You win some, you lose some. Less than a month after successfully defeating a motion to dismiss his trademark lawsuit against the maker of M&Ms, New York’s "Naked Cowboy" Robert Burck was arrested in San Francisco when he tried to perform his somehow-trademarkable act in Union Square.
Burck apparently brought his business into the city hoping to make a few extra bucks during a trip to the Bay Area. Although they have certainly seen a lot worse than a semi-naked cowboy in this town, police said they arrested Burck for trying to play Union Square without a permit. "He was standing on the southwest steps wearing only a cowboy hat and underwear," said Sgt. Neville Gittens, who seemed to think there was something unusual about that. "The officer warned him numerous times to desist playing and told him if he continued to play, he would be arrested. He said, ‘Go ahead and arrest me.’"
"I was probably getting in his face," Burck admitted later as he was waiting for a plane home. He had beat the rap, supposedly, because the arresting officer had written the wrong code on the ticket, invalidating it. Burck seemed to still be irritated about his reception by the SFPD, saying they did not take him seriously from the minute he walked into the courthouse wearing only a mink coat and underwear. "They were saying, ‘Hey, you arrested the Naked Cowboy,’ and laughing and ridiculing and goofing off," Burck complained. The nerve! To mock the Naked Cowboy!
Burck’s arrest can only be explained as an example of the SFPD being overprotective of tourists, since San Francisco has openly tolerated more than a few events where people who are fully naked are allowed to run around freely (no pun intended). For example, an assortment of the nude can always be seen, whether you want to see them or not (you generally don’t), participating in the "Bay to Breakers" road race every year. One year my eyes were thoroughly seared by an overweight gentleman wearing only running shoes, a backpack, and a "Jack in the Box" head.
That was pretty funny at first, until it became clear that Jack was so drunk he could not stay upright and that he would soon be found in the gutter, probably throwing up into his costume head.
Actually, it was still pretty funny.
The San Francisco Examiner reported that the Cowboy had been in town with his girlfriend, who had come to California to attend a belly-dancing seminar in the East Bay.