Real Kramer 'basks in fame'
By DEBRA SCOTT
I sleep about three or four hours and get up when I get up -- but
never after 6:30.
Since I've been famous -- which has only been a little over a year
-- I get up eagerly because I look forward to getting my e-mail.
Nobody bothered to send it before I caught the public's eye.
My whole life changed on Jan. 18, 1996, when I became famous
overnight. The Times did a piece on me -- Metro section, B1, above
I wasn't media-savvy and said to my partner Bobby, "Yeah, it's
that great." Then the phone started ringing off the hook. When
people discovered there was a real Kramer, it was a media frenzy.
My only regret is that I didn't have a 900 number. The next day,
people recognized me in the street.
IN the beginning it was weird because people were yelling, "Hey,
Kenny." And I'd turn around expecting to see someone I knew.
I'm the first to admit that only in America could a guy like me
gain such celebrity. When I was 6 years old I used to practice my
autograph. I gave up on it for years. Then this fluke happened
that I happened to live across the hall from a guy like Larry ,
who modeled a character in a sitcom after me.
It takes a guy like Kramer to shamelessly milk it for all it's
worth. What's amazing is that the public really wants me to
I'm very big on fruit in the morning. I try to lead a vegetarian
lifestyle -- with the exception of Cuban-Chinese deep-fried pork
chops. I eat a lot of fake meats. Morningstar Farms has a fake
bacon that tastes so real you can fake yourself out.
Stress is something I've never had. I set up a stress-free life
where I never do anything I don't enjoy -- work particularly. I
don't consider what I'm doing "work," which is something
to get money so that they can buy leisure time. I always stress
the importance of leisure, and most of the time I enjoy myself.
Even the building where I live, Manhattan Plaza, is like a country
club in the middle of Manhattan.
IF you find something you love doing, you've got it made. It was
like that for a few years when I did standup comedy, which was a
dream I'd had since I saw Milton Berle on TV.
When I was 14 -- I went to the High School of Performing Arts -- I
was hired as a musician in a Catskills resort. Of course I lied
and told them I was 18. It was the only way to get a job where
liquor was served. One day a comedian did this show and I found
out he made $750 for the night -- more than I made for the whole
summer. I figured then that I was in the wrong business. Still, it
took me till I was 26 to get the nerve to do it.
Back then -- in the '60s -- comedians were telling jokes about
cruise ships and in-laws. So I started talking about what really
mattered: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. At that time there was
probably only one comedy club in the world, the Improv. Then the
comedy boom hit. By the mid-'80s there were almost 600.
Trouble is, I missed the wave. Just as America was embracing
standup, I was getting rich with my scheme for electronic jewelry
that lit up. It was during the disco craze and I sold a zillion of
the suckers all over the world. I had concessions at Xenon and the
Ritz. That's when I outpriced myself from the comedy market by
telling agents that to match what I was making, I couldn't work
for less than $2,500 a night.
I get 20 or 30 e-mails a day from Australia. I'm hugely popular
there. "Seinfeld" may be the No. 1 TV comedy in America,
even bigger Down Under. It's on prime time five nights a week, and
on Thursday they air the new episode, making it a double
"Seinfeld" that night.
When they found out there was a real Kramer, they went berserk.
Something about my humor and their sensibility clicked. Every week
I'm on the cover of something else there. I'm going there this
spring to do a show called "The World of "Seinfeld' According
BACK before Larry got rich and moved to Hollywood, he lived across
the hall from me at Manhattan Plaza. I was always going across the
hall with schemes and Larry was always thinking, "This could be
Larry is really good at dissecting people. He encapsulated a lot
of my spirit into that character: my carefree attitude, my
singlehood and proclivity for dating, my entrepreneurial side, my
golf game and my work ethic (none).
When Michael Richards got the part of Kramer, he made no effort to
contact me or research me because he wanted to create his own
character. It was Michael who added that whole dimension of
physicality to the part.
If I'd been cast to play Kramer -- which I wanted to be -- it
would never have been a hit. My idea was to talk it and have
off-the-wall ideas. It's his schtick that keeps the lower common
denominator tuning in. It's only the higher-level audience that
gets the jokes about John Cheever. But it doesn't take a rocket
scientist to know it's funny when someone stumbles into a room.
Did you know the Kramer poster outsells posters of the other
characters 14 to 1?
WHEN I first started my tour I needed publicity. It was at the
time the "Soup Nazi" episode was about to go into syndication.
I decided to create a media event by painting a sign on the side
of the building next to the Soup Kitchen International, the
real-life inspiration for the "Soup Nazi" installment. I
a public service by putting up a list of his rules on the proper
method for ordering soup: "Step to the left in six seconds. Have
the money in hand. Don't ask what's good."
Then when I went to unveil the sign, it's entirely covered by red
paint and there's this trail of red footprints leading from the
scene of the crime directly into the soup kitchen.
It was like the pathway on Bundy Drive. Here he is thinking he's
avoiding publicity and instead it backfired and he got even more.
The headlines read: "Kramer at War with Soup Nazi." I loved
the media slut I've become. He took great umbrage at the "N"
So I said let's call it like it is. He's the Soup Rat Bastard.
After answering my e-mail, maybe I'll go for a swim. Then the
phones start ringing. I have an assistant who comes in between 9
and 10. My day is filled with seeking attention by any legal means
possible, as Larry would say.
For dinner I'll often go to the Cafe St. Francis in my building on
West 43rd Street, a moderately priced jewel where I'll have salmon
in paper with white wine sauce. I go to the theater a lot, too.
And I try to go to concerts. I just saw Eliot Feld at the Joyce
Theater. He's wonderful. I also go to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln
Center and S.O.B.'s. I love Latin dancing.
Now that the weather's warming up, I'll play a lot of golf at my
practice green at the Chelsea Piers or on public courses around
the city, including Van Cortland, which was a site made famous on
I get back on the computer again late at night where I work on my
website (http:www.bway.netkramer). And of course I watch the show.
I've seen every one except for this season when I've missed two.
I'll eventually catch up.
In the meantime I'm basking in fame. I haven't found the downside
yet. I see these celebrities who want to punch out photographers
and I think, "Are they out of their minds?" They want to
picture, I let them.
Copyright ©1997, N.Y.P. Holdings Inc.