The guy who inspired Seinfeld's Kramer character wants to be a whole lot more than the master of his own domain. He's running for mayor of New York.
Before you completely laugh off Kenny Kramer, I have two words for you: Jesse Ventura.
"I've been inspired," Kramer told The Wolf Files Monday at Yankee Stadium, where he was spreading the word about his run for office as the Libertarian candidate. "If a wrestler can become governor of Minnesota, why can't I become mayor of New York?"
Indeed, New Yorkers will most certainly have the "Kramer option" when they step into the voting booth. At a statewide convention in April, Kramer won the Libertarian nod by a 20-to-5 margin, running against "None of the Above."
"I'm glad I pulled it out," says Kramer. "Imagine if I lost and had to call up 'None of the Above' to make a concession speech?"
Living Off Electric Disco Jewelry
Up to now, Kenny Kramer's celebrity was largely based on living next door to Seinfeld co-creator Larry David in New York's Hell's Kitchen. It was there that David and Jerry Seinfeld conceived of the blockbuster sitcom.
Kramer bears more than a slight resemblance to his TV alter ego — the bumbling slacker who glides through life without a job, free to chase his various obsessions — whether it be building a Jacuzzi in his bedroom or writing a coffee table book about coffee tables.
The real Kramer is a 58-year-old Bronx native who has supported himself at points as a purveyor of glow-in-the-dark disco jewelry, a voice-over artist for X-rated CD-ROMs, and a standup comic.
"That electric jewelry lasted years after disco died. I built a little nest egg there," Kramer says. "Unlike the TV Kramer, my harebrained schemes work."
With great presence of mind, Kramer trademarked his name. While he didn't make a dime off the show, he makes a living marketing himself. He's got books, T-shirts — and a "reality" bus tour through Seinfeld's New York. If you must see the cranky chef better known to TV viewers as "The Soup Nazi," Kramer is your man.
‘Why Shouldn’t I Live Off My Name?’
"I make a good living off this. And I don't work hard," he says. "Why shouldn't I live off my name? Isn't that the American way?"
But is it enough to become mayor?
With the Yankees frittering away an early six-run lead, fans in the upper deck grew frustrated with the home team and began chanting, "Kray-mer! Kray-mer! Kray-mer!" The would-be mayor nodded approvingly and munched popcorn.
Kramer will have to put that popularity to the test in early July, when Libertarians must collect 7,500 signatures to secure his name on the ballot. The next step might be a little harder — raising $250,000 from New Yorkers in order to qualify for matching funds.
Libertarians think they're backing the right horse. "We've elected many amateur comedians as mayor of New York," says the party's New York chairman, Richard Cooper. "Why not finally have a professional?"
Certainly New Yorkers has seen other celebrities and fringe characters run for office. Al Lewis, better known as "Grandpa" from The Munsters, has run for governor on the Green Party ticket. Howard Stern also threw his hat in the ring, on the 1994 Libertarian lineup.
Stern dropped out after he was pressed to release his tax returns. Kramer will do a much better job, one of his Libertarian colleagues says: "He's for real. He believes in what he's doing."
Libertarians are saying that political guru Doug Friedline, Minnesota Gov. Ventura's campaign manager, is already advising the candidate.
Kramer's already got more recognition than any of the Democratic challengers, and he's even earned a degree of respect from current Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who thinks enough of Kramer to offer a videotaped greeting on his reality tour.
Term limits bar Giuliani from running again.
The Candidate Who Inhaled — Deeply
But what are the Kramer's positions? And how do they jibe with the free-market ideal of libertarianism?
The gap isn't as wide as you'd think. Kramer's hippie roots certainly applaud the Libertarian plan to decriminalize drugs. As you'd imagine, this candidate would never deny inhaling. "In my day, I collected enough marijuana seeds to fill a beanbag chair," he says.
These days, he's sworn off drugs. "That's a personal decision," he says. "You should have a right to make that decision."
He's pro-abortion rights, anti-death penalty, and supports education vouchers.
Libertarians, of course, oppose price controls and government intervention. That might be hard for some New Yorkers, who, like Kramer, have rent-stabilized apartments.
Kramer says he pays only about $1,700 for his two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. That's a steal in midtown Manhattan, and certainly something he wouldn't enjoy if the libertarians scrapped the city's Rent Stabilization Law.
"That's a law that's not in the mayor's hands," says Kramer. "So I'm not going to take a position on it."
But Kramer's slacker reputation might suit the Libertarian ideal. After all, he'll reduce the size of government, if only by not working that hard. In fact, a Kramer administration might return New York to its colonial roots, when holding office was a part-time job for gentleman farmers.
"If elected," he says, "the first thing I plan to do is put my feet up on the desk, light up a cigar, and laugh my ass off."
Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.