hoax

Tatarsky, Alexandra

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Michael seemed to believe it
Michael seemed to believe it

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.

Bob Pagani:
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.

Michael Kaufman:

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??

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Parinello, Al

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Al Parinello at an Andy Kaufman Memorial event
Al Parinello at an Andy Kaufman Memorial event

Al Parinello (Andy Kaufman Award executive producer) said that Michael Kaufman’s suspicions about his brother date back to approximately the late ’80s, when Michael discovered among Andy’s letters an elaborate plan for staging his own death.
They were heightened in 1999 when Michael received a letter alluding to a ‘traditional Christmas dinner,’ an inside joke between the siblings, and claiming that Andy was still alive and raising a daughter.
Correspondence has continued intermittently over the years, according to Parinello.

“I witnessed the entire thing and I can tell you without a doubt this was not a prank,” says Al Parinello, a lifelong friend of the comedian who produces the AK Awards.

Parinello, who met Kaufman when they were undergrads at Grahm Junior College in Boston, says he is convinced of the story’s veracity, even though he attended Kaufman’s funeral and saw his body with his own eyes.

“It was a closed casket,” he recalls. “Only the family actually saw the body.”
How then does he reconcile Monday’s events? “Andy was an aficionado of meditation,” he explains.
“One of the things Andy was taught at the highest level was a process where one could slow down his breath to a point where you can literally fool anyone that you may be dead when in fact you are alive.
So that’s the one thing that Michael checked for.”

Ed Cavanagh (Gotham Comedy Club, where the AK Awards were held)

“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 [Michael] or not.
I’m truly 50-50 on this one.”

Kaufman, Michael

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Michael being interviewed on CNN after the AKA incident
Michael being interviewed on CNN

Michael Kaufman is Andy’s younger brother, born two years later.
He met his wife Pru after she was hired to Warner Cable by Al Parinello.

Michael, an accounting and financial business consultant who was a stand-up comedian from 1983 to 1985, remembers working with his brother at a show at William Paterson University (then called William Paterson College) on April 29, 1982.

“Andy wanted to franchise Tony Cliftons,” says Michael Kaufman, who actually played Clifton during the Carnegie Hall show where Andy and Tony sung on stage together. “He wanted a Tony Clifton in every state.”

Michael as Tony Clifton for the Carnegie Hall show
Partners in Crime: Michael as Tony Clifton for the Carnegie Hall show

In Michael’s collection is a wonderful series of communications where Andy went to visit a girl who was dying. She was a fan of his, and when his plane was delayed in Chicago on its way to Washington, he drove out to Demotte, Indiana, to visit her.

“Word got out at the hospital and Andy wrestled three people. I have pictures. They were supposedly nurses and maybe one patient’s mother. It’s the only time he ever lost a match. He let them beat him. And then there’s a letter from the mother, thanking Andy for doing that. Seven weeks after his visit, she died. That whole correspondence will be there. Andy never told anyone about that. I only knew about it because I went through the stuff.”

Singing 'La Bamba' in gibberish fake Spanish
Singing ‘La Bamba’ in gibberish fake Spanish

In 1981, Andy received a letter from the mother of an Indiana fan, a terminally ill young woman  with cystic fibrosis, whom Andy visited in the hospital. Her mother thanked him for brightening her daughter’s final days. The daughter’s name was Mary Jean Burden.

“This is the side of him nobody knows,” says Michael, who wishes the writers of “Man on the Moon” had put that in the movie. “When I read the script and Andy died, I said, ‘Who cares?’ It didn’t move me that he died, and he’s my brother. I didn’t see the heart in the movie.”

Michael and parents on the left
Michael and parents on the left. Nice shorts!

Many folks believe that Michael Kaufman arranged the daughter prank at the Andy Kaufman Awards in November, 2013. Bob Pagani says he and Michael met Alexandra Tatarsky her during the exhibit, because she worked at the gallery.

Michael said, “I wasn’t happy before I met her, 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 Michael have been fooled? How could she have been hoaxed??

Abel, Alan

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Media hoaxer/satirist Alan Abel giving a speech
Media hoaxer/satirist Alan Abel giving a speech

“I had my own obituary in The New York Times. I got eight inches of space, which is two more than the guy who invented the six-pack got. Only he actually died that day.”

Alan Abel would appear under different aliases, like Bruce Spencer, Dr. Harrison T. Rogers, Jim Rogers, G. Clifford Prout, Count Von Blitzstein, Martin Ostracher, Rufus Thunderberg, or Martin Swagg Jr. His NY Times obituary said he was survived by brother Bruce Spencer. lol

In 1980, Alan Abel was introduced to Andy Kaufman. “We had a special kinship,” he says, explaining how they bonded over their pranks. The comedian obsessed over the details of how he faked his death, and he pumped Abel for more information about how he pulled it off.

“He [Andy Kaufman] wanted to collaborate on something really fantastic and enormous, but we could never figure out what it would be. He was especially fascinated with my rejection book and how I had gotten people to believe I was dead. He’d say, “How can I do that? I want to do that.’”

By Bob Pagani’s account, Kaufman was “extremely interested” in Abel’s death hoax. “He was asking Alan all about how he did it.”

The trio [Bob Pagani, Alan Abel, and Andy Kaufman] met in the plush lobby of the Hilton on 53rd Street, where Kaufman was staying.

Abel said he told Kaufman everything, that day and during the friendship that followed: how he put his “team” to work, setting up a fake funeral home in a trailer in Orem, Utah, and reserving All Souls Church in Manhattan for the funeral. Then there was the critical dispatch — an actress friend with a gift for weeping on cue, who arrived at the Times office an hour before deadline, and that too, on a Sunday, when the second stringers were in charge.

“A few months before Andy Kaufman “died,” he read the galleys of my book published during the spring of 1984. One chapter dealt with my fake obituary in the NY Times. He wanted to know even more details on how I carried off my demise that fooled relatives, friends, the media and even creditors.. So I remain one of those who question his passing.”