The last time Robert John Burck was in Chicago, he was almost arrested. In January, he was in town to do a radio interview, and as soon as he walked into the building, he told RedEye, “security was throwing me out. I’m like, I’m supposed to be here! I came walking in in my underwear. I actually think I had a mink coat on, so I was even covered up.”
The Naked Cowboy—a street performer who plays guitar in his underwear, a cowboy hat, and boots—is used to having to explain himself. He’s been arrested 49 times. Although he is now a fixture in New York City’s Times Square and he makes appearances around the world, including in several advertising campaigns, he once had to create his own word of mouth, he said. While touring around the country, “I’d just find busiest part of the city. I’d call the police and news on myself, and it worked out a lot of times; sometimes it didn’t. I was in a paddy wagon one time here—police actually came and arrested me. They put me in one of those big trucks where the seatbelt comes down in the back.”
Burck was in Chicago on Wednesday on a media tour, promoting Blue Island Shellfish Farms’s Naked Cowboy Oysters. Harvested in New York’s Long Island Sound and distributed around Chicago by Fortune Fish Company, the oysters appear in shops and restaurants including Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop, Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, Moto, and the Bedford in Wicker Park. Burck performed and posed up and down Michigan Avenue and even stopped into the Apple store — until they kicked him out.
It was cold that day, about 40 degrees, and the hour-and-a-half on Michigan Avenue wore on him. Thankfully, his evening jaunt at the Bedford was indoors, serenading customers while they enjoyed a special prix-fixe menu featuring Naked Cowboy oyster shooters and oyster po’boys.
The Bedford typically offers a Tuesday night special featuring half-off oysters and switching up the options every week. “Naked Cowboys are delicious,” said Bedford mixologist Pete Gugni, who calls himself a huge oyster fan. “They’re kind of creamy and plump; they have a nice little brine to them.”
But while Gugni knows a fair amount about oysters, he obviously doesn’t keep up on his New York City street-performer trivia: “I wasn’t aware there was an actual Naked Cowboy that came along with the oysters.”
For more information on the Naked Cowboy, click here.
To see more photos of the Naked Cowboy in Chicago, click here.