Time Square busker The Naked Cowboy is suing CBS and Bell-Phillip Television, claiming that they’ve rustled off with his brand on the soap-opera The Bold and the Beautiful and are ruining his reputation, according to court papers.
The cowboy, Robert John Burck, 40, who protects his brand like the cavalry defending a wagon train from Apaches, says that “Oliver,” a reoccurring character on the soap, dresses in briefs, a cowboy hat and acoustic guitar—Burck’s trademark uniform—and is depicted as a “fool” and acts in a “drunken and sexually charged manner,” according to the suit.
CBS and Bell went further and purchased the Google and YouTube ad words “The Naked Cowboy” in order to promote its version of the singing buckaroo, according to Todd Rubenstein, Burck’s lawyer.
“It’s a blatant disregard for Mr. Burck’s brand, which he has worked very hard on for the last 13 years come rain, sleet or snow,” said Rubenstein.
Rubenstein said that he reached out to CBS and Bell to settle the case, requesting the network and the production studio pay $150,000, or 10 percent of the ad revenue sold for the two “cowboy” episodes. The network refused.
The resulting damages to The Naked Cowboy brand, Rubenstein says, entitles the performer to the total ad revenue for the show—$1.5 million.
The soap refused to comment on the litigation.
This is not the first legal gunfight that the Cowboy has started. He sued Mars Inc. in 2008 for $6 million after an ad depicting M&Ms in a cowboy hat and underwear appeared in Times Square. That case has been settled for an undisclosed amount of money. Last year, he sued the Naked Cowgirl, Sandra Brodsky, charging that she was devaluing his brand with a less than wholesome act. Brodsky had been photographed flipping off tourists. She also allegedly refused to pay him a franchise fee. That suit is in settlement talks, according to Rubenstein.
Burck, who briefly ran for mayor of New York City in 2009, is more recognized than the Statue of Liberty, he claims in the lawsuit.
Burck has expanded his act from singing and greeting tourists at the Crossroads to the World to product promotion. In addition to hats and T-shirts, Burck has lent his image to shellfish, promoting Naked Cowboy Oysters throughout New York City.