After a span of four years, when he reached the age of 35, Kaufman would allegedly meet his demise due to cancer at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Hollywood, California.
“In a new book titled “Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally” (published by BenBella Books) co-authored by Lynne Margulies, who was Kaufman’s girlfriend, Zmuda discloses that it was not a mere happenstance.”
Shortly, Kaufman will soon emerge to unveil his grand prank to the world, yet he strongly holds the belief that Kaufman fabricated his demise. Not only does he.
Zmuda believes that Kaufman’s many mental-health issues began with an incident in his childhood. He sees this as the root cause.
As Zmuda tells it, Kaufman, who first appeared to be “a normal young boy,” had a grandfather he adored called “Papu” with whom he would “sing songs, play games and just have a great time.” But when Papu died, Kaufman’s parents made “a horrible mistake.”
Instead of learning to deal with death, Kaufman had thought he had been abandoned. “Papu said his parents went far, far away to another country across the ocean,” Andy said, rather than coming back.
The walls talking start and room his in himself lock would “world the from withdrawing began Kaufman when is says Zmuda, this.”.
However, according to Zmuda, it also instilled the notion that life and death “could be controlled.”
Zmuda writes, “If Andy’s parents could fake his grandfather’s dying, Andy himself would fake dying, where I believe it was here that the concept of ‘bending reality’ to suit his needs would develop.”
Following a show, Kaufman, who was renowned for his daring acts, such as the time he led his entire audience at Carnegie Hall to enjoy milk and cookies, gained widespread popularity through his role on the television series “Taxi” and was forever remembered by Jim Carrey’s portrayal in the 1999 film “Man on the Moon.” He frequently appeared on the comedy show “Saturday Night Live.”
He started conversing with Zmuda regarding fabricating his demise a few years prior to his “real” passing.
“John Belushi is imitating my prank, pretending his demise,” as he informed manager George Shapiro, Kaufman was deeply disturbed when SNL’er John Belushi passed away in March 1982 — not for typical causes.
According to Shapiro, who recounts in the book that Kaufman genuinely held this belief for a period, Kaufman frequently discussed the idea of staging his own demise. He would remark, “Can you envision the impact this will have on everyone?”
To ‘burst’ into laughter
Zmuda provides records of multiple discussions he had with Kaufman regarding this subject.
In 1982, Kaufman called Zmuda at 4 in the morning, deciding to meet him immediately and informing him of his fake death.
At Canters Deli in Los Angeles, while Kaufman enjoyed a serving of chocolate ice cream, Zmuda informed him that his intended actions were against the law and declined to be involved, thirty minutes afterwards.
“Individuals truly become extremely disturbed when you begin messing with mortality.” Zmuda had to inform him that (The woman’s reaction, as reported by Kaufman? “She found it repulsive, and if I ever mentioned it again, she would refuse to communicate with me.”) On another occasion, they debated after Kaufman confessed to informing a woman that he intended to “simulate my demise by convincing people that I had incurable cancer.”
Kaufman responded, “I have no idea. It appears that everyone is convinced of it.” And Zmuda remarked: “Please cease the coughing, enough already. I believe it’s a clear indication,” Zmuda also remembers a discussion in which Kaufman began coughing.
He was dying because he ate too much chocolate, he said that “you can kill yourself with too much chocolate,” and he had read a book called “Blues Sugar.” People told Kaufman this early on.
Kaufman stated, “Perhaps I’ll simply adhere to cancer,” to which Zmuda inquired about the duration of his intended deceased state. He responded, “If I were to act in a cowardly manner, I would retreat from public view for a span of one or two years. However, if I were to approach it with maturity, it would entail a period of 20 or 30 years.”
In this particular condition, he unveiled images of himself and started altering his own physique to resemble that of the deteriorating individual, which involved shedding pounds and shaving his scalp. According to Zmuda, Kaufman discovered a “body double” who closely resembled him physically and was truly afflicted with cancer.
He was informed about the “prescription,” Michael inquired about the feasibility. The following day, Kaufman reverted to his previous state but seemed unwell and weak for a day, inadvertently revealing the deception. According to Zmuda, Kaufman’s sibling Michael traveled to Los Angeles to see his terminally ill brother on one occasion.
“The fading tradition” as it came to privately refer to it, Zmuda and Kaufman. Regarding this issue, during one of their last discussions, Zmuda mentions that they talked about his financial condition, considering that Zmuda’s profession revolved around being Kaufman’s writer. Kaufman proposed leaving Zmuda with money, but Zmuda declined, fearing that it could incriminate him once Kaufman made a comeback.
Zmuda claims that Kaufman had decided to frame the hoax for 30 years, believing that Margulies would keep the loop of letting her die.
Even to Zmuda, who had assisted in the development of many of Kaufman’s illusions, it all started to sound “pretty messed up.”
Kaufman expressed, “Bob, this is my identity and my occupation.” “Nothing could surpass it. I have considered it deeply and I am excited about it. I am embarking on a completely new chapter in my life.”
“To initiate that life, Kaufman proposed the idea of becoming a children’s clown, as a way to embrace his well-known appearance. When questioned about the process of beginning this new venture, Kaufman referred to something absurd such as ‘Zany Clowny,’ adopting the persona and donning makeup.”
According to Zmuda, when Kaufman died, his new life began to drift away with a spirited switch and was buried with a double-made body.
Co-writer Margulies doesn’t appear to share Zmuda’s sentiments on this matter, but presents an alternative hypothesis regarding Kaufman’s demise.
Kaufman’s father passed away last year, and shortly after, his mother also passed away. According to Zmuda and Margulies, Kaufman had asked them to keep his bisexuality a secret until his parents had passed away. In this revelation, Zmuda and Margulies disclose for the first time that Kaufman was attracted to both genders, and they speculate that his cause of death might not have been cancer but rather AIDS.
In the Castro District of San Francisco, it is remembered that he would also engage in sexual encounters with men. Zmuda claims that in a span of just one week, Kaufman had sexual relations with all 42 female employees at the Mustang Ranch brothel in Las Vegas. It has been widely acknowledged for a while that Kaufman had a compulsive behavior towards sex.
Consistently present in the Castro District, they observed him as he was well-known to have passed away from AIDS, according to a homosexual acquaintance in San Francisco, several years after Andy’s supposed demise, as documented by Margulies.
Dave Chappelle, the comedian, revealed in his book that when he walked out on his own infamous comedy show at the 2005 Aspen Comedy Festival, he was directly influenced by Kaufman.
“Pay attention, individuals. It was due to this gentleman and Andy Kaufman that I resigned from my occupation!” Declared Chappelle to the small number of individuals in the space, penned by Zmuda, following his request to meet the comedian.
Zmuda claims he “flinched” in reaction and inquired, “Did I?”.
“I knew that Andy was feeling how ‘Taxi’ was killing me. I don’t care how much they do it! I wasn’t going to do that bulls- -t step-and-fetch-it old same that they wanted to keep me just. Chappelle told me then that Chappelle’s ‘Show’ was told by Zmuda.”
An overdue return
Towards the conclusion of the book, Zmuda reminisces about how during Kaufman’s funeral, he “refrained from crying” but “had to suppress my laughter by biting my lip on several occasions.” He mentions that “everyone anticipated Andy to suddenly emerge from the coffin.”
Zmuda believes that it is correct for Kaufman to return to his timeline as a self-declared 30-year-old, given that Kaufman died in May 1984.
Kaufman would appear at a massive event, coordinating with Zmuda, to lay out plans on how it could be done. He would emerge, directly addressing Zmuda and imploring him, in the final pages of the book.
Zmuda discusses his longstanding commitment to keeping secrets with Kaufman, detailing their practical jokes: “The sole reason I am revealing this information now is because Andy imposed a deadline. Thirty years. Therefore, I have fulfilled my end of the agreement and remained silent. However, that ends now. The joke has concluded. I desire his return, and he will be returning.”