Nothing would make me happier than finding out Andy Kaufman was still alive. Can you imagine? It would be the performance art piece to end all performance art.
But it looks like the woman who claimed to be Andy’s 24-year-old daughter at the Andy Kaufman Awards on Monday night is the real performer here. She and Andy’s brother Michael Kaufman revived the “Andy Kaufman is alive” theory during what was apparently a premeditated stunt, first reported by the Comic’s Comic. Michael told the audience that an unnamed young woman had contacted him this summer, claiming to be Andy’s daughter – born years after his death in 1984. She then joined him onstage and spoke in rather vague terms about her alleged father and his new life as a “stay-at-home Dad.” TMZ has a video of her appearance here.
The Smoking Gun has since identified the woman as Alexandra Tatarsky, an actress whose real father is a psychologist. The Smoking Gun said they were given information by a “source familiar with this week’s Kaufman stunt.”
Yes, it’s a little bit of a letdown. I’ve been eagerly following the Andy Kaufman death hoax theory for years and have always been more of a believer than a skeptic. After all, he reportedly spoke often, and in detail, about wanting to fake his own death. And 35 years old is awfully young to die from lung cancer – a rare form killed Kaufman, who was generally a healthy person, less than six months after he was diagnosed.
Still, even before the woman posing as Andy’s daughter was exposed, there was reason to be skeptical of Michael Kaufman’s claims that his brother had indeed faked his own death. At the ceremony Monday night, Michael reportedly told the audience that Andy had written down his plans to “reappear” at a favorite restaurant on Christmas Eve in 1999. Michael went there to meet him, but his brother didn’t show – instead he arranged to have a letter delivered to him there. In the letter, Michael said, Andy explained that he wanted to stay out of the limelight and didn’t want to reveal himself while their father was still alive. (The elder Kaufman died in August of this year.)
Michael spoke at length about his brother’s death in this interview, uploaded to YouTube in 2009, and made no mention of the 1999 incident, though he did address the death hoax legend.
“It’s been fun to keep the idea going,” Michael says in the interview, adding, “Anything can happen in this world … but I don’t think he survived.”
Andy Kaufman does have one daughter, born while he was still alive: Maria Colonna was born when Andy was 20 and her mother was 17, and was put up for adoption. She later tracked down her biological family, and her daughter, Brittany, appeared as Kaufman’s baby sister in the 1999 biopic “Man on the Moon.”
Ellen Killoran is the Media & Culture Editor at IBTimes. She previously contributed to The L Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, and The Daily, and co-produced the HBO...