Seinfeld has frequently integrated its versions of real-life luminaries into its cast: Calvin Klein, John F. Kennedy Jr., Fidel Castro, the Soup Nazi, and, most notoriously, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner and catalog tycoon J. Peterman. The latter two spoke about their on-screen doppelgangers.
WERE YOU ASKED IF YOUR NAME COULD BE USED? Jerry Seinfeld personally called and asked. I don’t really mind [the way I’m portrayed]. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then you’re not much of a person. It also pleases my grandchildren.
IS IT AN ACCURATE PORTRAYAL? If I’m so funny, how come more of my people at the Yankees don’t laugh?
LAST YEAR YOU AGREED TO APPEAR IN THE SEASON FINALE. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? When Julia Louis-Dreyfus came up and told me how exciting it was to be doing an episode with me, that made me feel 20 years younger — until she said that I had been a classmate of her father’s at Culver Military Academy. Well, sure as hell I was, and I remember him well!
WERE YOU ANGRY WHEN YOUR SCENE WAS ULTIMATELY CUT? I guess I don’t have much talent. When they said they were going to have George Costanza’s fiancee die after licking the glue from wedding envelopes, I didn’t have much interest in the episode anyway. I felt it was sick.
HOW INVOLVED WERE YOU IN BECOMING PART OF THE SHOW? I found out [I was on Seinfeld] by watching it. But then they contacted me soon after. I think [the first Peterman episode] ran about the same time as the Soup Nazi, and apparently he got a little bent because of it. But I said, ”Fine, have a good time.” Some people think because they make fun of me, it’s not so great. I say [Seinfeld] isn’t making fun of me, he’s making fun of the character.
IS IT AN ACCURATE DEPICTION OF THE PETERMAN WORKPLACE? No — we do have fun, but it’s not quite that funny. The show asked for some props from our offices [actually based in Lexington, Ky.], and we’ve sent them some pictures. So stuff that hangs in their offices is real.
HOW HAS IT HELPED OR HURT YOU? Our name recognition has gone up substantially. Now it’s up to us to take advantage of it.
WOULD YOU HIRE ELAINE? Probably not.