother’s in Cincinnati.

Burck keeps two pairs of boots in the trunk of his car at all times. He wears each pair for two or three weeks before selling them on his website.

Where do you keep your belongings? I have a suitcase in the backseat with all my underwear, my guitar, my boots, my hat, and a few other things. My hotel room has a spare guitar, my mink coat, and a suit and tie from my high school graduation. That’s all I need.

Brand of underwear: Fruit of the Loom, which is what my mother bought me when I first started. They come in packs of six, but I always keep a seventh just in case. I wear two pairs at a time: one painted with Naked Cowboy, and one unpainted. When they get old or stained, I sell them for $50 on NakedCowboy.com.

They look really tiny. They’re a size 12, which is meant for boys who are about 114 pounds. I weigh 200-something. I haven’t missed a day at the gym since I was 17 years old.

Do you stay this tan year-round? In the winter, I supplement a little bit. Right now, even with all the sun, I have a lighter spot on my leg where my guitar sits.

How do you unwind after a long day? I go to my hotel, have a glass of wine, and write in my journal for a few hours about how great I am, how my expectations are always fulfilled, how I’m a child prodigy.

Can you read me something you wrote recently? I am the most incredibly polished, spontaneous, talented, hilarious performer of all times. [I am] the most fabulously built, ripped, and determined body and mind ever created. […] [I am] an American icon, true badass, no-fear cowboy. The only Naked Cowboy.

That seems a bit arrogant. People don’t understand humility. It’s not about downplaying yourself.

Are you religious? I’m God Almighty. The God you worship is the God you are capable of becoming, in the words of Joseph Campbell. Do you know him? J.C., Jesus Christ.

Guitar go-tos: Mostly just sh*ts and giggles, except when I play full songs and pretend I don’t see people. My guitar is just an unlikely vehicle to get people’s attention. People even tell me I can’t sing very well.

Burck meticulously documents his meals, reading logs, and schedule into black marble notebooks. To date, he estimates he has filled about 400 journals over the past 13 years.

What would people be surprised to learn about your job? Standing in Times Square is hard work. If people come up to me with the wrong attitude, I double their wrong attitude, and they scurry off in fear. I don’t waste time with people who are wasting my time.

Best part of your job: Freedom.

Most challenging part of your job: Nobody’s camera is ready. Nobody knows how to shoot a picture. After a few hours, I’m kind of like, I’m never coming here again. When it’s raining, it feels like it’s never going to shine again.

Are you dating anyone? I have a girlfriend who I see once every few days. She works at the Cranberry Café, where I’ve eaten lunch every single day for the past 10 years. When my last relationship ended, I ended up with her, because she was the only girl I knew.

Do you walk naked into the café? I’ve been in many places naked, but I don’t do that anymore. I have a key to the executive bathroom here in the Icon parking lot, where I’ve parked for free for 10 years. These guys are the best.

You mention that you’re the only Naked Cowboy, but now it’s a franchise. That happened about two years ago. There are four Naked Cowboys, myself included, and four Naked Cowgirls, all part of Naked Cowboy Enterprises at different spots throughout Times Square. They just came out of the woodwork and approached me about it. The black Naked Cowboy was selling comedy tickets in Times Square.

You ran for mayor in 2009 and announced a run for the 2012 presidency as a Tea Party candidate. Those both fizzled. Any future plans to run for office? When they knock on my door and beg me to run because I’m the best man for the job.

Dream job as a kid: I wanted to be the most celebrated entertainer of all time. I did whatever I could to have all eyes on me. Everyone was always telling me what I couldn’t do.

The tattoo on Burck’s right arm depicts a devil, and the one his left depicts Jesus. “It shows I can be as evil or as good as I want,” he says.

Like getting that tattoo on your arm? When I was 16, I was on house arrest, so I got this tattoo of the devil’s head. It was the coolest picture I could get for $60. Later, I got Jesus on my other arm to balance it out.

How do you spend your time when you’re not reading or in Times Square? That’s really it. I can be the life of any party, but why spend all that enthusiasm on a few people in a room when I can spend it on thousands of people walking through Times Square?

Does your family visit you here? I send them envelopes filled with money every week. I stamp each dollar with my Naked Cowboy stamper and sign each dollar coin.

Do you want kids? Nope, not for as long as I live. And I don’t plan on dying. Ever.

Visit the No Joe Schmo Facebook page for more behind the scenes with the Naked Cowboy (and to find out how he signs his text messages).

Follow the Naked Cowboy on Twitter at @TheNakedCowboy and on his Facebook page. All photos courtesy of Megan Hess unless otherwise specified.

No Joe Schmo Featured on Forbes’ Top 75 Websites For Your Career

Big, exciting news for No Joe Schmo this weekend! From a roster of roughly 700 different websites, NoJoeSchmo.com was selected as one of Forbes’ Top 75 Websites For Your Career. From Forbes.com:

No Joe Schmo delves behind the scenes of jobs you wish you had (like the roller coaster engineer), jobs that make you squirm (the alligator wrestler), and jobs you didn’t know existed (the dirty car window artist). The men and women who comprise the fabric of No Joe Schmo hail from local communities to mass markets. And while you probably wouldn’t recognize them on TV, their stories and career paths are just as inspirational, insightful, and worthwhile.

The list, which was assembled by Forbes writers Jacquelyn Smith and Susan Adams, is the first of its kind on Forbes.com; it was inspired by ForbesWoman’s list of Top 100 Websites For Women. The “comprehensive guide to smart and engaging sites” incudes a wide range of sites, including “blogs, job aggregators and boards, personal career coaching pages, and traditional media outlets’ career sites that could be useful to those in traditional 9 to 5 office jobs.”

No Joe Schmo launched about 16 months ago with an inaugural post about a hot, young, and single circus ringmaster. To date, the site has featured more than 90 individuals with cool, crazy jobs, including a Foodie Fridays series and tidbits of career advice.

A big thanks goes out to all No Joe Schmo’s loyal readers, interviewees, and interview coordinators. You can continue your support in several ways:

  • Suggest a No Joe Schmo: either a specific person or a cool job you heard about
  • “Like” the No Joe Schmo Facebook page for inside scoops, photos, and polls
  • Subscribe to No Joe Schmo and receive notifications of new posts right to your email inbox. Click the +Follow button that appears in the toolbar at the top of the site when you’re logged into WordPress.com.

Here’s to lots more #NoJoeSchmo love!

9 Rules For Creative Genius

Photo: uncyclopedia.wikia.com

As an art director at Sideshow Collectibles in Thousand Oaks, Calif., David Igo begins each morning with an inbox stuffed with freelancers’ artwork. Before noon, he sorts through about a dozen sketches from artists vying to work on projects for the retailer that manufactures collectible figures for various movie, film, and television properties, including Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.

The 29-and-a-half-year-old has learned quite a bit about finding success while still being able to laugh at himself. (“That’s how you can gauge my maturity – I add the ½ to my age,” Igo says.) He spews nuggets of wisdom throughout our talk: “If you love something, there’s some way to make it work. You must find joy in your job, not simply use it a means to an end.”

Yet this can be easier said than done. Below, Igo describes 9 ways to get your creative genius on.

1. Don’t be a lemming. In 2004, I went to Comic Con to shoot my portfolio around. There were all these big portfolio review lines, but I skipped them. I went straight up to booths and asked to speak with artists. Sometimes I hit gold and talked to one; other times, I was handed off to a public relations person. I passed out 30 copies of my portfolio that weekend. During the last hour of Comic Con on Sunday, when I’d pretty much given up all hope, one of the guys I had talked to approached me about a job as a concept artist.

2. Find creative balance. A lot of people burn out from being creative on the clock. I’ve worked my way into an art director’s position so that I’m working with amazing artists, but save my personal art energy for my own stuff.

3. Use disadvantages to your advantage. I’m color blind, so I focus more on pose and line art with my mechanical pencil and paper than full-blown paintings.

4. Don’t always feel the need to convey a “deeper meaning” with your product. I’m a huge product of 80s cartoons, like Transformers, G.I. Joe, Dragon Ball Z, and ThunderCats. They are ridiculous, fun, over-the-top stories and visuals. I try to have fun like that when I’m drawing.

5. You can’t make everyone happy. Sometimes, you need to make sacrifices and admit that your idea might not be the best. Don’t sit on your mistakes; find ways to make them better. That said, I try to make as many people as possible happy.

6. Know how and when to assert yourself. If someone screws you over, hold your ground – but not in a malicious way. People will trust and respect you more for it. You just have to put on your daddy pants sometimes.

7. Never say something aloud about someone you wouldn’t say to his or her face. Once, I was venting about one of my bosses, and it turned out he was right around the corner and overheard. But I had that motto in my head, so I wasn’t saying anything I wouldn’t have said to his face. I just wouldn’t have chosen to say those things to his face.

8. Be the guy (or girl) that people want to work with. When you approach someone, don’t make it all about you. Talk with others about what they do and show a genuine interest.

9. Constantly add to your portfolio. Keep improving: working hard and show progress. Then follow up: If there’s a company you really want to work for, you need to stay on its radar. I think there’s a happy medium between a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. Flexibility and dexterous skills will make you that much more valuable; advance with technology and always be on the lookout for what’s next.

More No Joe Schmo tips and advice: 5 rules for finding a job on Twitter and 7 LinkedIn tips for recent grads

Sample David’s artwork and art direction below. Find more of his on Sideshow Collectibles and his personal art site, Satellite Soda.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Foodie Friday: The Cheese Makers

At Edgwick Farm, Talitha Thurau and her business partner Dan Jones sell eight different types of goat’s milk cheeses, plus a few seasonal ones.

Talitha Thurau was raised on one of the first certified organic farms in Massachusetts, where her stepfather tore out the family’s oil heater so they could learn to cook on a wood stove. As a teenager, she milked goats before hauling off to homeroom. After graduating from high school, she couldn’t wait to escape farm life, and traveled far, far away, becoming a lawyer in Brooklyn, N.Y.

About 10 years later, after having children, Talitha rediscovered her roots. She moved upstate to Cornwall, N.Y., where she shares nine acres of land with 50 goats, 60 chickens, 14 ducks, four dogs, and three cats. Last year, the seasoned farmer received a commercial license for Edgwick Farm with partner Dan Jones, and now spends just as many hours making and selling cheese as she did practicing law.

“I took my childhood on the farm for granted,” she says. “Now, so do my kids. People go crazy over our cheese, and my sons say, Mom, what’s wrong with these people? We eat this every day!’”

Age: 48
Graduated from: The New School, B.A. in liberal arts; CUNY School of Law
Based in: Cornwall, N.Y.

What guided your path from law school to cheese? After graduating from CUNY Law, I moved to Park Slope [in Brooklyn, N.Y.] and practiced law for 10 years. Then, I had kids and wanted to go back to my roots. I wanted my kids to eat right and live right, just like I had. My [now] ex-husband and I drew a big line around New York City and settled in Cornwall, about 55 miles away. We got goats and I made cheese when I had too much milk.

“[These girls] are challenging and beautiful,” reads the caption to this photo on Edgwick Farm’s Facebook page. Udderly challenging and beautiful, that is.

The process: We milk 40 of our 50 goats twice each day, pasteurize the milk, and then hang and drain it. Once you get all the whey out, you can make whatever cheese you want. But you can’t just follow a recipe; you need to look at how the milk behaves, based on the weather and the goat’s diet. I use pH strips for milk coagulation tests. Each batch of cheese is different.

That’s a lot of goats. Do you have help? Over the summer, we had a bunch of college students working as milkmaids. But I like getting in there, feeling the milk and curds, seeing what my girls are producing.

How do you differentiate yourselves from dozens of other cheese makers in upstate New York? We have the minerals from the soil and water of the Hudson Valley, which makes a big difference. Our milk is always fresh; it gets made into cheese within 24 to 48 hours. Great milk makes great cheese. Plus, our community is Cornwall is incredibly supportive.

How did you meet Dan Jones, your business partner at Edgwick Farm? He was a family friend in Cornwall, and we both went through divorces. In 2006, we took a training class to figure out whether cheese making was a viable business. It took five years to build the infrastructure of our business.

Dan says: I was Talitha’s backup milker when she went on vacation in 2003, and she kept me on after that. She began serving her cheese at barbecues and parties, and people raved about it, so I suggested going full-time together. We got a $120,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which gave us a leg up.

Talitha and Dan store all the cheese in a “cave,” or make room, which is a 6’ x 6’ walk-in cooler set at a certain humidity.

Your most popular cheese: Chèvre, which is the basic spreadable goat cheese. We marinate it in olive oil, Herbs de Provence, and freshly diced garlic for 10 to 15 days.

At this point in our conversation, Talitha tells me to hold. Chickens cluck in the background. “What are you throwing at the chickens?” she yells to Dan. Then she returns, apologizing.

Your favorite cheese: Sackett Ridge hard cheese. It’s a cheddar recipe that takes a few days of pressing and drying and six months of aging. It’s a sweet, mild golden wheel that sharpens over time.

How do you name your cheeses? Artisan cheese makers name their cheeses after local landmarks. Sackett Ridge is a landmark we can see from our farm.

Best part of your job: When baby goats are born. There’s nothing like it – it’s so joyous.

Most challenging part of your job: Where you have joyous birth, you’ll always have death, which is heartbreaking and difficult. Recently, we had a fox come through the farm and take a mother hen. Her chick has been walking around calling for her. I still cry whenever an animal dies.

Amount of cheese sold this year: About 20,000 pieces, which I hope to be 28,000 by December. I label each one by hand.

What does success look like for you? Feeding our neighbors in the Hudson Valley. Dan and I don’t want to be rich and famous; we just want enough money to feed our goats and make the most fantastic cheese possible.

Best autumn recipe using cheese: Bruschetta. Cover toasted bread with marinated Canterbury cheese and gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, and then marinate it.

On the agenda for this year: We’d like to teach people how to make cheese in their kitchens and how to have backyard goats. You need at least two goats; they’re herd animals that would be miserable alone. We also want to have backyard chicken-raising contests.

Your favorite cooking show: Oh, we don’t have a TV. We do read the New York Times every day, though. And we’re connected to many chefs in the Hudson Valley.

Do your children appreciate farm life in the way you wish you had? Between Dan and I, we have five teenagers. This is something they’ve always known, so they want to have their own lives. We have to give them that opportunity.

LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
1. Connect with those who make cheese or enroll in classes. Take a look at Peter Dixon’s website and the Cheese Forum.

2. To make cheese in your kitchen, put two or three gallons of milk into a double boiler. No animals or bread-making in the kitchen, though. Yeast and other living critters will cross-contaminate it.

3. Most importantly, get good milk; that’s where it all starts. Raw milk is the best milk to make cheese with in your kitchen.

More information about Edgwick Farm is available on its blog and Facebook page. All photos and video courtesy of Edgwick Farm.

NEXT: Meet more Foodie Fridays, like the submarine chef and the food chemist.