It's war! Real-life Kramer vs. the Soup Nazi
BY LARRY McSHANE
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
DATE: NOVEMBER 14TH 1996
NEW YORK (AP) - The line between TV and reality has grown blurrier on West 55th Street, where the real-life Kramer and inspiration for the "Soup Nazi" are locked in a "Seinfeld"-ian feud.
The combatants: Kenny Kramer, the former neighbor of "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David, and Al Yeganeh, the model for a sharp-tongued soup chef in a classic "Seinfeld" episode.
Kramer planned to unveil a sign that a). offered etiquette tips for customers at Yeganeh's "Soup Kitchen International" and b). shamelessly promoted the K-man's weekly "Seinfeld" tours of New York. Kramer rented space on an adjoining building for the 5-by-2-foot sign.
"Do not ask what's good" the sign advised potential diners. "Do not ask about the weather. do not ask about Seinfeld. Do not ask about economic problems in the Third World. What else shouldn't you ask about?
This did not amuse the notoriously brusque Yeganeh, who demands as much from his customers as he does from his soups - mouth-watering pints of shrimp bisque or mulligatawny. Customers who bother Yeganeh are likely to hear his trademark bark: "No soup for you!"
When Kramer arrived on 55th Street early Thursday, his black and white sign was obscured by a coat of red paint. Crimson droplets stretched from the sidewalk below the sign to the front of Yeganeh's store, where they abruptly stopped.
This did amuse Kramer, a 52-year-old Manhattanite with more than a passing resemblance to Michael Richards' surname-sharing character.
"Look at this!" he shouted, pointing at the paint. "It's like the driveway at Bundy!" (An O.J. simpson allusion).
Was Kramer convinced that Yeganeh was responsible? Yes, said Kramer, a once-a-week regular in the soup line.
Yeganeh has earned a devoted following at his tiny shop, but he is bothered by the "Seinfeld"-driven publicity - particularly the attachment of the word "Nazi" to his business. When Jerry Seinfeld came to the shop and apologized this summer, Yeganeh cursed him.
The soupmeister, after opening his doors at noon, was no kinder when asked if he was behind the anti-Kramer vandalism.
"How long are you waiting?" he asked the first woman in the line.
"Forty minutes" she replied
"So, should I take care of the customer or do interview?" Yeganeh snapped, his voice rising.
A chastened TV reporter allowed that the customer should come first.
"Get out of here, then!" Yeganeh shot back, his ladle scooping out the first soup of the day.
The customers - there were more than 50 queued up amid snow flurries and temperatures in the mid-30's - seemed amused by the spectacle. At least one was amazed that Yeganeh was annoyed.
"I would take this any day" said Rich Singer, 33, of Wyckoff, N.J., who spoke at the risk of losing his soup. "Do you know what kind of business publicity like this brings?"