Saturday, August 12, 2006

Interview with "The Real Andy Kaufman"'s director, part 2

Do you think Andy is still alive? few months after his passing, I met his brother Micheal at the Improv and there lost his brother. When you love someone, you like to think that, but there'd be no reason for him to want to disappear and go [to another place]. Plus, I don't think any of us really die. We basically vibrate to another level and leave a shell behind. Like Enstein said, you can't create nor destroy energy, it just transmutes. So with the energy that we are, I think it's a closed universe, and we just expand to whatever vibration. A human being and soul is energy...we transmute. I just don't want to transmute in a painful manner! I hate the sound of death. I just pretend whoever supposedly died, who I loved, I just think of them as living in Europe, and I'll visit them one day soon. I'll see my parents, my friends. I'll see everyone in Europe. Not that Andy's in Europe. When you love someone, you just close your eyes, and you're with them.

I don't know why people continue to believe that he would fake his own death.

Maybe they feel that with the eccentricities that he had, he might have wanted to do a disappearing act. And become a very holy monk living up in the mountains, standing under a tree all day, and communicating with space gods. Anything is possible. If Christ walked on water, why couldn't Andy fake his own passing and live in the Himalayas? But I think from just the way I've known everyone who loved him...knowing his brother...there was nothing except the passing of Andy Kaufman.

And he was so very young...

And energetic. And loving. And dynamic.

I guess it's amazing we have as much as we do from him.

You know what? I think certain souls when we reach our perfection or as Japanese people or Asians have a saying that a warrior should die at the height of their beauty....I think that was Andy. Just as Bruce Lee died right at the pinnacle, at the height of his beauty. Therefore, leaving a tremendous iconic following, dynasty, whatever it will be. As Andy's, smaller than Bruce's, of course, it's almost a soul that you are to walk with and think about until you check out somewhere. Yeah, he refused any adult cynicism. He really did. I mean, I never saw the temper flare. It was always that same gentle spirit, playful...[innocent Andy voice] "Let's go on the wonderwheel again, let's go on the bumper cars, or should we get a hotdog? What should we do? What should we do?" He kept childhood alive in front of him in his big six foot three frame. And that's what you were watching when he wrestled. You were watching an eight year old kid in the backyard wrestling his sister. Showing dominance. And the mother saying, "Stop it, Andy." In other words, he knew the primate in all of us. I was just awed at that behavior.

I use to think he was just goofing on people all of the time with the wrestling. But part of it was not goofing?

It was just another role. The true guy that Andy was was that very gentle "My Breakfast with Blassie" guy. When I ate with him, everytime [innocent Andy voice] "Seth, let me ask the waitress if we can..." That was the soul. That was him. He was gentle as they come, and everything else, believe me, was him as an actor. Most actors carry around three personas. I think he had 45. Like Robin Williams, he can do the "Southerner". He can do the "crazy guy". He can do the ....Andy could basically tap or channel any other soul and let it come through him.

Let's say I was having lunch with Andy. I didn't know him, it was a first meeting, and he acted his real self...this innocent, gentle person you're talking about. It would be so foreign to me that if I started laughing at him would he have been very confused by that?

I don't think so. I think if he read you as a loving being he was open like a slate. There was such an inner beauty there that I just cannot explain. As I said at the very end of [The Real Andy Kaufman], I have still not met a soul that pure. I still haven't and I'm 43. Ive been walking the earth meeting every heavy weight from show business to every wild civilian to the freakiest of sorts...and nope, no one vibrated like Andy.

After you shot the footage, did you continue to be friends throughout the years and see him once in a while?

Actually, we saw less and less because of Taxi and all the stuff in LA happening...and all the travel. I would only see him when he came to visit in either Brooklyn or when I would bump into him in Manhattan. But he would always come back to Pips. He always adored the waitresses there, because he knew everyone of them loved him. [innocent Andy voice] "Say Seth, does everyone want to go on the Cyclone after you've closed up?" [Seth's voice] "Of course. It would be an honor!"

And he would do that years later?

Yeah. Hey, man, your hobbies and loves don't change! You know, whether [or not] gyou reach super stardom. He loved rollercoasters. He loved spook houses. Liz Wolenski, in [The Real Andy Kaufman], tells a great story about her and Andy going to a funhouse or, actually, a fright house. You see the cheap skeletons and the cracks of light. Skeletons on the string and the fake heads on pieces of metal rod, a really bad one on Coney Island. And when Andy immerged and when the doors threw open, he was screaming and in tears. Screaming out to the Puerto Rican family that ran it [scared Andy voice] "I've never been so frightened in all my was horrifying! Horrifying!!!!!" Screaming and crying. The family had no idea what to do. They ran out with cold compresses, aspirin, as he was sobbing, as though he had had a heart attach. He was absolutely broken hearted over the experience. Liz said the acting was Academy Award winning, on the spot, and he would give it away for free. He'd cry at the drop of a hat and flood tears. This is a genius actor, and this is what Jim Carrey was trying to pull off in Man on the Moon.

By the way, Jim Carry did a great job, didn't he?

Yeah, he did. He did nail Andy. At times I was watching Jim. Other times, I thought, yeah, he caught the essence of Andy right there. I felt Jim Carrey's Presley could have been a little better, but...the guy's such great mimic, I thought he would have done a great Presley too. But it really paled in comparison to Andy's.

I guess that shows how good Andy really was.

Oh, yeah. I think Elvis said it a month or so before he died that Andy Kaufman [did] the greatest impression of [him] than anyone on earth. And Bob Zmuda use to say that during some of the concerts. And for all the Elvis impersonators on earth, you just know, for the guy himself to say, this is definitely the greatest impression of me. …

Regarding the Catskills almost seemed like he took the audience by surprise. Was this previously set up? Or did he just take over someone's act one night and just…

Yeah, he was booked for Thanksgiving weekend.

And it was promoted…so they knew what they were going to get?

The place was packed. Here's the thing. It was an older Jewish crowd there. And a lot of them knew [old person voice] "Uh..that's the guy from Taxi…oh, he's a comedian….let's go see him." So, they had no idea. They're not going to see a David Brenner. And then all of a sudden this guy comes out after a false start, purposely set up by Andy, and Bob Zmuda says,"Well you know, let's try to get him out here again, ladies and gentlemen, he's been working hard on Taxi and all that…" And what does he come out to? The band playing "Oklahoma". And him jumping around like a five year old loon. Singing "Oklahoma" so off-key and off-time. In fact, it took talent to do [that]. I'm a musician at heart, and the way he just did it, my crew and I were just screaming, but we kept it down. And the audience was saying, [old person voice] "What's he doing? I thought he was a comedian…is he singing now? " And it was all these confused, older, very sweet Jewish people. When I say Jewish meaning that old "Henry, let's go eat and we'll go to the mountains." Almost those Woody Allen portrayals.

He knew that he was going to mess with these people's heads….

He knew that that crowd had no idea what was in store.

So, in the interview [at the end of The Real Andy Kaufman] what's all the bit about Andy saying, "Those people were rude..."?

Well, maybe there were more boos and hisses at times [than he expected], but again, he's also this sensitive little soul. But I think this is also him winking at us all. But yes, he would say, [indignant Andy voice]"Gosh, those people were RUDE! I don't know if they thought I wanted them to boo and hiss me. God, they were just soooo rude!" I was blushing with so much love for him during that interview. My friends, the crew that was with me, were helping me get it done. They were just beaming, and they said "WOW!" And I said, "This is why I love him. This is why we came up here to shoot him. This is Andy Kaufman."

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