Feature Stories

Meet Paul Allen, aka the Official Dallas Naked Cowboy

Paul Allen, the Dallas Naked Cowboy, shows off his stuff at the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Paul Allen, the Dallas Naked Cowboy, shows off his stuff at the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Brian Maschino

Paul Allen has a unique side hustle in this day and age of Uber drivers and Instagram influencers.

When he's not at home, out with friends or doing software engineering for Verizon, he steps out in public in a ten-gallon hat, Texas flag cowboy boots, a pair of Speedos and nothing else.

What kind of job requires that uniform? Door-to-door stripper? Western swimwear model? Nudist-in-training?

Allen is the Dallas Naked Cowboy, an official title and franchise granted to him by the original Naked Cowboy, the famed New York City street performer named Robert John Burck who wears a similar get-up and plays guitar at events around the country. Allen does the same thing in Dallas except he shows up at events like the Red River Rivalry, the Dallas Marathon and (of course) Cupid's Undie Run. And the guitar he carries is just for show.

"I like the shock value of it," Allen says. "It's a little bit exhibitionist, and that's the swimsuits I wear to the pool anyway. I would never call myself an attention whore, but I don't mind the attention of it."

click to enlarge Allen greets the runners at the 2016 Dallas Marathon. - COURTESY DALLAS NAKED COWBOY
Allen greets the runners at the 2016 Dallas Marathon.
courtesy Dallas Naked Cowboy
Allen earned the title in a contest five years ago at the McKinney Avenue Tavern. Allen says everyone who knew him and heard about the contest on the radio urged him to audition.

"I thought there's going to be some big bodybuilder dude who's going to win," Allen says, "but as more people messaged me, I said fuck it. I'm going to try it."

Allen showed up in street clothes, and thanks to his long blond hair and swimmer's build, he had a considerable advantage. He scored a ringing endorsement from the Naked Cowboy himself before the contest even started.

"I met the Naked Cowboy outside the place before the show, and I was still in my street clothes," Allen says. "He looked at me and said, 'Man, you look like you could be my brother.' And I thought, 'All right, I got a leg up already.'"

Allen threw himself into his audition that ended up winning him the title. He showed up with a ukelele instead of a guitar and focused more on entertaining the crowd. Allen says the contest wasn't about musical ability or even being able to carry a tune. It was all about, in the words of Zero Mostel from The Producers, "When you've got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!"

"None of us could play guitar, so it was just about entertaining the crowd, and that's what it came down to," he says. "I got out there and did this medley of 'I Touch Myself' and 'Livin' on a Prayer.' I just grabbed the mic and went out to the tables and tried to get people to sing with me."

Allen won the Naked Cowboy for Dallas handily and scored a two-year trademark. He partied well into the night with the Naked Cowboy and his friends "buying drinks and shots. I'm pretty sure I didn't go to work the next day.

"It was such a high because I felt like I had no business winning this," Allen says. "When I did, I thought holy hell."

Since then, Allen has made appearances all over Dallas to give bystanders something to take pictures of and tell their friends they saw after marathons, gatherings and sports events. It's also taken him around the world to places like Rio de Janeiro for the World Cup, where media outlets have interviewed him and printed his picture.

Pretty much all of Allen's appearances take place outdoors, and some don't offer such accommodating climates as Rio de Janeiro, such as the annual Cupid's Undie Run.

"Cupid's is in February so it can be cold in underwear and boots, and it was probably 40 degrees outside," Allen says. "It's fun because as opposed to events where people don't know I will be there, it's a surprise. Where did that goofball come from? There's a shock value to it."

He's also added some more costumes to his public and charity appearance schedule, like the Marvel Avenger Thor, a natural fit since he and Chris Hemsworth share the same hairstyle.

"When they're a certain age, they don't know you're not actually Thor, so when they come up and ask if they can hold my hammer, and they lift it up and feel all proud and worthy, I don't need money for that," Allen says. "I would never take money for something like that."

Allen says it hasn't become a second job for him. It's more of a fulfilling hobby that makes people happy. No matter which character he's playing, the reaction he gets are the same and both are just as rewarding.

"I think it's the memory of the experience so they can say, 'You won't believe what I did today' or 'Guess who was at the game today,'" Allen says. "Some of them know the Naked Cowboy [Burck] and see him and go, 'Oh, I didn't know we had one' and some go, 'I didn't know you were allowed to do this outside.'" 
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.