Do you remember Elaine’s boss on “Seinfeld?” He was an eccentric man named J. Peterman and was played by actor John O’Hurley. You might not know this, but there is a real J. Peterman, and he lives here in Lexington. In fact, his house was very close to where we lived before moving to our townhouse. I attended a luncheon last week, and the real J. Peterman (the “J” stands for Jon) was the guest speaker. And let me just tell you this – he is nothing like the character they created on Seinfeld. They are total complete opposites. (By the way, this is not an ad or an affiliate.)
The real J. Peterman is a rugged guy who dresses like a cowboy. In fact, a cowboy’s duster that he bought in Wyoming was the beginning of his company. So many people asked him where he bought it that he started selling them. Then he took out an ad in the New Yorker, and the rest is history.
J. Peterman has a wonderful catalog (and website) that is unlike any other and has many well-known movie and television stars as customers. The Seinfeld writers created the character based on his catalog. They never met him nor did they ever interview him or even ask his permission.
On the Seinfeld show, Elaine needed a new boss, and so the writers decided to make it J. Peterman. The real J. Peterman didn’t know this was going to happen until after the first episode about him aired. During his talk, he said that the Seinfeld show didn’t help or hurt his business, but it did eventually go bankrupt due to bad business decisions that he takes full responsibility for. Eventually, he was able to buy the company back, restart it, and it is going strong.
I have always loved his catalogs. It’s called an Owner’s Manual. All of the catalog’s illustrations are water colors rather than photographs. The description of each item is in a wonderful story. Looking at this catalog and website is great entertainment.
The clothes are based on apparel that Jon’s wife finds in vintage shops. She then redesigns them to fit into today’s lifestyle. They are lovely and romantic. The men’s wear is also good looking. He added kilts to the line.
His family is loaded with talent. Daughter Robin Peterman Zahn was once a Broadway and movie actress and is now a best-selling author. Some of her books are here, here, and here. She also spoke at the luncheon and said that she grew up in a home that encouraged creativity as much as sports. (Jon was once a professional baseball player.) A son is a Hollywood screen writer, and he also writes the catalog’s prose. Robin is married to famous actor Steve Zahn who loves living here in Lexington. He seems to always play likeable characters and has been in tons of movies. The two of them produce a local show each December, and this year it is “Christmas Carol.” They are very community-minded.