We Asked the Real and Fake J. Peterman What ‘Seinfeld’ Would Be Like Now

@Seinfeld2000 spoke to actor John O'Hurley and the real J. Peterman about 'Seinfeld' and their Kickstarter plans to bring Elaine's infamous "urban sombrero" to life.

by @Seinfeld2000
May 2 2016, 4:00am

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine wearing a J. Peterman urban sombrero on 'Seinfeld.' Photo courtesy of NBC

LMAO life is funny. One moment your simply living your life and the next you are running the most popular account on twiter, Seinfeld2000, which envisions what seinfeld would be like if its still on TV today in Trumps America and the age of the iPhone 6S plus 64 GB.

Like being a walflower, there are many PERKS to operating Seinfeld2000. Like what? Dude why dont you relax because it was literaly the next thing i was going to type. For example, so many ladys slide into my DMs, my inbox should be an attraction at Six Flags—does that make sense? But also any time anything vaguely seinfeld happens, at minimum 800 people will twete it at me.

So as soon as the news broke that the J. Peterman Company was doing a Kickstarter i was immediately alerted. And when i found out that they were offering a LEGIT Urban sombrero?? i immediately dropped the small baby I was holding and WHIPPED OUT my Discover card so i could pledge the $275 dollars to ensure that i would be on the receiving end of that priceless garment. In the "biz" that is what we call a no-brainer.

Well, a few days later i was checking my facebook mesages (Seinfeld2000 is also on facebook FYI) when i receved a message from someone name Tammy who was requesting that i paste the Kickstarter on my page. But when i see an oportunty i seize it and so i fired back, "k but instead can i interview J Peterman and also John O'Hurley the actor who played J Peterman that would be a TRIP" And she was like, "ya prolly" and I honestly got so excited—you know how they say in the cialis comercials that if you have an erectien lasting longer than four hours you should call your doctor? Well another half hour and i would have been on the horn with my Dr. Van Nonstran

If youre not a huge seinfeld fan, first of all i dont want to know you, but also you may be wondering, "whats all this HOOPLA over this Urban sombrero?" basicaly J Peterman goes insane and runs off to Burma, and Elane ( Seinfeld character) becomes president of the Peterman Company. The funny part tho is that shes so TERIBLE at it! She creates all these bad items, most famous of all, an "urban sombrero," which is like a business sombrero, lol that is so stupid

Here is the interview. im not saying its the greatest interview ever but im prety sure I just reinvented journalsim again. *Also for those who are wondering, the baby was OK. I dropped him on a large soft pillow and he was laughing and smiling so please relax.

VICE: Good morning, Peter men.
John Peterman: Yes, Petermen. That's us.

Plural. so right of the bat, why a Kickstarter? are sales not going very well?
Peterman: No, Kickstarter is an interesting thing in that Kickstarter is composed of younger, 30-, 35-, 40-, 45-year-old people. And we're betting that they have the same mind set as our customers did 30 years ago, when they were 35, 40, and 45 years old. We're looking to bring in a whole new generation of customers, basically.

John O'Hurley, who played J. Peterman on 'Seinfeld,' and the actual J. Peterman, John Peterman. Photo courtesy of the J. Peterman Company

Im definitely one of those new customers and I am gonna be so upset if you don't reach that goal because I really want that fucking urban sombrero more than I've every wanted anything in my life. 

Peterman: [Laughs] You're talking to the right guy.

John O'Hurley: It's a compelling piece of haberdashery, isn't it?

Yes, it very much is and it's an artifact of a great TV show and a great cultural moment
O'Hurley: J. P. and I have been arguing about this quite candidly for nearly twenty years, often vehemently, about taking the urban sombrero and putting it in the catalog. For me it always represented one of the great visual parodies that Seinfeld was of the J. Peterman Company. I thought we should reward the viewers and toss a gift across the aisle, to draw them over into the world of Peterman and the fact that there really is a Peterman Company. It's not just a parody—it's a real company with a real philosophy and a real working idea. But it's always been a point of contention for a long, long time. Finally he buckled and gave in.

So why sell out now?
Peterman: Well, selling out is such a hard word. The reason that I was against the urban sombrero was a fake, made-up thing by Seinfeld and it didn't fit into the authenticity part and factual romance of what J. Peterman did, and the reason J. Peterman was on Seinfeld. So I decided that after 20 years in purgatory that perhaps this had now become part of pop culture and had gained its authenticity. So I said, "OK, we'll do it," and John was exceedingly happy. Actually, he almost fainted.

O'Hurley: I actually did. When [he] told me in New York, he says, "Go ahead and sit down." And he says, "Now take another sip of your pinot noir."

"Everything was a Hemingway story with a price, a size, and availability attached." — John O'Hurley

Well, Mr. Peterman, I wanted to ask you, had Elaine been your employee in real life and had proposed this item, what would your reaction have been?
Peterman: Now, let's see. What was John's reaction on the show? John, what was it?

O'Hurley: "Congratulations on a job... done."

Peterman: No, that wasn't it. It was something about a monkey stiffed in the neck.

O'Hurley: Oh, it was like, "One gargantuan monkey fist."

Peterman: Yeah. If Elaine proposed that to me now, it wouldn't have had the 20 years to gain its authenticity and that would have been exactly my reaction, if I could've remembered the line.

What is the criteria for items that the Peterman Company does make?
Peterman: What makes the cut is something with a factual romance, unique, hard to find, a lot of history involved, that type of thing.

O'Hurley: Something that invokes a story, I think.

John O'Hurley as J. Peterman on 'Seinfeld.' Photo courtesy of NBC

I read that, Peterman, you were not aware that your company was going to be used in the show until after it aired, is that correct?
Peterman: Yeah, that's correct. I got in from a trip and they said, "Hey, you were on Seinfeld last night," and I said, "No, I was on an airplane."

Legaly, could that even be done these days? Like if seinfeld was still on TV–
O'Hurley: That was true to form of Seinfeld. They always did what they wanted to and then apologized later if they had to. The catalog floated around the writers' office. It was well-thumbed and earmarked by the time it would move from one writer to the next. And Peter Mehlman, one of the producers and head writers there, just said, "Wouldn't it be kind of funny if Elaine worked for the Peterman Company and Peterman sounded the way these stories were written?" So, everything was a Hemingway story with a price, a size, and availability attached.

Originally I said no [to the role] because my series [A Whole New Ballgame] had been cancelled on ABC the day before and I was still licking my wounds and trying to take the cancellation as personally as I possibly could. And both my managers called and said, "Look, I never called to say no. So go over there and blow it out of your system and have some fun."

So I did and they presented me with the catalog and a half-written script. But as I read through the catalog it occurred to me... I mean, I'd never seen anything like it, these pastel drawings and an adventure story about climbing K2 in your Oxford button-up. I thought, Wow, this is really something. I really liked it and I caught the language immediately and I just sounded a bit like a 40s radio drama combined with a little bit of a bad Charles Kuralt. That was kind of the genesis of the character.

"I got in from a trip and they said, 'Hey, you were on Seinfeld last night,' and I said, 'No, I was on an airplane.'" —John Peterman

What did Mr. Peterman, real Mr. Peterman, think of your portrayal? Insulting or flattering or somewhere in between?
Peterman: John and I met on a TV show, Fox After Breakfast, where the real J. Peterman met the Seinfeld J. Peterman, and of course my dressing room was in the basement and John's was in the penthouse so we wouldn't meet before the show. John and I liked each other and that's how it went. I thought it was a lot of fun.

Had you been a Seinfeld fan before your company appeared in the show. Like was Seinfeld even on your radar?
Peterman: No. No.

O'Hurley: Wasn't on mine either.

Damn Daniel. What effect did the popularity of the show have on the peterman biz
Peterman: There was really no effect on the business positive or negative because our customers got the inside joke, and the people who were not our customers thought that we were a made-up company by Seinfeld. I felt it would be beneficial to us because we were beginning to open up stores across the country, unfortunately. And the name recognition rose substantially. I think at one point about 50 million people recognized the name J. Peterman and most of that name recognition came from Seinfeld.

O'Hurley: I'm weeping from your gratitude.

So, John O'Hurley, how did you become an investor in this company?
O'Hurley: Well, they went through some financial hiccups there about six months after Seinfeld ended. They ended up losing the company to another company that came and took them over and they were trying to rule from a more corporate structure and they fizzled as well. So, J. P. called about a year and a half after the show ended, and he says, "I've got the intellectual property rights back and we want to put the company back together again under our parallel strengths." And so I said, "I'm in."

I mean, it has obviously an extraordinary personal attachment, but also as a business structure. It's given me an extraordinary learning curve of actually learning about a business from within.

do you keep up with street-style blogs, fashion websites, you know, the fashion world, clothes young people are wearing? like, are you up on hypebeast checking for the latest $50000 soiled kanye denim jackets that North wrote on in white-out and what not?
Peterman: No. I'm curious, but I'm not really interested in what a hot piece of fashion is going to be for next year because nobody knows to begin with. And when we stick to our original mission, then we succeed and that's unique, hard-to-find, with a factual romance.

You keep saying "factual romance"
Peterman: Correct. That means that we don't make it up.

I'm told you're going somewhere exotic like Botswana next week or something
Peterman: Um, no. I think Jonathan told you I'm going to Mexico to get the goddamn sombrero for O'Hurley.

Wow. So, they're manufacturing it in Mexico and the you're going to—
Peterman: Well, that's part of what Peterman should be doing. You don't buy a sombrero from China. You buy a sombrero from where the sombrero originated and where they make the best ones and that's in Mexico. Sorry, but Mexico produces the best sombreros. They started there. And the same if we're doing something that's very English, I'd like to buy it in England if I could. Or make it.

It just occured to me that this item could simply become, like, the new Pharrell hat. Do you remember that Vivian Westwood hat Pharrell was wearing on red carpets? Arby's tweted about it lmao
Peterman: Um, yeah. I wouldn't hold my breath on that.

OK I will exhale
Peterman: The problem is that John's gonna have a tough time getting it on and off airplanes.

O'Hurley: Which is why I fly privately.

LOL I plan to keep mine in the fucking box!!!
O'Hurley: Well, it's meant to be a collector's item. I've happen to have gone to a couple of these Comic-Con shows and the Seinfeld stuff holds huge value. I think the urban sombrero signed by him and I and then time-stamped because we're doing only a limited run of those will hold their value. You'll put somebody through college one day with it.

They're going to be signed by both of you
O'Hurley: There's one edition that is signed by both of us, yes.

Sick! And just finally what do you think Seinfeld would be like if it was still on television today? What would that show even BE like?
O'Hurley: I think it'd have a difficult time. And I've had this discussion quite often on radio shows. I think with social media today being so popular and with the cell phones and the texting, what have you, I don't think Seinfeld would be as funny. I think it would be under more of an obstacle because people don't relate. Back then people related to it. Jerry's apartment was a place to come and talk. In many respects it was like a coffee house. It was a meeting place where people actually had conversations. There were no cell phones, there wasn't any texting, there wasn't any messaging. I think that would have kind of bastardized the show. I think, unfortunately, in this arena it would be a much more difficult show to create the ambiance of what Seinfeld was. Which was always the idea of, if you had twelve people on an elevator that only fit ten.

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