Robert John Burck (born December 23, 1970), better known as the Naked Cowboy, is an American street performer whose pitch is on New York City's Times Square. He wears only cowboy boots, a hat, and briefs, with a guitar strategically placed to give the illusion of nudity.
Burck was born in Cincinnati and attended Our Lady of the Rosary elementary school in nearby Greenhills, Ohio. He later earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati. He began busking in December 1997 and first appeared on Venice Beach, Los Angeles.
He is currently best known as a fixture of Times Square in New York City. He made an appearance on January 25, 2009 where he performed at a Leinster Rugby game in Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland, singing his theme song "I'm the Naked Cowboy" before 18,000 spectators. In May 2014, Burck switched from his usual briefs to boxer briefs, after being sponsored by Fruit of the Loom.
Burck has made appearances in three music videos, including Cake's "Short Skirt/Long Jacket", Tyler Hilton's "When It Comes", and Nickelback's "Rockstar". In 2007, Burck released an album of his own, signing to 4Sight Music Productions and recording the pop-rock album "Year of the Cowboy" produced by Lee Evans and producer Dante Lattanzi at JAMBOX Recording Studios in New York City. The album was featured on MTV News.
On July 20, 2009, it was announced that Burck would challenge Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the 2009 election for Mayor of New York City. At his announcement, Burck stated, "No one knows how to do more with less than yours truly, and that's the kind of thinking I plan on sharing with my fellow New Yorkers when you elect me." In response, Jonny Porkpie, the self-proclaimed "burlesque Mayor of NYC" announced that he would run against him, echoing Lloyd Bentsen during a campaign announcement that critiqued Burck's "man-panties". "I know naked. Some of my best friends are naked. And you, sir, are not naked."
On September 5, 2009, Burck withdrew from the race. On September 29, 2010, he announced his intentions to challenge President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. At his announcement, Burck stated that he has a "very conservative policy" and that he had an "unapologetic commitment to our borders, our language and our culture", borrowing a well-known catchphrase of radio host Michael Savage. He changed his appearance by wearing a dress suit and had his hair cut.
On October 6, 2010, Burck officially declared his presidential candidacy at a press conference in Times Square. He stated that he was neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but rather "an American" and that he intends to lead the U.S. Tea Party movement into the Oval Office.
Infringement lawsuits filed
Mars Incorporated created a short animation of the Blue M&M's character playing a guitar while dressed in a white cowboy hat, cowboy boots and underpants on the electronic animation display that hangs outside the M&M'S store at Times Square. Burck, who owns registered trademarks to the Naked Cowboy name and likeness, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Mars Incorporated on February 15, 2008.
Burck alleged that the ads infringe on his trademark by "using his likeness, persona, and image for commercial purposes without his written permission and by falsely suggesting that he endorses M&M's candy." The Cowboy’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, requests an injunction stopping Mars from using the Naked Cowboy's likeness to advertise M&M’s products, up to $100 million in punitive damages, and attorney's fees. On June 23, 2008, the court issued a decision that dismissed a portion of the suit relying on New York law but rejected a motion by the defendants to dismiss the trademark claims. In a filing dated November 7, 2008, both Mars Incorporated and Burck agreed and stipulated that the action be dismissed with prejudice, with each party bearing its own costs and attorney's fees. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Burck filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against CBS in February 2011, saying the network's use of a 'Naked Cowboy'-like figure in an ad for a television show demeaned his image with its "drunk and sexually charged" portrayal.
On February 15, 2013, Burck married Patricia Cruz, a woman from Mexico City who was aged 25 at the time. Cruz, a professional belly dancer and group fitness instructor, is also the official Naked Cowgirl.