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LOST IN THE FUNHOUSE - CHAPTER THREE

From: rhino@netlink.net Mon Sep 28 18:21:29 1998
To: XxxXxxXxx@aol.com (Bill Zehme)
Subject: More Kaufman Notes (Part 2)
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Bill,

I'll be finally forwarding to you the results of my research on "Huey" by this weekend. I'll try to keep it to less pages than what you sent, and I hope it serves you well.

While I've got you on the line, here's some Kaufman trivia:

People with common birthdays (various years):

Maury Povich
James Earl Jones
Vidal Sasoon
Betty White
Mack Sennet
Muhammad Ali

People who died on the same day (different years):

John Wayne
Jim Henson
Montgomery Clift
Sammy Davis Jr.

TV Guide's "Top 100 Shows of All-Time" ranks the May 21, 1981 broadcast of "Taxi" as the 19th best in history. Episode #64, titled, "Latka the Playboy" features Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravas, the lovable foreign mechanic suffering from multiple personalities. Latka's lounge lizard alter ego, Vic Ferrari goes off to, "alter my lifestyle to fit the fast lane."

By the way Bill, have you ever interviewed Laurie Anderson? Her recounting of experiences with Andy in the early 70's are included in her album, "The Ugly One with the Jewels". There is an intriguing moment where she and Andy climb into the "Tilt-A-Whirl&qout; and as the attendant is doing a last minute check of everyone's harnesses, Andy begins to cry and scream, "We're all gonna die!! GET ME OUT OF HERE!! HELP!!" A similar scene is replayed in "Huey" and it's included in my "report" to you.

Have a safe trip to L.A.

Personal regards,

Brian
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From rhino@netlink.net Tue Sep 29 18:05:11 1998
To: XxxXxxXxx@aol.com (Bill Zehme)
Subject: More Kaufman Notes (Part 96)
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BZ,

Failed to mention one significant fact:

Jim Carrey's birthdate?

January 17th.

Cosmic weirdness or what??
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EXCERPT FROM BILL ZEHME'S "LOST IN THE FUNHOUSE" CHAPTER THREE:

FUN CHAPTER THREE

"Your place looks like the world's fair," I said. "Does it?" He turned his eyes toward it absently. "I have been glancing into some of the rooms. Let's go to Coney Island, old sport." - Nick Carraway to Jay Gatsby, from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Paths are taken but also given. Fate, stars, moons-he would later listen carefully to what they told him about whom he was and why and how and where he would go. He shared his birthday with Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, which he would take as a sign-identities/invincibility. (Others born January seventeenth about which he cared less: Benjamin Franklin, Al Capone, acting theorist Konstantin Stanislavki, silent-comedy director Mack Sennett-all of whom, like him, followed their divergent instincts unyieldingly.) His day of birth, he would discover, came with an astrological mandate-that he would do exactly what he was supposed to do and do it no matter what anyone else thought and no one would ever tell him otherwise. (Was anyone else really there?) He would never ask permission nor would he ever understand the meaning of permission. Thus, the hollerings of his father would increasingly become mere racket to him, an unpleasant din he would drown by whatever means most amused him. He lived for amusement so much so that he became amusement-and that was his path and he went forth determined and oblivious. Now whenever a new passion enraptured him, he absorbed it entirely, became proficient at it, commanded it, finally showed it off to others (this last was most imperative to the plan). A new and finer hyperkinesia flamed throughout his awkward body, made it adroit, precise, confidant. When amused, when amusing, he beamed, he was beautiful. When his father forced him to attend athletic summer camp or play Little League baseball-well, there would be photographs in family albums of a boy sodden in unspeakable misery, quite limp/lost, quite out of context. Stanley later regretted doing that to him, humiliating his son by assuming that he was like any/every other template of American boyhood, that his son was anything at all like the boy that even he himself had been. No, here was a different boy with a mission. (Very serious about it . . . maybe funny to others . . . wasn't trying to be funny . . .) And there would be, in all actuality, without metaphor, a different drummer-a very very extremely different drummer-and the different boy found the different drummer's drumming in short order and then great changes took hold. Hence, the march of a lifetime ensued.

Everything enlarged. Beginning with the house. They moved to the best part of town, to King's Point, long considered the most prestigious corner of Great Neck-albeit to a relatively new and modest subsection therein. This was summer 1956; the property at 21 Grassfield Road cost $52,000; houses here were built on lush berms and set far back from the street. Now there were five bedrooms, including Margaret's on the lower level near a laundry facility and a smallish den which would become a sanctum most hallowed (and often forbidden)-the place a certain mind's eye pictured whenever feats were performed in the outside world that had been born and practiced endlessly down there. Anyway, this would be last family home they would all know together. Stanley Kaufman's career in costume jewelry had obviously also enlarged, though not without struggle and frayed nerves and ongoing dreams of escape and hopeless irritability attendant. He would eventually call this house-sturdily spread, tri-leveled, pre-fab-sided, with attached two-car garage, on enormous lot-"the best investment of my life." His job responsibilities were by now more than commensurate with his talents-besides fully engaging his bright business acumen, he was even designing KARU product lines of earrings and pendants and such. Still, however, working with his father and his father's partner gave him much tsouris, much doubt. "The truth is, I had just bought the house and things were terrible downtown. You've got to understand-at no time in all the years I was with my father did I ever have any feeling of security. I had to be a very, very conservative person because I could be out of a job at any moment. These two men were at it almost every day of the week-`We're gonna break up this goddamned business!' I'd not only hear it at the office, I used to drive home with my father maybe three days out of five and it was always a rehash. I thought, Forget it! It was awful. Nothing pleasant about it at all. So the commitment of the new house came with the headache of Can I sustain this?"

Chaos at work required perfect o-r-d-e-r at home-order unimaginable, thus unacheivable, in a household where three young children grew and cavorted. And so, too, the rages enlarged. Janice took/accepted the brunt. Stanley, the otherwise good and loving husband and father, would have to vent and rant for years to come. (Was there no aspect of his world that he could control?! How he tried-picking out furniture and decor for the house, selecting clothes for Janice and the kids, shopping for groceries, designating basic tasks for all-but damned if the results ever turned out exactly as he wished.) His frustrations and furies were to be a Grassfield Road continuum. His wife heaved her sweet deep sighs and patiently understood-she once wrote a poem and handed it to him and left the room . . .

END OF EXCERPT