Thanks to his utterly bizarre yet completely transformative character work and penchant for pulling large-scale pranks, Andy Kaufman is exactly the kind of person who you would expect to fake their own death - and as a result has been the subject of many conspiracy theories ever since his reported passing in 1984.
Hell, even director Milos Forman added an interesting question mark scene about Kaufman's death at the end of his 1999 biopic Man on the Moon. Now a new chapter has been written in the decades long conspiracy theory, however, and if this new report turns out to be true it means that Kaufman has spent the last 29 years of his living in obscurity with a wife and family. Defamer picked up the story from The Comic's Comic, and it's quite an interesting tale.
The story begins at the 9th annual Andy Kaufman Awards, which were held on Monday night at New York's Gotham Comedy Club. While on stage, Michael Kaufman - Andy's brother - began to talk about his sibling's legacy and then revealed that he doesn't actually know if Andy is alive or dead.
He then told a story about how back in 1984 he was going through his brother's things and discovered an essay written by Andy about how he would go about faking his own death. The piece said that he would eventually reappear on Christmas Eve 1999 at a particular restaurant, and when that date came Michael went to the place to find out the truth. While Andy was a no-show, that night he was given a letter from a stranger that turned out to be a letter addressed to him from Andy. In the letter the comedy legend explained how he wanted to have a normal life and that "he'd met and fallen in love with a woman and had a daughter, and that he didn't want Michael or anyone to say anything while their own father was still alive."
Andy and Michael's father, Stanley, died this past summer, and Michael told the audience at the Gotham Comedy Club that a month after the loss he got a call from a young woman who told him over the phone that Andy was alive and that he had actually been paying attention to the Andy Kaufman Awards "from afar" and was very proud of the event. Michael then asked the crowd if that young woman was in the audience, and then a 24-year-old woman stood up from the back and made her way to the stage. The report on The Comic's Comic, which was written by a writer named Sean L. McCarthy, doesn't mention exactly how this young woman was connected to Andy, but Killy Dwyer, an Andy Kaufman Awards finalist who was there that night, said in a Facebook post that the mystery guest was Andy Kaufman's daughter.
The Hollywood Reporter has received some quotes from Ed Cavanagh, showroom manager at the Gotham Comedy Club, and Al Parinello, the producer of the awards, who have confirmed what went down on Monday night. The former insisted that the event wasn't a hoax, saying "without a doubt this was not a prank," and the former, who is bit more unsure about the story, said that it was clear that Michael was emotionally impacted.
While we have yet to find the video that Dwyer mentions in her Facebook post, McCarthy's post does include an image of both Michael Kaufman (holding a picture of his brother) and the mysterious 24-year-old woman who came on stage:
From the Hollywood Reporter article:
No one in attendance seems to know the woman's first name, though Parinello says she went by the surname "McCoy," a name Kaufman used when checking himself into hospitals.
An account of the event posted to Facebook by one audience member says the woman then told the crowd that her alleged father "is alive" and that "the passing of [their] father [Stanley Kaufman] this July made him want to reach out" to his brother. The account calls the moment "as real as any reality that I've seen." Another account said the room fell silent during the presentation and that one woman "burst into tears" as Michael read the letter.
According to Ed Cavanagh, showroom manager at the Gotham Comedy Club, "You could see by the look on [Michael's] face that it had an emotional impact on him." Asked whether or not he believes the woman's story, Cavanagh adds, "I don't know whether somebody is perpetrating something on [Michael] or not. I'm truly 50-50 on this one."
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 [and myself] 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."
Adds Parinello: "It was a very formal affair -- it wasn't as though they could prod or anything else. They were simply in the room and saw Andy laying in a coffin."
Contacted by THR, Michael Kaufman said that the woman claiming to be Kaufman's daughter was impossible to reach, for reasons he would explain later. He then excused himself, saying he had a dinner date with his wife.
video at TMZ
Read the whole story cause it's a good one. I desperately want this to be true, but this is one hell of a bizarre/masterfully executed prank if it isn't (which is obviously most likely).