I think, perhaps, that Andy Kaufman is one of the strangest people to have ever walked the earth.. though I might say he floated, rather than walked, he always seemed to have some crazy dreamy look about him.

Man on the Moon, well, it's an amazing movie if for nothing but the acting, which has been said.. and the fact that it does tell the story of someone who I, personally, will never forget for so many reasons. The level this man must have been on, I can't even comprehend how anyone could have been so intensely into everything that he did.

R.E.M. did a song for the movie called "The Great Beyond"..

"I've watched the stars fall silent from your eyes.."

That line just seems to say so much about Kaufman.. I mean, if you've ever seen him performing.. you can just see it in his eyes, his complete dedication, adoration for the reaction of the audience, the things he was doing. As I was watching the movie, during a scene early on, I think when he was doing his Elvis impersonation.. they flashed to the faces of the audience and I kind of laughed because they all looked so captured, kind of on the edge of their seat wondering what on earth he might possibly do next. A few seconds later I realized I'd been doing the exact same thing.. and then, it occurred to me that he was very much about that. Surprising people, doing the unexpected but.. to an utterly insane extreme. Reading entire books, even when he stood there fidgeting but silent I couldn't look away, there's something about him.

Of course, Man on the Moon leaves you wondering as to whether or not he actually passed on.. but to me, I don't think it really matters. He's still alive in my eyes, and always will be, someone that incredible just doesn't fade away.

"If you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool." - R.E.M.
Andy Kaufman - Performance Artist / Comedian (January 17, 1949 - May 16, 1984)

Andy Kaufman was probably the world's only successful nihilistic comedian - though he would deny it. Famous for such roles as Latka Gravas and Tony Clifton, his lounge lizard alter ego, Andy brought a unique sense of humour to the people around him. He touched lives and hearts, but always left the audience wondering what the punch line was.

Born Andrew Gregory Kaufman, Andy wasn't long in discovering his love of the spotlight. At 7, he was entertaining friends and family; by 9 he was doing children's parties. An amazingly prolific writer, he wrote poetry, stories, novels and plays throughout his life, but his real passion lay in performance.

In 1972, he was "discovered" by Budd Friedman, owner of the Improv, while performing at a lesser venue. He began performances in New York and Los Angeles, all the while insisting he wasn't a comedian - not that many audiences would argue.

In 1975, he joined the inaugural cast of Saturday Night Live, where he performed (or, rather, lip-synced to) the "Theme from Mighty Mouse." Later performances saw him singing "Old Macdonald," "Pop Goes the Weasel," and performing characters like Elvis and a "Foreign Comedian" that characterized him for much of his life. This sort of off-beat nonsensical humour characterized his performances until he was eventually voted off the show, 195,544 to 169,186. His final appearance on SNL (videotaped), thanked viewers who voted for him in vain.

Andy never stopped doing the talk-show / variety show / stand-up circuit. Appearances included "The Tonight Show", "Hollywood Squares", "The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour", "Dinah!", and many more. It was during this time that Andy began working with "Tony Clifton," a loud, brash Vegas lounge singer who claimed to be "the greatest entertainer ever." He also began his famous wrestling career - wrestling women.

In 1978, while appearing at The Comedy Store, Andy and "Tony" were seen by producers of an upcoming show, "Taxi", which they invite Andy to join. He was never very fond of the idea - he hated to lose his "Foreign Man" character - but he needed the money and the exposure. "Taxi" ran for five years.

If there was one thing that was certain about Andy, it was that you could never be certain about him. Throughout his career, he was always doing the unexpected, like taking 2,800 members of his Carnegie Hall audience out for milk and cookies, or claiming the title as "World Inter-gender Wrestling Champion" (wherein he challenged any woman to pin him to the mat, for the dubious reward of $1,000). This last incensed people all over the world, so of course, Andy did it more. This would eventually lead to a wrestling match with then-pro, Jerry Lawler, who "pile-drivered" Andy, causing severe spinal injury. Or did it?

That was part of the mystique of Andy Kaufman - no matter how outrageous, no act seemed too far out for him. This, ultimately, seemed to be the final irony when, in December of 1983, he was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. Who would believe that pure, clean Andy who never smoked or drank, who practiced Transcendental Meditation daily, could have lung cancer? Even Elayne Boosler, one of Andy's closest friends at the time, could not believe it. She asked him to tell her it was just another put on. He couldn't.

Ever the fighter, Andy was not ready to give up. After radiation and chemotherapy had no effect, Andy went to the Philippines to have "psychic surgery" performed. Six weeks later, amazingly restored, he headed home - but the turnaround was not to last. On a warm, twilight evening in May of 1984, Andy Kaufman passed away.

Even after his death, many couldn't believe it. They expected "Tony Clifton" to make an appearance, or Andy to jump out of the coffin and shout "Surprise!" But the long strange trip of Andy's life had truly come to an end. He was 35.

In a final bizarre tribute to Andy's life, "Tony Clifton" made one final appearance; exactly one year after Andy's death, "Tony" hosted a show at The Comedy Store to raise money for cancer research in Andy's memory. This became the model for the annual "Comic Relief" fundraiser, which to date, has raised millions for the homeless.

In a beautiful tribute to Andy's life, REM recorded "Man on the Moon" in 1992 and in 1999, Jim Carrey was Andy Kaufman in the biography, Man on the Moon, perhaps one of Carrey's best performances ever.

As David Letterman said when he announced Andy's death, "He certainly was unique, and we're going to miss him."


Internet Movie Database - http://us.imdb.com/
Life and Times of Andy Kaufman - http://andykaufman.jvlnet.com/

There have been many rumours over the years that Andy Kaufman faked his own death. He had spoken in the past about the idea and had met up with Alan Abel, a hoaxer who had faked his death a few years earlier. Kaufman was also obsessed with Elvis, and especially with the ideas that Elvis too had faked his own death. These rumours had been fanned over the years by the repeated appearances of Tony Clifton at small clubs. While his writing/performance partner Bob Zmuda admitted that he had sometimes played Tony during Kaufman's life, and also insisted that Kaufman was definitely dead, he still wouldn't categorically state it was him playing Clifton.

These rumours flared up again in the wake of the film Man On The Moon, but slowly died down again. However, Kaufman had stated that if he ever did fake his own death, he would return on the 20th anniversary. 'Just in case', Zmuda, along with Kaufman's girlfriend, placed ads in the press 'to remind him' and hosted a party at the House Of Blues in LA and the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, as well as a vigil at Kaufman's old apartment. However, to no-one's great surprise, Kaufman didn't show up.

However, two days later, on May 18, 2004, a news story appeared on Yahoo! news: "Andy Kaufman, by all accounts, is alive and well at age 55 and is now living in New York City on the upper west side. To his loyal supporters and fans, Andy says "sorry about faking my death," in a recent interview with ABC News at his apartment. "

Many people uncritically accepted this 'news' item, which was actually a verbatim press release, and visited the linked blog - http://andykaufmanreturns.blogspot.com - where they found what at first seemed a semi-plausible account of his 'return', including photos of him in Tony Clifton costume (which turn out to be photos of Zmuda from the party).

Immediately, anyone with the slightest interest seemed to fall into two opposing camps - "It's him! He did it!" and "It's not him" - the "It's not him" people in turn seemed to split into two more camps - "this is evil exploitation of a dead man" and "It's exactly what he would have wanted", with subgroups arguing over whether it was the work of Zmuda or just a fan.

Soon, the blog became less convincing, with posts being removed after factual errors were exposed, and Snopes posting a rather-more-scathing-than-necessary debunking, and someone claiming to be the wife of a journalist, Steve Maddox, who was annoyed because he was spending all his time posting as 'Kaufman', set up a rival blog, andykaufmanisdead.blogspot.com .

However, the people who complained, or set out to 'expose' this, seemed to slightly miss the point. Kaufman's art was always about blurring the line between performance and reality and leaving the audience to draw their own conclusions, and this whole thing, no matter who is responsible, serves as a worthy addition to Kaufman's art.

And even if, as seems already to be happening, the quality of blog posts deteriorates, and the writer is 'debunked', well... the only possible joke better than faking one's own death would be to fake one's own death, come back, and then fake a debunking of the comeback, wouldn't it?

Next time you see a report of an Elvis sighting in the Weekly World News, look at the photo carefully... are you sure that isn't really Andy?

"Andy Kaufman"'s blog - http://andykaufmanreturns.blogspot.com/
ANdy Kaufman Lives - a fan's speculation - http://www.andykaufmanlives.com/enrique
Andy Lives! ("An Andy Kaufman And Tony Clifton Tribute Site With An Emphasis On Faking Death") - http://andylives.org/
Yahoo! News Report of Andy's return - http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/040519/234/726q1.html
Snopes debunking - http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/hoaxes/kaufman.asp
Andy Kaufman Is Dead - blog of the supposed wife of the supposed hoaxer - http://andykaufmanisdead.blogspot.com/

Update: Since writing this a few hours ago I have discovered that the Steve Maddox who it is being claimed wrote the Kaufman blog is actually the owner of the domain andykaufmanlives.com - which featues writing about Kaufman in a far, far stranger manner than that on the blog, and is a far more unusual site. That site has also been dropping hints for several months about Kaufman maybe coming back. Steve Maddox is also the name of a character in a film called The Running Man, a insurance investigator who chases someone who faked his own death. But the phone number on the whois registration for andykaufmanlives.com really was registered to a Steve Maddox. Whoever has been doing this has been planning it for far longer than it would first appear, or there are quite a few interesting coincidences...

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