The Naked Cowboy, famous for performing with his guitar in New York’s Times Square, is refusing to leave despite the coronavirus outbreak.
Although now adding a face mask to his outfit of hat, boots and white pants, Robert Burck, 49, insists it will take more than a global pandemic to stop him from entertaining crowds, even if they are smaller in lockdown.
Speaking to Rolling Stone magazine, he said: “I haven’t missed one day in 20 years, six months and 28 days – unless I was travelling to be the Naked Cowboy in another city where the opportunity was bigger.
“My decision to stay in Times Square during corona is no different than going out there every single day when it’s 19 degrees or there’s a blizzard or a rainstorm or a heatwave – doesn’t matter.”
New York has become the epicentre of the outbreak in the US, with almost 11,500 people dying with the virus – 40% of all deaths in the country.
On Thursday, New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, claimed they had now “controlled the beast”, after reporting a drop in the daily number of deaths state-wide, and the overall count of people in hospital.
However, on Friday, he said deaths in the state had risen by 630 – a small increase from the previous 24-hour figure of 606.
He also told his daily news briefing that he needed federal help to ramp up testing for the virus and to reopen his economy, and appeared to take a swipe at Donald Trump’s administration.
He said: “Is there any funding so I can do these things that you want us to do?
“No. That is passing the buck, without passing the bucks.”
On Friday night, new rules requiring New Yorkers to wear face masks in public come into force, as the state prepares to remain in lockdown until at least 15 May to stop the spread of the disease.
President Trump told his daily news conference on Thursday that restrictions could be eased to allow businesses to reopen over the next several weeks, in places that have extensive testing and a marked decrease in cases.
“We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” he said.
The Naked Cowboy, an avid Trump supporter, claims it used to take him more than an hour to travel to Times Square from his home in Queens. In lockdown it takes 13 minutes.
He says he still sees thousands of people each day, and that having come into contact with so many people over the years, he believes that he “couldn’t get sick if I tried”.
“Good timber doesn’t grow with ease, the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees,” he told Rolling Stone.
“What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.
“Life is strongest on the coral reef, where it’s most dangerous. Nietzsche said, ‘Build your cities on the slopes of the Vesuvius.'”
Although he hopes New York City reopens soon, he says he has noticed some positive changes.
“I’ve never seen the city so clean, it looks like Texas,” he said.
“I feel like the world got a spring cleaning.”