There’s one question on everyone’s mind today, including that of professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler: “Andy, are you goofing on Elvis?”
Yup, rumors are swirling that presumably deceased comedian Andy Kaufman is still alive after a woman who claims to be his daughter made an appearance Monday night at the Andy Kaufman Awards, and his old rival/friend is just as perplexed as everyone else about the news.
“I don’t know,” Lawler told MTV News when asked whether he thinks there’s truth to the rumors. “I just know that would be like Andy or, possibly, this is just an elaborate hoax that they’re doing in Andy’s honor. I really don’t know.”
Earlier this week at the 9th Annual Andy Kaufman Awards at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City, Kaufman’s brother Michael stirred up the rumor mill by recounting a very interesting story, according to CNN. He explained that he while looking through the comedian’s papers he had found the entertainer’s plan to fake his own death, saying that he would reappear at a restaurant on Christmas Eve 1999.
When Michael showed up at the restaurant, a parking lot attendant gave him a letter supposedly from Andy, saying that he was living in secret with his new family. After reading the letter, Michael brought a young woman on stage, a woman claiming to be Andy Kaufman’s daughter — and claiming that his death from lung cancer in 1984 was a hoax.
Reports have since surfaced that the woman is 23-year-old actress Alexandra Tatarsky and that the event was all a hoax orchestrated by Michael Kaufman. We have reached out to Tatarsky for comment.
Meanwhile, the producer of the awards, Al Parinello, told The Hollywood Reporter: “I witnessed the entire thing and I can tell you without a doubt this was not a prank.”
Lawler, who was invited to the awards but was unable to attend, could go either way. “I had a couple of thoughts. Andy and I worked together back in the day, and I feel like we became really pretty close friends. I know that Andy talked even back then a lot about the idea that the ultimate prank that he could ever pull would be to fake his own death and then come back 10 or 15 years later.”
Lawler and Kaufman perpetrated their own hoax back in the early ’80s when they concocted a feud built on skits in which Kaufman wrestled women. The two engaged in a violent matches in the midst of Kaufman’s wrestling spree, but, in reality, the two were friends, Lawler even appearing as himself in the 1999 Kaufman biopic “Man On The Moon.”
“Andy was down doing one of our Memphis wrestling TV shows the day that he told me that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer,” Lawler said. “He was coughing through an interview that he was doing and afterwards he apologized and said, ‘Man, I just got diagnosed with lung cancer.’ I thought at the time, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, here we go.’ I said, ‘Andy, come on,’ and he said, ‘I’m serious.’ So I always had that little bit of a doubt.”
That doubt only grew after Kaufman’s funeral, which he said was closed casket and only attended by close family. “That always made me a little skeptical as well,” he said.
Lawler had an almost-brush with Kaufman around 2000, when he received a phonecall at 2:30 a.m. from someone who sounded exactly like Kaufman and knew intimate details of their friendship. In the end, however, it was all a ruse. “[It was] Jim Carrey that made that call,” he said. Carrey played Kaufman in The Man On The Moon. “That was really my only encounter with Andy since he died.”
Andy Kaufman in 1979
When asked if perhaps the scene at the awards could have been a hoax executed from beyond the grave with help from Kaufman’s brother Michael, Lawler said: “[Michael] was not like Andy at all in the sense that I wouldn’t think of Michael as the kind of guy who would pull off the practical jokes that Andy did or the elaborate ruses that Andy did. I don’t know. I know that Michael said that he did find this essay that Andy wrote going into detail about how he would go about faking his own death and that sort of thing. I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Lawler is hopeful, though, and said that if Kaufman does turn up, he would definitely challenge him to another wrestling match. “It would be a perfect match for a main event at WrestleMania,” he said, speculating that Kaufman’s entrance music would be “New York Groove.”
Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match? If you believed they put a man on the moon…