KRAMER'S REALITY TOUR OF NYC'S UPPER WEST SIDE
for “Seinfeld” lovers
article by Carole Terwilliger Meyers
This article won Honorable Mention in a Society of American Travel Wrtiters Western Chapter awards competition.
To celebrate a high-numbered wedding anniversary, which here will remain unnamed, my husband and I planned a visit to New York City. And, being “Seinfeld” freaks, to make it really special we decided to do something, instead of nothing, and signed up for “Kramer’s Reality Tour.”
When I called to make the reservation, I got Kenny Kramer himself, who by now everyone must know is the real Kramer who the TV Kramer is modeled after. He informed me that the tour was booked up but he could squeeze me in if I was willing to sit on my husband’s lap during the bus tour. He thought it an appropriate concession considering it was our anniversary. He went on to ask how many years we’d been married and was amazed at my reply, wanting to know how we managed it. Then he asked about our children, their ages, what they do, and more. I felt like I was talking to a friend. From the phone call until the trip, I told everyone about who I had personally talked to. Even my kids were impressed.
On the big day we and many other very excited “Seinfeld” fans gathered at the tiny Pulse Theater on West 42nd Street. We milled around for a while, then took our seats and were entertained by a stand-in stand-up comedian, who warmed us up with jokes and introduced us to Kenny Kramer on a videotape. Kenny rattled off congratulations to the various anniversary and birthday celebrants and then, to our delight, the big guy appeared in person. He did some stand-up himself, then explained the logistics of the bus tour, breaking for photographs, autographs, and a last-chance-for-the-bathroom.
During the bus tour of New York City’s “Seinfeld” sites, Kenny delivers a mesmerizing motor-mouth monologue of quips and behind-the-scenes anecdotes. “I lucked ass-backward into this career,” he says. “This tour is the longest I’ve done anything in my life.”
Kenny always wanted to be famous, and now finds he is famous not for his own talent but because he lived across the hall from someone who became famous--Larry David, co-creator of “Seinfeld” and the person after whom the TV character George Costanza was modeled. And with his “Reality Tour” he’s busy milking that association for all it’s worth. (There is a “Seinfeld” episode that pokes fun at his tour.)
Kenny has a lot to say about nothing. About Jerry Seinfeld: “His act is so clean it’s like a giant antibiotic. Which is not to say that his show hasn’t been funny.” About Larry David: “He is full of angst. He has every neurosis known to man. And he was always visiting me and taking my food.” Yada, yada, yada.
Along with more inside scoops on the “Seinfeld” characters, highlights of the bus tour include munching on refreshing Junior Mints while passing by Roosevelt Hospital (where in an episode one of those very same kind of candies wound up sewn into someone’s operation), seeing The Regency movie theatre (where Jerry was busted for making out during “Schindler’s List”), stopping at famous Tom’s restaurant for picture-taking (on the show it is called Monk’s, but in reality it is owned by Pete), and viewing the storefront of the “Soup Nazi”--who claims all this attention and resulting business is ruining his life, and who doesn’t like being called a Nazi (Kenny now calls him the more politically correct “soup rat bastard”).
Kenny Kramer is like no other tour guide I’ve ever encountered. He manages to come across as enthusiastic even though he must, by now, be bored. (And, indeed, he no longer leads all the tours.) His descriptions are sprinkled with colorful expletives, and he feeds you. During our tour he distributed free boxes of Junior Mints and ended the tour at a casual restaurant where we were all served a complimentary junk-food snack of pizza (he plans to market soon a frozen version that we fans can snack on while watching “Seinfeld” reruns), soda, and a full-size Snickers bar--meant to be eaten as per a TV episode with a knife and fork. Yum.
As we filed out of the restaurant at the end of the tour, we passed by an informal collection of Seinfeld items for sale. Kenny was ensconced in the middle making change. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I had Kenny autograph the back of the red baseball cap I purchased. His autograph now wholesales for $20, and I paid $15 for the cap, meaning, as he pointed out, that I actually got it for free and made $5 on the deal!
Kramer’s Reality Tour
New York City Convention & Visitors Bureau
Where to Stay:
West Side YMCA 5 West 63rd St.; double rooms are equipped with bunk beds. Located just west of Central Park, near the Museum of Natural History, this pleasant building offers bargain basement-priced accommodations. You get a private room, but the bathroom is down the hall. Facilities include a swimming pool and racquet ball and handball courts. And this is where the TV Kramer in “Seinfeld” took notes on how to shower efficiently.
Where to Eat:
Chai Home Kitchen 930 8th Ave./West 55th St. This inexpensive Thai restaurant is usually packed. Perhaps that’s because the food has been rated very good on Yelp. But it is probably also related to the fact that it is located just around the corner from the original Soup Kitchen International at 259-A West 55th Street at 8th Avenue (the Soup Nazi location from “Seinfeld”), where many hungry “Seinfeld” fans turn up only to be disappointed by an often-shuttered storefront (it has now morphed into Original Soup Man and is part of an international chain).
Carole Terwilliger Meyers blogs at Travels With Carole.
copyright 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers