By Wayne Drash
(CNN) — Did Andy Kaufman get away with his greatest stunt?
The Internet erupted Thursday following reports that Kaufman’s younger brother, Michael, says the performance artist faked his death.
He did so during the annual Andy Kaufman Awards show at a comedy club in New York — fueling long-held conspiracy theories the comedian’s 1984 death was a hoax, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which attributed the original reports to The Comic’s Comic and Defamer.
Michael Kaufman told the crowd he had discovered an essay long ago about his brother’s desire to fake his death and that in 1999 he had been given instructions to meet his brother at a restaurant on Christmas Eve. Michael Kaufman said he went to the restaurant, met a man he didn’t know and was handed a note supposedly from Andy.
In the alleged note, Andy said “everything was great” in his life. It explained his disappearance this way: that he simply “wanted to get away from being Andy Kaufman.”
At the event, Michael Kaufman then introduced a 24-year-old woman as Andy’s daughter, born five years after the comedian’s reported death.
Kaufman was beloved for his portrayal on “Taxi” of Latka Gravas, the wildly entertaining foreigner who struggled with English and multiple personality disorder. Yet to the dismay of the entertainment world, Kaufman started wrestling women in night clubs around the country and then in Memphis.
It was in Memphis where his wrestling gig hit the stratosphere, challenging local legend Jerry “The King” Lawler in epic matches.
“I would like nothing better than to know that Andy was still alive and been with us all this time,” Lawler told CNN Thursday by phone. “But like anybody else, I really don’t know any more than what I’ve heard.”
“It could be a great hoax in his honor, dreamed up by his friend Bob Zamuda and his brother, Michael. That would be something that would be in keeping with Andy’s tradition, but who’s to say. It could really be legit.”
If Kaufman were alive, Lawler said he would tell him: “You pulled off your dream stunt, your dream prank.”
Lawler also challenged Kaufman, if he really is alive, to get back in the ring with him. “There should be a WrestleMania rematch between Andy and The King,” Lawler said. “We could rekindle the feud with no problem.”
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