I'M FROM HEAVEN
Robert: For the readers who don't know who you are, that's probably most of the readers, you are funnyman Hugh Phukovsky. You just got back from L.A.? Why?
Hugh: I went to Los Angeles because of the big Andy Kaufman show. It was twenty years since he died. He said that he was gonna fake his own death and come back twenty years later to the day. To the day. This show was called "Andy Kaufman: Dead Or Alive?"
R: And it was put on by Bob Zmuda, Andy Kaufman's best friend and co-writer. How'd it start?
H: The show really started for me outside talking to fans, most people were there by themselves, we made friends and talked about what we thought was going to happen, the mystique was enough for it to be worthwhile.
R: Did people think that Andy Kaufman was going to come back?
H: I think the general feeling was, "He's probably dead but what happens if he isn't?" If anyone could pull it off it could have been him. The show starts off with this radio D.J. in a cock rock voice. I was shocked. He announces Bob Zmuda who tells some stories any fan has heard a million times before. Then he brought up people to tell their stories, like a drunk Andy Dick.
R: I thought he was in rehab?
H: Yeah, he's out now. Then Zmuda brought up a bunch of hack comics who thought they were being cutting edge because they were dirty. Then Bob Odenkirk came on and put all those comics to shame with a hilarious piece about how Andy Kaufman never swore. Then Zmuda introduced the" never before seen footage" of Andy Kaufman. The film is Jim Carrey behind the scenes making "Man On the Moon." Audience members started standing up yelling, "Jim Carrey isn't Andy Kaufman! We want our money back!" And then Tony Clifton came out which was great. Zmuda played Clifton for years.
R: He and Kaufman would switch off.
H: Yeah. He sang a bunch of old classics and a medley.
R: You can't go wrong with a medley.
H: He abused people and grabbed his dancers in the privates. He ended with "Man On the Moon" and kept on forgetting the words. And then he took us all out for milk and cookies across the street. You go outside and there was circus performers and stilt walkers blocking off traffic.
R: Nobody knew this was going to happen, all these extra surprises?
H: No. Then they herded us into the backroom to watch amateur Mexican tag team wrestlers who were just great. One of the teams was dressed up like chickens. Then Jerry Lawlor came out and beat them up. You think that's the end of that but then Tony Clifton comes out with Ron Jeremy and Dennis Hof who runs the world famous Bunny Ranch, Andy Kaufman's favourite bordello. He says, "You've been really good. The show continues tomorrow night in Carson City, Nevada at The Moonlight Bunny Ranch where your ticket stub entitles you to one hot hooker." So we just had to get up there, which is about an 8 hour drive from Los Angeles: it's legal in Nevada. As I'm wandering around looking for a ride I got to talk to Kaufman's girlfriend Lynn Margulies. I talked to Little Wendy about Andy Kaufman's personal meditation practice. Then we're walking outside and we got handed these candles. There's maybe sixty people gathered outside, everyone else went home, and Tony Clifton just said, "Follow me." We started walking with these candles about six or seven blocks. Tony Clifton tells us that we are going to one of Andy Kaufman's old apartments. It had original costumes, scripts, personal pictures. Only six or ten people could go up at a time as Tony Clifton told stories outside. He would answer everything. That was my favorite part. It was about four thirty in the morning when the tour ended.
R: And Andy Dick showed up drunk?
H: He said he wasn't waiting in line, he was too loud and got kicked out. Everyone told him, "Come back when you're funny."
R: Then the next day rolls around-
H: This guy gave me a place to crash and after four hours sleep we drove to Nevada.
R: You get there and-?
H: First of all, I had this idea that it'd be like The Playboy Mansion. We drive up and it just looks like a massive trailer and all my hopes of a high class evening went out the window. We ring the little bell and walk in and all the girls are lined up. You got some blondes, brunettes, one black girl, no Asians - anyways, that was a problem for some people. But there was about thirty people from the show. Mostly all guys, two or three brought their girlfriends to watch them have sex with hookers. Tony Clifton was there and the bar was on him. "I'm picking up the tab! Drink up!" You see a girl you like you're suppose to say, "Can we talk?" I wasn't going for the sex, I was there for the comedy.
R: Yeah, yeah, sure.
H: I refrained from the free sex but I did take advantage of a prostitute.
R: What made you choose your prostitute?
H: Basically it was the end of the night and Tony Clifton made the announcement, "You only got ten more minutes, so find a lady and screw!" I just grabbed this girl and we wrestled topless and I made her play "I'm a little teapot." And we jumped on the bed. It was all very innocent. She had a bunch of stuffed animals, I think she was playing the little girl prostitute. At one point she started talking about her three kids, that was a little depressing.
R: What about Clifton's tuxedo jacket?
H: He had it off because it was very hot and people wanted to try it on. He said, "No! Get your dirty little hands off my jacket!" then he felt inspired to put the jacket on my shoulders. I felt like he was passing on the jacket to the next generation.
R: Let's be humble here…
H: I had his blessing.