Andy Kaufman: was his death a hoax, or is his alleged daughter claiming his death was a hoax, a hoax? You decide.
Andy Kaufman, comic legend and experimental performance artist, has long been the subject of conspiracy theories, namely that he didn’t actually die in 1984 (of lung cancer at age 35). Kaufman was known for his pranks, such as his invention of the rude lounge singer Tony Clifton, and many Kaufman fans wondered for years after his death if Andy really died or if this was his greatest prank of all.
Nearly three decades after his supposed death, a glimmer of hope arose unexpectedly at the 9th annual Andy Kaufman awards, held in New York on Monday. Andy Kaufman’s brother, Michael, took the stage and said that he didn’t know for sure if Kaufman was alive or dead. He then described finding an essay written by Kaufman about how he would fake his own death and reappear at a specific restaurant on Christmas Eve, 1999. Michael Kaufman went to the restaurant at the appointed time. Andy never showed…but a mysterious stranger handed him a letter, from Andy to Michael. It said 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 wrote that "everything was great in his life” and that he faked his death because “he just wanted to get away from being Andy Kaufman,"
The Kaufman’s father, Stanley, passed away this summer, and Michael received a phone call from a lady claiming to be Andy Kaufman’s daughter.
Michael Kaufman described all of this at the Andy Kaufman Awards, including reading the letter, and then asked the crowd if Andy’s daughter was in attendance. A woman came up on stage, and said, yes, she was Andy Kaufman’s daughter, and Kaufman is still alive.
Al Parinello, a longtime friend of Andy Kaufman’s, said that he is sure this was not a hoax:
"I witnessed the entire thing and I can tell you without a doubt this was not a prank," he told the Hollywood Reporter.
Others are not so convinced. The Smoking Gun did some digging, and turned up the real identity of the woman claiming to be Andy Kaufman’s daughter. She is actually Alexandra Tatarsky, an actress whose real father is a psychologist.
If Andy Kaufman’s non-death is a hoax, as it seems to be, it’s one that Kaufman would have liked: a fake event that appeared real and manipulated people into having real emotions. Andy Kaufman may be dead, but his influence lives on.