He Takes Fans To The Scenes Of The TV Gang's Actual Misadventures

By Steve Veale, Special To The Star, © The Toronto Star, June 29, 1996

NEW YORK - Yes, Newman, there really is a Kramer. Kenny Kramer, that is. And he is alive and well and living in New York City.

That other Kramer (Cosmo), actually actor Michael Richards ("a brilliant physical comedian," says Kenny), lives in California, where NBC produces Seinfeld, the phenomenally popular television sitcom.

But this is the "real" Kramer who is just now starting to show people the origins for the TV comedy based on the real-life antics of Kenny and his friend Larry. That is Larry as in Larry David, the co-creator and head writer of Seinfeld.

The "Kramer Reality Tour," at $37.50 U.S. per person, is a must for anyone who watches the show. In fact, whether you're a rabid fan or occasional viewer, this is likely the most fun you'll ever have on any three-hour tour.

Every Saturday and Sunday, at noon and 4 p.m., a small group gathers at the John Houseman Theater on 450 West 42nd St. (and 10th) where Kenny and his buddy Bobby Allen Brooks introduces you to the background of Larry, Kenny, various unnamed friends and their years of fun-filled "nothing" that spawned TV's Seinfeld.

The characters simply mirror the lives and antics of Kenny and Larry, who lived next door to each other for many years - as do television's Kramer and Jerry.

Affectionately described by Kenny as a "total; neurotic," Larry David was asked by Jerry Seinfeld to help create the sitcom because he felt Larry's comedic talents would supply "the weird edge" that the show required.

It is an edge that has become even sharper and more darkly comic over the past eight top-of-the-ratings seasons.

In fact, to demonstrate how perceptively neurotic he is, Larry David actually wrote himself into the cast as the self-absorbed neurotic George Costanza - and who in his right mind would admit to being George? (Actually, both Kenny and Larry bear a striking resemblance to their TV personas - except Kenny sports long flowing hair, not the electric shock look of the TV Kramer.)

Larry and Kenny still talk a couple of times each week so the writer can keep in touch with his New York roots and discuss those memories that appear weekly in the show.

After a very funny warm-up session, with background stories by Kenny and a 1984 video tape of Larry David performing a monologue for comedy host Richard Belzer (where you will first hear the famous line "You think you can just treat your body like an amusement park" that will later resurface on a classic - perhaps the classic - Seinfeld show), the happy crowd fills the new 26-seater bus for a tour of Seinfeld sites.

Kenny takes you to the scenes of the actual misadventures - these are the show's recognizable exterior shots taken by a camera crew then meshed with the interior California studio tapings. You are even welcomed aboard with a video message from (Hizzoner) NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

"See right here?" points out Kenny. "Joe's Fruits? That's where the TV Kramer was banned for trying to return some plums. It is also the same market that Larry was expelled from for squeezing the fruit. Yup, he and Joe the owner had a big shouting match right on the street."

Then there is the Manhattan Plaza Racquet Club, where Elaine lent and lost a borrowed racquet to a book editor she was trying to impress; the West side YMCA where Jerry met the Mets' Keith Hernandez; the lot at 11th and 45th where George finally found a parking space - and Kramer was arrested on pimping charges.

And Champagne Video where George first met Susan; the Sony Theaters where they all seem to meet for various movie misadventures - be it spilling mustard or winning coffee for life - and who could forget the Roosevelt Hospital, where Baby Seven was born, where Kramer met the "pig-faced man," where Elaine had her rabies shot and, perhaps one of the funniest shows, when Kramer popped the Junior Mint into a patient on the operating table. (Kenny also hands out Junior Mints to all his passengers.)

The best is yet to come, however; a stop at the show's most famous landmark on the corner of Broadway and 112th St. - "Tom's Restaurant," the TV gang's favorite meeting spot. Though in the series you see only the exterior sign reading Restaurant - the word Tom's is off camera - every Seinfeld aficionado knows this is 'Tom's," which is really run by a guy named Pete (Panagiotis Papaharalambous), known in the show as Monk. The interior is all Hollywood studio, although the real Tom's serves up great coffee and burgers. And, of course, a salad for Kramer.

For the best food, though, wait for the next stop - the Soup Nazi's Kitchen. Oh yes, it does exist. A little hole in the wall at 55th and 8th, filled with huge four-foot high gleaming soup pots, and run by - just like his TV counterpart - the very unfriendly, unsmiling (and proud of it) Al "The Soup Guy."

He does, however, make terrific soup - the Portobello mushroom I had was thick, rich and tangy - but then for $6 U.S. for a small coffee cup size, it had better be. You can also get fruit and a roll if you know the proper way of ordering from Al; for the secret, however, you will have to ask Kramer.

Then, finally, back to Kenny's apartment complex at the Manhattan Plaza - a subsidized project for those in the performing arts - for some Kramer special vegetarian pizza, a Snickers bar and Coke at the Cafe Saint Francis, where the tour ends with a video of some fabulously funny Seinfeld outtakes.

These are just a few of the highlights of the tour but nothing can adequately describe the fun you will have and the stories you will hear with Kenny and buddy Bobby on the "Kramer Reality Tour." The next time you are headed for the Big Apple, book this tour in advance. Actually, book the tour first before it gets filled and then plan your trip to New York.

After all, there is only one real Kramer and one really terrific Kramer Reality tour.