Andy Kaufman Revealed!

Free Andy Kaufman Revealed! by Bob Zmuda

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Authors: Bob Zmuda
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a bad audience, I’ll walk right out of here, and you can have a strip show, for all I care.”
    Sixty-some pairs of eyes, including the owner’s, his wife’s, and their entire staff’s, were wide open in shock. This was a nice little family place, and everyone had expected a pleasant, not-half-bad has-been to sing a few standards while they enjoyed their meals and discussed their humdrum little lives. What they got was a wolf in lizard’s clothing — they got Tony Clifton.
    He singled out an older man sitting within striking distance with his wife and another couple. “Whatsamatter?” he sneered. “You ain’t never seen a real entertainer? Close your mouth, pal, you’re attracting flies. Better yet, keep it open, there’s so many they need somewhere to go.”
    He moved down the line, summarily executing diners with his words. I had never seen Andy like this. His Foreign Man was so sweet and gentle, a magical creation, yet Tony Clifton’s unre-deeming cruelty had a power all its own. Suddenly it hit me: Tony was the bastard son of Mr. X. But make no mistake, this was pure Andy. He had only borrowed elements of Mr. X to create Tony, kind of like using a corpse’s arms and legs to craft a Frankenstein monster. The heart — the dark heart — was pure Andy.
    He went on for a while and I felt the crowd turning against him.
What the hell kind of an act was this?
He blew smoke in people’s faces and verbally abused them. It was inspiring. The place was now murmuring, and it wasn’t because the diners were having a good time. Then Tony reached me.
    “You. You havin’ a good time?” he asked, innocently enough.
    “Yeah,” I said.
    “What’s your name?”
    “Bob.”
    “Bob what?”
    It was the routine from the car.
    “Gorsky.”
    “Gorsky? Gorsky? What’s that? Chinese? Russian? What?”
    “Polish.”
    “Polish?”
he roared, then sized me up. “Polish, huh? You think ‘cause you’re Polish you’re funny?”
    “I don’t know,” I said, trying to sound browbeaten.
    “Well, are you funny?” he demanded.
    “Yeah, I guess so.”
    “Well, mister funny Polack, you think this is funny?”
    And with that he poured my full glass of Chianti over my head. I looked as shocked as Sissy Spacek did in
Carrie
when Travolta dropped the blood on her. After my initial shock I burst into tears, leaped up, and ran into the men’s room. Of course, my “tears” resulted from trying to contain my laughter. A big bruiser followed me into the can and offered to kick Clifton’s ass. I pleaded with him to not do it, as I was a “pacifist,” a technical label people were well aware of back then. I excused myself and went quickly to the car to wait for Kaufman. About two minutes later Andy came running at full tilt down the road toward me. Out of breath, he tossed his bag in, jumped behind the wheel, and, laughing hysterically, yelled, “Give me the keys! Let’s get the hell out of here!”
    I gave him a puzzled look and held up my hands. “Keys? I don’t have ‘em. You have ‘em.”
    For about one and a half seconds, the look on Andy’s face revealed as much shock as he’d ever showed in his life. It was priceless. Then I handed him the keys. “Gotcha.”
    He fired up the engine, slammed it into gear, and we dug out. Safely down the road he looked over. “You’re as crazy as me, aren’t you?”
    I nodded. “Yup.”
    That night, Tony Clifton was born, and our lifetime friendship was cemented. Andy was my new best buddy from that point on. I was impressed with his total originality, and he saw that I had a deep subversive streak much like his own. Having a close friend was a new experience for Andy since he’d always been a confirmed loner.
    Chris got me a job bartending at the Improv, and when Andy went on stage I’d break away to catch his act. I got to see much of his experimental stuff and finally discovered the purpose of that heavy 16-millimeter projector. Andy would come on stage in an

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