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Andy Kaufman told at least FIFTEEN people that he planned to fake his death:
Most of his closest friends think he could have.
Some of these people say they helped him do it.
Andy was diagnosed with large cell carcinoma in November 1983.
This form of lung cancer is aggressive with high mortality rates.
Andy was a non-smoking vegetarian health nut since his 20s.
He told friends it was eating chocolate that gave him cancer.
When asked if he was really sick, he never gave a straight answer.
He didn’t tell his family until near the very end.
He visited a quack clinic in a Hollywood strip mall that was open only a few years.
The holistic doctors allegedly treated his left arm with radiation.
He said he was told to flush out the disease with tea and fasting.
He consequently lost many pounds, looking like a typical cancer patient.
His girlfriend Lynne admits she shaved his head. He kept his chest hair.
In March, Andy flew to the Philippines for psychic surgery.
It has been debunked as medical fraud, entirely placebo effect.
A healer claims to remove disease from the body with his hands.
It is a sleight-of-hand trick using chicken blood and guts as tumors.
Andy was obsessed with magic, carnival, and illusion.
He learned to levitate, swallow swords, and more.
He had to know that this was fake.
Dr. Rubins projected that he would not live past 1984.
Andy had a passport that did not expire until 1986.
This should have been sufficient for his trip, which was only a few weeks.
Canceled early, the replacement was good until 1994, another ten years.
His death certificate says he passed on May 16, 1984 at Cedars Sinai Hospital.
Four years before he announced his illness, he wrote a screenplay where his character dies of cancer in Cedars Sinai Hospital and reappears alive at the end. He pitched the movie to Universal Pictures, but eventually got dismissed.
Andy Kaufman’s social security number is not listed in the Social Security Administrations death index.
His SSN is still active and has listed many addresses over the past thirty years.
None of these belong to his relatives, their companies, or the family estate.
>>> Death certificates are occasionally used to fake a person’s death for insurance fraud and to evade law enforcement officials or irate relatives. “Official” Los Angeles County death certificates, for example, were readily available in the mid-1990s for between $500 and $1,000 each. For fraudulent purposes, people have often used death certificates from remote nations and from countries in turmoil. <<<
“Andy changed the face of comedy forever by lurching across boundaries that no one knew existed. He was the boy who made life his playground and never stopped playing, even when the games proved too dangerous for others. And in the end he would play alone, just as he had when it was all only beginning.
In Lost in the Funhouse, Bill Zehme sorts through a life of disinformation put forth by a master of deception to uncover the motivation behind the manipulation.”
His career includes a series of pranks and hoaxes.
He was always looking to be legendary.
What is real? What is fake?
That’s the Andy way.
You can keep your warped sense of humor here for a few years, YOU BUM!
These people support Andy’s work.
The list continues to grow.
Dick Van Dyke
Mary Tyler Moore
Maynard James Keenan
Kevin Sean Michaels
“Nature Boy” Buddy Landel
Know more? Share!
It was reported that 300 people attended Kaufman’s funeral. A handful were sex workers.
Many of the Late Night staff thought it was another classic Kaufman stunt.
Andy Kaufman Appearances on David Letterman
Former Letterman executive produer, Robert Morton was one of the few people to attend Andy’s funeral.
Carol Kane was the only Taxi cast member to attend his funeral.
His manager, George Shapiro, refused to attend, and no one knows why.
Bill Zehme – Lost in the Funhouse, the official Kaufman biography:
“Andy would begin doing things he did not tell George about, such as plotting his own death, which was nothing if not the penultimate bombing.” “Throughout the next year he would posit the idea to other people – to Zmuda, certainly, as well as his sister and his brother and also Mimi Lambert.”
Saturday Night Live:
SNL producer Bob Tischler and two writers, Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield were let in on the concept, “…the hoax I’d really like to pull off is my death. But I’m afraid of doing it – because when I do these things, I do them for real, and so I wouldn’t even be able to tell my parents,” Andy confided.
Bob Thompson (a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University):
“I still try to hold onto a little bit of hope that he didn’t really die. But I have to say, if he is going to come back and still have an audience, he’d better do it pretty soon.”
[were you friends?] “OF COURSE and still is, Legendary!”
Merle Kessler (a hoaxer and founding member of the Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater):
“When Kaufman died I thought it was a joke. People on the street would approach Andy (sitting in his wheelchair) and say, ‘Andy, come on man. This dying bit is just too much!’ Andy would turn to friends and just shrug in astonishment, ‘Can you believe it? They think I’m making this up!'”
I really never met Andy, but once I saw just him in the crowd at the California State Fair. Teller said, “There’s Andy Kaufman!” He was dressed like a redneck-style trucker, and he was yelling at the guy behind the counter, “I’m not that faggot on Taxi, asshole, what the fuck is wrong with you? I don’t play no fucking faggot on no fucking TV show, you piece a horseshit.” And we watched him, and Teller said, “yeah, that’s Andy Kaufman,” and I said, “It sure is.”
“During our first season, Judd and I ran into Andy in New York. We were doing some publicity for the show. And we saw him panhandling in the Bowery. He was bum, a total bum. I mean, we had a hit sitcom on the air, and there he was, panhandling, because he wanted the experience.”
“Oh, my gosh. I’ll tell you one that wasn’t in the movie. One time Andy came in with the most humongous boil you’ve ever seen. It was three inches in diameter at least. It was disgusting. He said, ‘Watch this.’ He made an announcement to the audience. He said that for a dollar they could line up and touch Andy’s boil. A hundred and eight people lined up and did it. That’s how crazy he was, but crazy fun.”
“Andy was the master of the comic switch; at his tribute, people were expecting Tony Clifton to speak.” (on death/funeral service)
“He would come into a room, no matter where, and the psychological room would become his room. You were participating in his drama. Whether he was going to pick a fight with a waitress or whatever. It was always exciting. If there was anybody who manifested the phrase, all the world is a stage, this was the guy. Everything he did was his art.”
“I’ve always had this strange feeling that i was being set up- that Andy was in cahoots with [director] Milos [Foreman]… Even now, I wonder sometimes…”
Vernon Chatman (South Park producer, curated Andy and his Grandmother tapes):
“If there’s one American personality who could fake his death in the last 60 years, it would be Andy. The fact that he died of lung cancer at 35 is just crazy. On the [unreleased] tapes he would talk about going on meditation retreats. He had a level of patience and commitment that he practiced from the age of 20.”
John Moffitt (producer of Fridays):
“Andy asked to speak privately to both me and Jack [Burns]. We moved into a quiet room away from the others, and Andy closed the door, making sure no one besides us could hear. He told us he was about to embark on the greatest prank of his career and made us swear we would never repeat it to a living soul. He then told us it would be the biggest thing in the history of show business, then he lowered his voice and said, ‘I’m going to fake my death, go into hiding for 10 years, and then reappear.’”
“Andy said, ‘Come downstairs. I want to talk to you.’ So Jack and I went down there with him. And Andy closed the door and said, ‘Okay. I have another idea, something I really want to do.’ And he started telling us that he was going to fake his own death. And it seemed very logical to us. We just thought, you know, Okay — that’s Andy, that’s the next thing he’s gonna do. You know, we’d faked the fight on the set of Fridays. And then he’d done this whole evangelical thing, where he wanted this evangelist to marry him to this woman, and he was gonna come on and pretend he’d Seen the Light and was Born Again . . . Andy was always into those things.
“And so when he said he was gonna fake his death, we thought, Great! And, of course, I thought, If you’re gonna come back again, do it on our show. Because . . . Andy was really like a lightning rod. He could do things that everybody would pay attention to. So we thought, Yeah, that’s a great idea. So after talking it through, we went upstairs, and that was the end of that.
“And then the show got canceled. And then, all of a sudden I heard Andy was sick. And I’m thinking, Okay — here we go! He’s doing it! And then someone said, ‘No, really. We saw Andy, and he’s really, really sick. He’s lost his hair, he’s thin as a rail, he’s really sick.’ And I again thought, ‘You know, Andy would go to any kind of extreme to fake this, to do his prank. He would starve himself, he’d tear out his hair, he would undernourish himself. He would do it. That’s what Andy would do.’ He was always testing how far he could go, testing the limits of comedy and beyond.
“I mean, it was just the perfect next prank. Where would he go next? He’d done the whole wrestling thing and all of that, so what would he do to make a huge splash, get a lot of press, a lot of attention? It’d have to be something really big, and what could be bigger than that?”
“People were saying, No, Andy really is dead,and I came around to kind of believing, Gee, maybe he actually is. A lot of people didn’t believe it, because they knew Andy’s pranks.
“Is he or isn’t he? You never can tell. You just can’t completely dismiss it. There’s nobody like Andy. Nobody has done things like him. Nobody has gone out that far. Nobody has tested the audience and the limits of laughs, of comedy, as Andy has. So if anybody would do it, it would be Andy.
“It’s not that I believe he’s still alive — but every once in a while I think maybe he is going to pop up. And if he does, it may be the greatest prank of all time, but what’s he done with 20 years of his life? He had to have another life somewhere.”
“Anybody who was associated with him has some little, minute-but-still-present hope in their hearts and minds. I don’t think any of us really believe it. But there’s still that strange hope. Because he never broke any act, he never let on when he was up to something, he never winked at anybody ever. I don’t think anybody was completely in on everything except Andy.”
“He did talk about faking his death. He was driving over to my office when he heard John Belushi died. And he said, Belushi stole my bit! He’s faking his death! That’s what he felt.”
Kaufman was “extremely interested” in Abel’s death hoax. “He was asking Alan all about how he did it.”
“Andy always said he wanted to fake his own death and disappear. He’s probably been off somewhere waiting tables for the last 15 years, waiting when the right time was to reappear.”
Ed Cavanagh (Gotham Comedy Club):
“You could see by the look on [Michael’s] face that it had an emotional impact on him. I don’t know whether somebody is perpetrating something on him or not. I’m truly 50-50 on this one.” (about the “daughter” incident)
Michael Stipe (REM):
“What I was doing with the lyric for Man on the Moon was pulling in various crackpot conspiracy theories of our time, like Elvis Presley was still alive somewhere. And, even more absurd and ourageous, that when they sent a man to walk on the moon that he actually went to a stage set up somewhere in Arizona and the moonwalk never really occurred. And these were the comparisons I was drawing to the people who were not able to believe that Kaufman was dead, that, to the end, he was pulling a prank. That that idea is just as outrageous as those other theories. That he, for me, as a fan of his, puts himself on that level by being such a prankster that people actually thought that.”
Alexandra Tatarsky was the young woman who appeared at the Andy Kaufman Awards in 2013, claiming to be Andy’s daughter.
She was brought on stage by Andy’s brother, who talked about a mysterious letter he received a few years back, that he believed was from Andy.
At least two of the people recognized her from the “On Creating Reality” Andy Kaufman exhibit at the Maccarone Gallery in NYC 2013.
I have no desire to get into the middle of the controversy between Lynne [Margulies] and the Kaufmans. I have to say, however, that I’m confused by the thing with Michael and Andy’s “missing daughter.” Since the incident at the Awards last year, Michael has said things that seem to imply that he was duped by the young woman who claimed to be the daughter. I don’t see how that can be possible as she worked at the art gallery that hosted the exhibition about Andy last year which Michael and I were guests at (as was Lynne too). He and I both met her there. I recognized her immediately when I saw her on TV claiming to be Andy’s daughter. The logical conclusion would be that Michael and she cooked up the idea. No crime was committed so I don’t understand why he would deny that.
Lon Osgood (husband of Margulies):
I recognized her [Tatarsky] as well, she’s actually a very lovely soul.
I wasn’t happy before I met her [Tatarsky], but I think she was not— I was just going to say I don’t think she was in on it, but then again, maybe she was playing with me that night we met. Who knows? But it sounded like she was also, at least what she portrayed to me that night, that she was also hoaxed.
How could she have been hoaxed??
In February 1981, Kaufman hosted Fridays, a sketch comedy show like SNL.
He invited singer Kathie Sullivan on stage to sing a few gospel songs with him.
Andy was friends with Ron Jeremy (porn star), Hugh Hefner (Playboy), and Dennis Hof (Bunny Ranch Brothel).
He allegedly slept with all the 42 girls at the Mustang Ranch Brothel.
Zmuda says that Andy preferred bigger, muscular girls who were more equipped for wrestling.
He also speculates that it satisfied Andy’s gay fantasies. Andy’s last girlfriend also said he was bisexual.
Toward the end of his career, Andy started wrestling women in the south.
He dated Mimi Lambert, the Florida woman he wrestled on Saturday Night Live.
“If I do go ahead with my plan, I will do so by pretending to have cancer,” Andy said to her and others.
It was informally called the “National College Sex Concert Tour” by his partner, Bob.
He offered between 500 to 1000 dollars, as well as his hand in marriage, to any woman who could pin him.
‘Andy Kaufman: I Hate Your Guts!’ is available on Amazon.
Female wrestler Deena Zarra is reported to have pinned Andy during the Carnegie Hall show.
He wrestled Playboy playmate Susan Smith and mud wrestler Robin Kelly (Red Snapper).
He beat five women, then lost to Ronnie Sigmond during a non-title bout held at Chippendale’s in Los Angeles.
Journalists Margaret McMullan and Cindy Flanagan Lamb said they beat (and dated) him too.
Margaret McMullan (author):
Andy went on dates with Glamour editor Margaret McMullan in late 1983 while he was staying with his parents because his mother was ill.
“He challenged me to a wrestling match. Not on stage, but privately, backstage, behind the bleachers, not in front of anyone. I pinned him midway. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t difficult either. I straddled him, holding him by his wrists for a long time. He asked if the recorder was still on. I said yes. He reached over and turned it off. He said I had to promise I wouldn’t tell anyone about this.”
“He looked pale. He kept coughing. He said he didn’t want to meet anyone and he stuck his head inside my over-sized bag.”
“He said he had come by to take me to tea. He said he had a cold and a cough and he was fasting. He said he was purifying himself. A yogi in LA taught him to fast flues out. But he could have tea.”
“He said then that he was going somewhere, on a trip, to the Philippines perhaps, and that I should go with him. He looked me in the eye as he spoke.”
“Was the illness or the treatment wreaking havoc on his moods? Not long after tea with Andy, I read in Page Six that he beat up a photographer, or was it a fan? His anger came quickly and out of nowhere, I could see that.”
Elayne Boosler (comedian):
Andy dated Elayne in his early days of stand-up at The Improv in New York. He later brought her onto his television special, where they got in an argument about their past that seemed real in parts, but was obviously staged.
“Andy was amused that so many people took the news of his illness as just another Kaufman put-on. I asked him to tell me that it was. Men. They never tell you what you want to hear.”
“Andy never gave up hope. He didn’t intend to die. Near the end he took to sleeping with his eyes open just to make sure. When death came, early in the twilight of a warm Los Angeles evening, it was met with two unflinching eyes. When the nurse tried to close them, they just opened again. I remembered a reviewers words: ‘This guy doesn’t know when to get off.’ I laughed.”
Laurie Anderson (musical satirist who later married Lou Reed) once dated and collaborated with Kaufman in the late 70s and has mentioned him in her spoken word poetry and songs.
“We used to go out to Coney Island to work on stuff. I was his straight man, and I used to tag along with him because I adored him. I was just a major fan. So we would go out to the ‘Test Your Strength’ booth and we would stand around and just make fun of everyone who was doing it. I was supposed to beg him for a stuffed bear. And after a while, people would get sick of his taunting and say, ‘Well, why don’t you try it?’ And he tried it and hit, like, level one of 20. And then he would start complaining, ‘This is rigged. I want to see the manager!’ It was really very funny.”
“I have never been one that hoped that Elvis is still hanging around somewhere, hiding, but I will probably always expect to see Andy reappear, someday.”
He dated Elizabeth Wolynski (photographer in Las Vegas) for a while. She took the portrait of Andy in the hooded sweatshirt. This print was given as a prize for the Andy Kaufman Award 2013, when the “daughter” hoax occurred.
Andy fathered a child with Gloria Acre (Schwartz) when he was in college.
Andy and his parents proposed a shotgun marriage, but the Acres were not pleased.
The infant, Maria Colonna, was given for adoption shortly after birth.
She later reconnected with the Kaufman family, but after Andy’s passing.
It was reported that Andy continued having relations with Gloria all throughout his career.
It was also suggested that he was seeing his assistant Linda Mitchell. He stayed at her apartment often.
“Bev Cholakian (Bloomberg) is Andy’s unrequited love from Detroit,” Zmuda says. “She didn’t, couldn’t put up with his philandering.”
She got him the job at Posh Bagel. Beverly would remember, “Andy went beserk and screamed, ‘How could you do that to me! I could have gotten laid!’ I mean, can you believe that? He had never talked to me like that before. So I ran to the back of the deli and locked myself in a room while he kept screaming. Then we saw him drive off in a rage, swerving and screeching like a madman.” And, of course, they mended again, for a while again, since she wanted to marry him and all.) Bev later worked as a screenwriter and actor, and is now an author.
Kathy Utman–she was a roommate of Prudence Farrow’s–and her spritely air and small mellifluous voice enchanted him completely. He had never met such a blissful being–even among all of the other blissful ones. Diminutive, childlike, she seemed to sprinkle love petals wherever she stepped; he often compared her to a pixie named Piccoli from some story he knew–“He said I was like this little fairytale pixie person who came to earth and her job was to make people love each other more and to especially teach all the little boys how to love,” she would recall, giggling. He also said that she reminded him of Little Eva from Uncle Tom’s Cabin and sent her the book with all of the Little Eva parts marked up. He wrote her fanciful, delirious letters–signed them I could just eat you up or MBFUA!!! (“He said that was the sound of a kiss.”) She was a cloud; she loved him back like a cloud might love, couldn’t fully commit because she knew he couldn’t either really–“I was a little bit careful,” she said. But they would play together–when on park lawns he insisted they run in slow motion toward each other with open arms flapping–and she would come to New York early on to see his act at the Bitter End et al. and they maintained an understanding that she, as a cloud, would sweetly hover nearby throughout his life, which she in fact did, more or less, even when she married other guys and in between those marriages as well.
“He always said we would live together when we were old.
He also said that he heard bells whenever he stood near me.”
Andy dated artist/actress Lynne Margulies (Osgood) during the last two years of his life. They had an open relationship.
She accompanied him to the Philippines for his psychic surgery cancer treatment by Jun Labo.
“When we moved into the house in Pacific Palisades in 1984, Andy suggested we get married. I told him we should wait until he got better.” – Lynne
READER OF THE DAY: Dear David Poland,
I read with keen interest your article about the strange WWW site known as andylives.org.
As the creator and keeper of The Andy Kaufman Home Page, I couldn’t be more displeased with this site. The Andy Kaufman Home Page has been live on the Internet since October 3, 1995, and although I’m happy to see other Web sites devoted to keeping Andy’s memory alive, I strongly believe that the andylives.org site is a sham and an insult to Andy Kaufman.
Having said that, I hope you’ll find the time to visit my site located at:http://andykaufman.jvlnet.com.
By the way, it is hosted by an Internet Service Provider (JVLNET) based out of Janesville, Wisconsin. The company is owned by Bob Kerman. Bob is Rick Kerman’s brother. Rick is married to Andy’s baby sister, Carol.
Please note, in the past year I’ve worked closely with Bill Zehme as he wrote the only authorized biography of Andy Kaufman, “Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman.” Bill’s book will be available at the end of this month, and it is fascinating.
I think I’ve successfully built an Internet shrine to Andy’s short and extraordinary life and to see other WWW sites steal blatantly from mine — not to mention trash Andy’s memory causes me great sadness.
E ME: The more “AndyLives” posters show up, the more clear it is that Universal is the source of the financing for the venture in Blair Witch-like misdirectional promotion. Let’s hear about the movies, folks! What have you seen, what have you felt, what have you remembered?
Which leads me to my other recent peeve, Andylives.org, an allegedly “underground” Web site devoted to keeping alive the memory of comedian Andy Kaufman. The site, we are told, was erected by a band known as AKA (Andy Kaufman’s Army) for no other aim than to give fans of the late star of “Saturday Night Live” and “Taxi” a place to rant and pay tribute.
But as Sharon Waxman recently reported in The Washington Post, Andylives.org was paid for with $100,000 from Universal and was designed solely to promote Universal’s new movie about the life of Mr. Kaufman, “Man on the Moon,” starring Jim Carrey.
One of the movie’s producers told the Post that she and others urged Universal to pursue this “unconventional approach” because it would be a good source of buzz for a movie thought to be buzz-deficient. The studio found four self-proclaimed fans of Andy and signed them up, telling them they could say what they wanted on the site — just don’t sell “Man on the Moon” directly.
Andylives.org certainly carried out its marching orders well. The front page opens with a long, rambling essay about whether Mr. Kaufman really did die in 1984 of lung cancer. “But as you read this,” it says, “if you are smart, you will probably consider that these very words too are part of the conspiracy. Maybe Andy Kaufman is writing them himself, or has employed us to do so. As the web gets more and more intricate, all the more satisfying the final joke will be. Right?” Uh, right.
Discerning surfers can probably see through the ruse. For one thing, despite its highly polished appearance, Andylives.org is remarkably light on the things that make up your average fansite: photos, episode guides, news, etc.
“Not only were they totally clueless about Andy, but their profane, hip-hop-influenced Generation X ramblings were a total disgrace,” says Brian Momchilov, whose outstanding site (andykaufman.jvlnet.com) is everything Andylives.org isn’t.
“I’ve worked hard for many years to create and maintain The Andy Kaufman Home Page and I was highly offended by Universal’s bogus `andy fan’ website and its pathetic attempt as a marketing ploy,” Mr. Momchilov says. (Needless to say, he was not contacted by Universal prior to the film’s release.)
Pathetic or not, it’s obvious to me that this “Man on the Moon” campaign is just the beginning. I fully expect to see bogus home pages cooked up this summer to promote new fall TV series, created by anonymous “fans” with untraceable e-mail addresses. Worse, because studios can afford the time and expense to promote the site online, these pages will likely pop up on search engines everywhere, annoying us for years after the actual shows are cancelled.
Huey Williams Notes