Saturday, August 12, 2006

Seth Schultz, interview, part 3

Seth, you're a lucky man. You got to meet him and hang with him.

I really was. I thank God as I get older and older that whatever happens, thank you for putting me in the path of this sort of comedic Svengali, or whatever he did to all of us. A rare soul.

I loved seeing all the different comedians you interviewed in the documentary....I thought that was a nice touch.

Did you like Rick Overton's story Andy conveyed to him about the children's Christmas show about Santa Claus falling out of a helicopter with a partially opened his death? Cut to children crying. Geez. Anything that was mischief. You could see it in his eyes...he was a mischievous little boy. And you saw the interview, you see the realness of him [soft Andy voice]: "And you know, I do parties and colleges, and I have myself a time. But THESE people. Booo. Hisss." Still acting, but fact, that's the one time he broke character when he was doing Latka and starring and [saying in a Foreign Man voice] "I don't know what to say....I don't know what to do...ask the questions." And then i still didn't answer him [with questions], and then he said [regular Andy voice], "Ask me questions." And he came out of the character on film. Yeah, he went from Latka to Andy going "Ask me questions".

He must have been tired.

Oh, he was exhausted. That was like an hour and 40 minutes of hard work.

I loved the little bit at the end when he freaks out...."Get out of here!"

We were running out of film, and that's why I freeze-framed on him there. You remember hearing me on the tape going, "That was great! Such a nice boy!" Andy says [soft-spoken Andy voice] "Is that what you wanted? Is that what you wanted?" Do you see how giving an actor, even to a friend, who didn't know what he was doing? Always giving. He gave his entire life.

I didn't realize he was so giving. One comedian [Alan Bursky] on the documentary said he was the kind of a guy who would come at 5 a.m. in the morning and pick you up at the airport.

That was true. Alan Bursky knew him very well. Alan started as a comedian and an actor, and went on to be an agent and management type thing. He knew Andy very well in the early days.

I don't remember reading about how generous Andy was.

I said..."like a prince."

Speaking again about the Catskills performance, it seemed like it was filmed from lots of different angles. Did you have more than one camera?

No. There was just one camera rolling. And the camera man moved around as much as we could without blocking people.

So that would explain why some of the footage is so different in quality?

Yeah, well, over the years, I guess I misplaced the master tapes somehow, and the quality drop is because sometimes you're seeing a three quarter inch dub, then you're seeing a VHS copy, then you're seeing the Betamax original. Thank God, I had most of the footage in some form. That 's why when he was doing the crying bongo scene, you see the actual time code, and I really didn't have the time nor the money at the end to edit or block that out. But the thing was, I felt that people would know they were watching authentic footage.

Actually, I liked it. It worked in your favor. Some footage was gritty, some was darker. That added some character to it.

Yeah, it did. It shows that is was real guerilla.

In some of the movie, I noticed that certain performances were cut out. It would have been nice to see, for example, more of Andy's family when they performed on stage. We had a good taste of it, but i wondered if you still have any raw footage.

That's all the frames I had. Either a little was lost or my cameraman, because we only had limited magazines, might have stopped rolling because, I think I was running around doing other things too. I think he was rolling and getting as much as he could. Just a taste of everything.

I liked seeing his brother [Michael]. I thought that was hilarious.

His brother, Micheal is darling. I know. Lalalalala Bamba....Lalalalala Bamba....At the end he just dies out and hands back the mic to Andy.

Was he singing the words "LaBamba", in the sense that this was "bombing"? Was that planned...that song....those words?

Oh, no, no.

Was he serious?

Andy was being very honest. As we said in the film, you know, everyone has talent, and [soft-spoken Andy voice] "we have a lot of talent in my family." People would either sing a song or tell a joke. It was adorable. And his Grandma Lillie. Hysterical. [In old lady voice] "Tell it to him, he wants to be a doctor..." But you can see the golden family that armed him. That's why he couldn't care less about an audience's reaction one way or another, because he had so much love. He had like a shield of loving armor from the family that he knew "whatever I do on stage is not me, it's just my character." Hence, he could take those fake sets where he would bomb for 20 mintues just to make people scream for the last five. I've still never seen a performer yet who acted like that. Ever. Unless, you get an Academy Award winning actor. I've never seen any one dial the emotional dial like he did. From loving him to hating him, from loving him to hating him.

And I'm amazed, even when he's "screwing up," he knew what he was doing. Like on the song, "My Way"...particularly the very ending. That was not easy.

That was hysterical.

And if he tried to do it straight, I'm sure he would have done a decent job.

Oh, of course, he had a great voice. His Elvis was great.

That's true.

How did you like "Oklahoma" when he came bouncing out off-time and 3 beats behind the drums?

Man, I'd think this poor guy was mentally challenged.

Oh, it was just great. The older Jewish people in the crowd were going [old person voice], " I thought he's a comedian. Why's he doing a musical?" Watching their reactions was funnier, at times, than Andy.

I wish you could have been able to capture that.

I know, I know. Just one camera. Just a student with just enough money to roll some magazines. To roll on him was so odd. Seth's coming up with a camera crew. [innocent Andy voice] "Okay, that's good. Seth is going to make a little film."

At the very end , Andy looks into the crowd and says to someone something like "After the show..." Was that you he was talking to?

No. I think that was somebody asking for autographs or someone giving him a t-shirt. That wasn't me.

In The Real Andy Kaufman, I was so impressed with the interview with Andy, and I could see where he's acting more down to earth. It was different than the Midnight Special interview where I could tell that he was...

Armed! Yeah, he was naked in that interview. Especially, when I asked him the moronic questions like "Have you done the Ed Sullivan show?" [soft-spoken Andy voice] " have not done the Ed Sullivan Show. The Ed Sullivan Show was off the air when I went to college."

Was there any inside joke when you had him say your father's name "George Schultz"?

Yeah. Just a riff. Just asking some of the other comedians about my dad. My father was a legendary hipster in a way, being a friend of Rodney Dangerfield. Lenny Bruce. He had done comedy with those guys for a couple of years after WWII. Then he drifted into sales and then he met my mom. My mom talked him into opening Pips in 1962. My father was hip and low on motivation, so together they forged ahead. They founded it in Brooklyn, a little club. And friends and relatives said it won't last six months. And it had a 33 year run, before my brother and I sold the business.

At the very end of the film, there's some grainy footage of you and Andy at Pips.

That was me rolling Super 8 silent footage. That was one of Andy's first appearances, and you can see me, I use to be the one running the reel to reel tape deck or the phonograph for Mighty Mouse. That was me. And that's why I freeze-framed on it when Andy was talking about me in the interview. [innocent Andy voice] "Seth, Seth...would be there making me hot fudge sundaes from the machine?" So, that early footage of him where his hair was really full, you can even see a little sign that says Pips behind him. That was actually in Pips back in like '74. Thank God, I had rolled a little Super 8. I showed all the footage I had...10-15 seconds. And you could see how young he was.

Do you have any opinions about Bob Zmuda's book?

You know I never read any books on Andy. I guess knowing him and loving him and being in his presence, I just wasn't interested. Just knowing the guy. That's the thing I always love and cherish and remember. Being in his presence. Being just awestruck by this prince nature that he had. I can't explain it. He was just a like a charmed prince.

So, if you had read other people's takes on Andy, there's a possiblity it might have tainted your memory of him?

Maybe. Or just knowing the old maxim of believe nothing of what you see and half of what you read or how ever that old saying goes. And people call and they embellish. That's why I thought the documentary was one of the better ones on him, because he's talking candidly in an interview to a friend that he trusted. And this was the nature of the being.
That was the soul of him. Again, you could see how kind he was. [soft-spoken Andy voice] "Is that what you wanted? Is that what you wanted?"

So polite.

You could kiss him.

In Bob Zmuda's book, he writes about Andy being really into the ladies, the prostitutes, etc. I just wondered if that was just a gimmick.

You know, I could never picture Andy like that. He was such a submissive male in the presence of women, I couldn't picture him [that way]. But again, I wasn't in his presence throughout the entire career...just the beginning and early days...

I always thought that was fake, and he was just playing up a character...

I would think so. I would think that he would put that in the air for the Tony Clifton character or for more controversy. I think Andy just being so gentle, especially around women, and so respectful. And you could see him with the kisses to the grandmother. Him on stage with that family, that's how he was.

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