Bare-faced cheek or hope for tough times?

THERE seemed no way of dressing it up — putting a near-nude cowboy among crowds of shoppers on a biting cold day was surely nothing more than a cynical publicity stunt.

No ma’am, that was not the case at all. Robert Burck, better known as the Naked Cowboy, was here on a mission.

“I’m here to show the Irish people that if you have an idea and you believe in it strong enough and you work at it hard enough, you can achieve anything. Ma’am.”

Robert, 39, sunbed brown, muscled and unfailingly polite, is living proof of his philosophy. He started busking in New York’s Times Square to make money and discovered he could make a whole lot more if he wore a whole lot less.

Rain, snow or shine, he now attracts thousands of tourists and millions of dollars with nothing more than his guitar, 10 gallon hat, cowboy boots and Daz-white briefs. He’s also become a self-help guru and pin-up for the can-do camp which is why Irish Entrepreneur magazine invited him to help launch its You Can Do Anything competition.

Robert’s advice for those overwhelmed by recessionary thoughts came via one his favourite writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Do that which you fear to do, and the fear will die — that’s what Emerson said, ma’am.”

“I read the people who inspire me all the time,” he says. “I’m not reading about recession because I don’t want my head to be full of recession. A head full of recession doesn’t achieve goals.”

The exuberant display of unwavering self-belief — not to mention goosebump-resistant flesh — won him plenty of admirers on Dublin’s icy Ha’penny Bridge. “He has a hard neck, I’ll give him that,” said Vincent Madden from Celbridge, Co Kildare, whose wife, Sandra and 15-year-old daughter, Lucy, were equally enamoured with Robert’s anatomy.

“I think he is a good example — and good looking,” said Lucy.

The O’Neill family from nearby Kilcullen were also enjoying the show. “Fair play to him. He has plenty of get up and go,” said Maureen. “And the muscles aren’t bad either.”

But husband Michael was proof that you don’t need a cowboy hat, or millions, to be a hero. “He might get the admiring looks,” he said of his rival, “but I get to go home with her.”

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