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Did Andy really die? As his father, I wish those of you who think otherwise were right. I was with him at the end and saw him buried. I loved Andy and tell him so every time I talk to him at his grave. He and I talk quite a bit, you see. His voice is always clear to me. He knows all about "Man On the Moon" - the movie version of his life-and, lately, he isn't very happy.
At first, Andy could hardly believe that Hollywood would want to commemorate him with a big-budget biographical movie. He felt so proud. "Imagine," he said when I told him. "Jim Carrey wants to play me . . . Man, what an honor." But then he saw the movie-who knows how? - and his reaction was quite different. So he asked me to share it.
He said, "Dad, what happened? They only told part of my life. They left out the heart of my story. Why didn't they show the love I felt for Mom and you and Carol and Michael and my grandparents? Our family's closeness, our Coney Island adventures, Thanksgiving Day reunions-they were all so much a part of my life. Remember how we would make those funny records in that little sound booth at Kiddie City when I was no more than five? I was sad that the audience was deprived of seeing how all of those things formed and grounded my life . . .
I would have wanted everyone to know how and when it all started . . . like when I was a year old and sang and danced in my crib, reaching through the slats to play and change records on the little Victrola you put there for me. I guess that's when I decided I'd be a `song-and-dance man.' Wouldn't the audience have enjoyed being in on that telling moment?
My `put-ons' were a big part of my career. So how come my very first one wasn't shown on the screen? I remember one evening, thinking what a great joke it would be if I hid out in the back of the family car, as you and Mom left for some fancy Manhattan party. I could hardly keep still during the forty-five minutes it took to reach the 59th Street Bridge. You should have seen the look on your faces when I popped up in the back seat and hollered, `Surprise!' I was just five-years old, but I knew I would want to have fun tricking people like that for the rest of my life.
My first professional performance took place when I was nine-years old. I put an ad in the local Pennysaver announcing my availability to entertain at children's parties. I asked for $5 as compensation for 2 hours of movies, games, magic, and songs I delivered. Remember how I was so successful at it that I soon started charging $25 per hour? Well, that lauched my whole career! (And that's when I started doing Mighty Mouse and so many other things people liked years later on television.)
Then, back in the early 60s, when I was fourteen, I read my own beatnik poetry onstage in Greenwich Village coffee houses. I was just learning to play the congas and the steel drums at the time, too. (How did I ever talk Olatunji-the greatest West African drummer of all time-into giving me private lessons?!) When I was at Grahm Jr. College, I wrote a book called 'God' (based on my love for Elvis) and performed it on stages around Boston. At that same time, I was writing, directing and performing my children's show, 'Uncle Andy's Funhouse,' for the college television station. That alone was probably the most important early development in this career that I was mapping out for myself. (I remember giving the children milk and cookies to get them to be in the audience. Later, I did the same thing after my concert at Carnegie Hall.) I can't understand how they left such essential life steps out of the movie. People would have sure understood me a lot better.
Practically all of those early formative years of my life were missing on the screen. Maybe the movie writers were overly influenced by certain people who claimed to know `all' about me. My own so-called `best friend'-who should know better-sure has distorted the facts of my life and taken a lot of credit for my old ideas. He seems happy to defame me and I am so disappointed. His opportunism must be what creates these lies he continues to spread. I feel sorry for him. I feel sorrier that the screenwriters paid such close attention.
Maybe they all forgot that I was a real person. I really was, you know. I tried to be meticulous in perfecting all the characters I created. I loved my work and the reactions of my audiences. I know I was considered to have been strange, but so was Einstein and so is my old friend Robin Williams. That seems like good company to be in.
I did have high hopes that 'Man On the Moon' might become a blockbuster. (I wanted people to really enjoy me this time around. Certainly, Jim Carrey did a great job with the material he was given.) But a life story-especially in movies-has to have heart to succeed. Unfortunately, this movie didn't shed any light on who I was-or share any real part of my heart. I keep hearing that this book, 'Lost in the Funhouse' by Bill Zehme, tells my story much more honestly. Maybe if the movie had been based on that book, the blockbuster I had hoped for might have been realized.
Anyway, to all of those people out there who still do not understand me, it's okay. You don't have to understand everyone or everything. It's part of the great mystery of life. And so, I guess, was I. And, as always, I tenk you veddy much."
(Stanley L. Kaufman is the proud father of Andy, Michael and Carol. He is also the doting grandfather of several lovely grandchildren. He spends time between his home in Florida and an apartment in New York City.)
The Kaufman Chronicles
Frequently Asked Questions About Andy Kaufman
The Andy Kaufman Timeline
The Night Andy Hosted "Fridays"
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