While alive, Andy Kaufman surprised audiences of Taxi as Latka Gravas and for seven years appeared on Saturday Night Live lip synching Mighty Mouse or wrestling women. Andy made guest appearances on The Muppets and on musical variety shows as the character, lounge singer Tony Clifton.
In Hollywood this weekend, The Andy Kaufman: Dead or Alive party celebrated the 20th anniversary of Kaufman’s death from lung cancer. The moving event seemed to pay homage to everything Kaufman stood for, once those things could be nailed down.
This traveling circus of an event lasted 30 hours if you signed on for all the addons. Here are some hints: Andy was a comedian performing at clubs like Catch A Rising Star and The Comedy Store, he pretended to be lounge singer Tony Clifton, sometimes brought audiences cookies and milk, wrestled women and Jerry Lawler on Saturday night live, and liked to frequent Nevada brothels. More than all of that, he was somewhat of a performance artist, driving traditional entertainment over the top.
LOCATION NUMBER ONE. House of Blues 7:30 pm Sunday May 16
It started at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood but soon became a progressive dinner of entertainment venues. Just over a mile from where Andy Kaufman had taken his last breath 20 years to the day before, fans paying from $50 to $250 gathered for what might be weirdest 24 hours of their lives.
The waiting line was an event in itself. People drawn to the event from throughout the world interacted with others who had spent ridiculous sums of money to be at the House of Blues that night. There was a madman costumed in a beeping clown nose and a bondage mask covering his entire head. He ran up and down the waiting line screaming, “It's all bullshit! Free Andy!
" Some speculated it was actually Jim Carrey. On the guy’s ripped clown suit was a sign that said, “Life is a joke and death is the punch line!” Like so much to go on that evening, the reality wasn’t clear.
First, Andy’s friend Bob Zmuda told stories about life with Andy and introduced Andy’s girlfriend and manager. Next came a video of “the making of Man in the Moon,” the film about Andy’s life and death. That video, with the movie’s star Jim Carrey, seemed to go on as long as the actual movie. The best part was when Carrey, dressed up like Norman Bates’ mother at Universal Studios, chased tourist VIPs and tour buses around with an axe. The footage was really funny.
After that, several stand up comedians performed. Though there were no shows among the funny people listed on the House of Blues website, Paul Rudd (Roseanne, Friends) went on as did Rich Voss (Last Comic Standing), Andy Dick (News Radio) and Bob Odenkirk (Futurama producer). The no shows, other than Andy Kaufman who some thought would return from the dead, were Rodney Dangerfield and Carolyn Rhea.
After the comedians stopped, the music began. Tony Clifton and the Cliftones took the stage, looking a lot like Andy when he used to masquerade as the rude but entertaining Tony. Audience members said the music good and of the same quality one would find at the House of Blues.
LOCATION NUMBER TWO. The Comedy Store Just past midnight Monday, May 16.
Next, things became even stranger. Promoters invited the entire audience across the street to the Comedy Store for milk and cookies. So everyone gets up, pied piper style, and follows each other outside, down the street to a traffic signal, across the busy Sunset Strip and over to the Comedy Store. Tickets weren’t necessary for this part, that promoters called “Act II.” Inside, not only were Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies (they were popular 20 years ago) and milk waiting, but the center of the room had a boxing ring set up. Jerry Lawler, famous for wrestling Andy Kaufman on Saturday night live and sending him to the hospital, was center stage. Lawler began wrestling all comers. Meanwhile, cocktail waitresses began trying to sell drinks to the nerdy crowd, who most often said, “a drink? But I just had milk!” In the end, Lawler beat up some gay Mexican wrestlers for a macho win.
LOCATION NUMBER THREE. Andy’s old apartment 1:30 am Monday May 17
When the wrestling was winding down, everyone was invited to tour Andy’s former apartment, now looking like a museum. People were asked to take a candle and walk in line from Sunset down La Cienega to Fountain. According to Brad Friedman, the current owners of the condo allowed 20 people in at a time. Directons:
Some photos of that location: http://fromp.org/andy/andy02.jpg http://fromp.org/andy/andy05.jpg
LOCATION NUMBER FOUR. The Moonlite Bunny Ranch, Carson City, Nevada, 8 pm Monday May 17.
While still at the Comedy Store, audience members were told by porn actor Ron Jeremy that this moving party would continue into the next day, Monday May 17. Each ticket stub was good for a session in Carson City, Nevada’s Moonlite Bunny Ranch, the one seen a year ago on HBO after a season finale of the Sopranos. The offer was available Monday from 8 pm until midnight. People actually going on the brothel reported on a message board that Dennis Hof, the owner, was there to greet them. Tony Clifton showed up and started buying drinks for everyone. An HBO camera crew asked to do interviews with ticket holders who flew from Los Angeles to the Tahoe area for the complete experience. According to a message board, most of the guys who flew into LA for this Andy Kaufman experience were married. If they did get up to Carson City, they certainly didn’t want to be caught on camera. Celebrity hooker Air Force Amy offered to wrestle Tony Clifton, but he declined. Some other guy decided to go for it. Amy won.
Here is a thorough report of what went on at the Brothel: http://www.fastboards.com/boards/board.cgi?user=clairechanel&action=read&id=1084871386
Check out this review of the show:
Certain images are used from Frump.org, and we appreciate it!
For more reading about Andy Kaufman, the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, Tony Clifton, or Comic Relief, see: