Six Reasons Andy Kaufman Might Still Be Alive
We all get tired of that one conspiracy theorist friend of ours who tells us that 9/11 was an inside job–or that Michael Jackson faked his death, and is now sharing an apartment with Elvis Presley and Heath Ledger. Most of the stories of celebrities rumored to be alive aren’t just absurd but flat‐out preposterous. Elvis used a waxed body double at his funeral and still is alive? Tupac Shakur is still alive and kicking somewhere, waiting to make his comeback, when there are autopsy photos of his bullet‐riddled corpse on the Internet? Jim Morrison is currently going by Mr. Mojo Rising and residing in some remote location in Africa and enchanting the beautiful topless tribal native women with his beautiful poetry… There is no shortage of crackpot theories about dead celebrities faking their deaths in this world. And since I have always been a firm subscriber of the “If you can’t beat them, join them” mentality, I too have decided to add a celebrity name to said crackpot theories list: Andy Kaufman.
Yes, there I said it. I believe Andy Kaufman‐‐yes that Andy Kaufman, the guy from “Taxi"‐‐faked his death in 1984.
Now I know your first thought might be I’m just another one of the aforementioned crackpots‐‐and hell, maybe I am. However, if it turns out there was one celebrity who faked his death, Kaufman’s name would be topmost in my list. In comparison to all the others‐‐Morrison,Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson‐‐Kaufman’s demise being a ruse seems so much more within the realm of possibility. Therefore, I have decided to compile a list of reasons why I, as well as many other people, believe Kaufman faked his death. At the end of the list, if you still don’t question that Kaufman’s death is a sham, and you still believe that I’m a crackpot, then I’ll buy you dinner…OK, I probably won’t buy you dinner‐‐unless you look like Sofia Vergara. I will,however, gladly accept the "crackpot” designation.
Reason Number One‐‐The Tony Clifton Story
In 1980, Andy Kaufman, with the help of his best friend and writing partner Bob Zmuda, penned a screenplay titled “The Tony Clifton Story.” Tony Clifton was Mr. Kaufman’s alter-ego–a physically intimidating latex-faced living, breathing cigarette-smoking lounge lizard caricature and manifestation of Kaufman’s dark side. in 1980, Kaufman somehow convinced Universal Studios to greenlight a movie about the very fictional Tony Clifton’s life. John Landis (“The Blues Brothers,” “Animal House,”) was slated to direct. Unfortunately–like many projects in Hollywood–the movie never materialized, but the script is available for download on multiple websites and for purchase on Ebay. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase here: There is a scene at the end of “The Tony Clifton Story” screenplay, wherein the titular character Tony Clifton, Kaufman’s alter-ego, dies of lung cancer at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. Kaufman reportedly died at the very same hospital and of the very same disease, some four years after penning that script. Coincidence, or was this some elaborately constructed Easter Egg, that Kaufman had deliberately left half-hidden for his most devout and dedicated fans to discover years after his death? In the words of Robert Plant in “Stairway To Heaven,” it makes me wonder!
Reason Number Two‐‐He Told People He Would Do It.
That’s right. Kaufman told people‐‐many people‐‐that he was going to fake his death. Among friends and acquaintances he teased his plans to was his best friend and writing partner Bob Zmuda; his last known girlfriend, Lynne Margulies; his brother Michael Kaufman; Jack Burns and John Moffit, producers of the Saturday Night Live clone series “Fridays.” He told Mimi Lambert,a girl he used to wrestle with on his Not Ready For Primetime Player days on SNL that, “If I go through with my plan, I will do so by pretending to have cancer.” In his new book, “The Truth Finally,” Kaufman’s best friend and writing partner Bob Zmuda claims Kaufman used to phone him up late at night and discuss how he was going to disappear. “At first he thought he should be lost at sea,” but Zmuda admits to quickly quashing that plan. “For this to be convincing, you need a body, Kaufman.” (Zmuda writes that Kaufman ultimately faked his death by swapping identities with a cancer patient from San Francisco; the fan died as Andy Kaufman, and Kaufman is still alive somewhere, living under the patient’s name and Social Security number.)
You think you had it tough, Edward Snowden? Kaufman’s allegedly been on the run since 1984–you were still prancing around in your Huggies back then!
Reason Number Three‐‐Alan Abel
Alan Abel, the legendary practical joker who invented S.I.N.A‐‐The Society To Clothe Naked Animals‐‐once tricked The New York Times into printing his obituary when Abel was still very much alive. The Times reported that Abel had died of a heart attack at an upscale ski resort in Aspen, Colorado. A few days after the obituary’s publication, Abel announced at a press conference that rumors of his death had been greatly exaggerated. One of Alan Abel’s biggest fans was‐‐surprise, surprise‐‐Andy Kaufman. “Andy was extremely fascinated by my January first obituary. And he kept asking me how I had pulled it off. He wanted to know every little detail of my plan that worked out so well,” Abel told me via a telephone interview. “I became a bit annoyed at his persistence, to be honest with you.” To this day, Abel believes it’s possible that Kaufman faked his death, taking his New York Times stunt to the next logical level.
Mr. Abel concluded the interview by telling me he would be ecstatic if his old buddy revealed himself as a contestant on “American Idol” someday soon.
Reason Number Four–The Letter
A few years back, Kaufman’s brother, Michael Kaufman, made an appearance on CNN. Choked up with emotion, he read to the hosts part a of a letter he claimed he had received in Kaufman’s handwriting (or a style similar to his) in 1999. Michael then went on to explain to the hosts that Andy had oftentimes shared with him his plans of faking his own death and the aftermath of the hoax. He also gave Michael the address to a certain location‐‐a restaurant they both used to frequent when they were kids‐‐and Andy told his brother that, if he ever does die,Michael should someday met up with Andy at the specified location, so they could reunite again. Michael, as he told the hosts, followed suit, and took a booth at the restaurant. There was no Andy there that day, he said. However, a man Michael had never seen before walked up to him and approached him at his booth, handing Michael a letter. Michael read from this alleged letter during the super‐awkward CNN interview. The letter begins: Dear Michael, I am extremely sorry for the pain I have put you, dad, mom, Carol and Grandma Lily through. I guess I just got tired of being Andy Kaufman.“ Michael was clearly very affected, from just having to read from this letter. If he’s an actor, he’s a mighty fine one, at that. In the same league as his brother. When asked by one of the hosts if Kaufman was still alive Michael responded, "I have a glimmer of hope.”
Say what, Michael? You mean to tell us you were at your brother’s deathbed, you saw him “expire”–according to the “Lost in the Funhouse biography by Bill Zeheme–and yet you still have a glimmer of hope your brother’s alive?
Reason Number Five‐‐Sightings of Andy Kaufman
Yes, just like Elvis, just like Michael Jackson, just like Jim Morrison‐‐there are also Andy Kaufman sightings‐‐Andy Kaufman sightings galore. According to "The Death of Andy Kaufman,” written and directed by a gifted filmmaker named Chris Maloney, there have been plenty rumors that Kaufman has been sighted in Jamaica, Aruba and at a meditation center in Taos, New Mexico.The New Mexico sightings don’t just stop in Taos, either. Three years ago, I was summoned into the Channel 13 newswoman, and interviewed by newswoman Tina Jensen, of KRQE in Albuquerque. I was called in to discuss grainy footage of a man‐‐who bore a striking resemblance to Andy Kaufman‐‐gallivanting around an apartment complex at an unspecified location in the Land Of Enchantment. When asked by Mrs. Jensen if I believed that was Andy Kaufman in the video, if I believed the Dadaistic entertainer was still alive and having a ball of a time in my very own home state, I replied, “I certainly believe it is possible.”
And that’s the God’s-honest truth: I certainly do believe it is possible. In a world where Bill Cosby isn’t behind bars and Justin Bieber is a superstar, all things are possible.
To watch the video, click below.
Reason Number Six‐‐There Is Audio Evidence
In 2013, the CD “Andy And His Grandmother” was released by Drag City. Narrated by SNL alum Bill Hader, the CD is a strange collection of conversations Kaufman had secretly taped between himself, family members, girlfriends, prostitutes and his friends. The final track on the album–titled, I Want Those Tapes–perhaps more than any of the other examples I have listed above, really adds fuel to the fire for us crackpot conspiracy theorists. In fact, the evidence here is so overwhelming, that many non-believers have even questioned their beliefs. For in this aforementioned track, Kaufman is actually discussing with his best buddy and writing partner Bob Zmuda exactly how long he should stay gone, were he to go through his greatest hoax ever–his own death. Zmuda tells Kaufman he believes the idea is fantastic. But Kaufman responds by asking Zmuda, “But don’t you think everybody will hate me when it turns out I’m still alive?” This is, without question, a very crucial piece of evidence, that’ll even force some of you skeptics to scratch your heads. Has unearthed audio ever surfaced of Jim Morrison or Tupac or Elvis talking about faking their own deaths? Suck on this recording, skeptics.
(If you want to get straight to the juicy stuff, the faked death giblets, be sure to speed up to 4:11.)
So there you have it: Six reasons why Andy Kaufman, the king of all practical jokers, might have faked his death. I’m not saying I know with one hundred percent absolute certainty that Kaufman faked his death. Or even if he did fake his death, I’m not saying that I believe Kaufman’s still alive even. All I’m saying is that there sure is a lot of evidence out there, that the man was considering pulling off what he felt was the “greatest bit” in show-business history.
One thing’s for certain, however: If anybody could pull a stunt off this momentous and of this magnitude, it’d be Andy Kaufman.
Jack Bristow sometimes writes for his local newspaper, The Santa Fe New Mexican. His first-ever full-length novel, Hard Time, is slated for a May 16th release date on Amazon. Next year, you will be able to see Mr. Bristow alongside Marilu Henner, actor Curt Clendenin,and legendary hoaxers Bob Pagani and Alan Abel in British filmmaker John Lunderg’s documentary, Kaufman Lives. Follow @KaufmanLives for further updates on the project.