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Remembering Andy Kaufman 1949 – 1984

Andy Kaufman was a popular and eccentric American entertainer, actor and performance artist. While often referred to as a comedian, Kaufman did not consider himself to be one. He disdained telling jokes and engaging in comedy as it was traditionally understood, referring to himself instead as a "song-and-dance man". Elaborate ruses and pranks were major elements of his career. His body of work maintains a cult following and he continues to be respected for his original material, performance style, and unflinching commitment to character.

Professional wrestling

Inspired by the theatricality of kayfabe, the staged nature of the sport, and his own tendency to form elaborate hoaxes, Kaufman began wrestling women during his act and was the self-proclaimed "Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World," taking on an aggressive and ridiculous personality based upon the characters invented by professional wrestlers. He offered a $1,000 prize to any woman who could pin him. He employed performance artist Laurie Anderson, a friend of his, as a stooge in this act for a while.

Kaufman initially approached the head of the WWF, Vince McMahon Sr about bringing his act to the New York wrestling territory. McMahon dismissed Kaufman's idea as the elder McMahon was not about to bring "show business" into his Pro Wrestling society. Kaufman had by then developed a friendship with Wrestling magazine reporter/photographer Bill Apter. After many discussions about Andy wanting to be in the Pro Wrestling business, Apter called Memphis' iconic Jerry Lawler and introduced him to Kaufman by telephone from Apter's apartment in Queens, New York. The battles between Kaufman and Lawler became legend and were really the first "sports entertainment" angle that became known worldwide and is being seen even today on TV stations such as Comedy Central.

Later, after a challenge from professional wrestler Jerry “the king” Lawler , Kaufman would step into the ring with a man—Lawler himself. Kaufman taunted the whole city of Memphis, sending "videos showing residents how to use soap" and proclaiming it to be "the nation's redneck capital." Their ongoing fued, often featuring Jimmy Hart and other heels in Kaufman's corner, included a broken neck for Kaufman as a result of Lawler's piledriver and a famous on-air fight on a 1982 episode of Late Night with David Letterman. For some time after that, Kaufman appeared wearing a neck brace, insisting that his injuries were worse than they were. Kaufman would continue to defend the Inter-Gender Championship in the Mid-sputh coloseum and offered an extra prize, other than the $1,000: that if he were pinned, the woman who pinned him would get to marry him and that Kaufman would also shave his head.

Kaufman and Lawler's famous feud and wrestling matches were later revealed to have been staged, or a "work ," as the two were actually friends. The truth about its being a work was not disclosed until more than 10 years after Kaufman's death, when the Emmy-nominated documentary A Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman, aired on NBC in 1995. Coincidentally, Jim Carrey, the one who revealed the secret, later went on to play Kaufman in the 1999 film Man on the Moon. In a 1997 interview with the Memphis Flyer, Lawler claimed he had improvised during their first match and the Letterman incident. Although officials at St. Francis Hospital stated that Kaufman's neck injuries were real, in his 2002 biography It's Good to Be the King ... Sometimes, Lawler detailed how they came up with the angle and kept it quiet. Even though Kaufman's injury was legitimate, the pair pretended that the injury was more severe than it was. He also said that Kaufman's explosion on Letterman was Kaufman's own idea, including when Lawler slapped Kaufman out of his chair. Promoter Jerry Jerret would later recall that for two years, he would mail paychecks to Kaufman, with payments comparable to what other main-event wrestlers were getting at the time, but Kaufman never cashed any of them.

Kaufman also appeared in the 1983 film My Breakfast with Blassie with professional wrestling personality “Classie” Freddy Blassie , a parody of the art film My Dinner With Andre. The film was directed by Johnny Legend, who employed his sister Lynne Margulies as one of the women who appears in the film. Margulies met Kaufman for the first time on camera, and they later became a couple, living together until Kaufman's death.

The movie “Man on the moon” staring Jim Carrey accurately depicts his life and wrestling career

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