FREE POPCORN AND MOVIES were a fringe benefit for ex-employees of the LA theater where I'd once been a minimum wage cashier. Waltzing in without a ticket one evening in 1980, I was asked, "Hey, did you know that Andy Kaufman is here tonight?"
I whipped my head around like a hick tourist on a bus.
Sure enough, there he was, wearing poly-blend slacks, a white button-down shirt, and a sports jacket, lurking and dashing between theaters. I knew the signs of a sneaker. I'd admired Andy Kaufman since he came into the public consciousness: SNL, Latka, wrestling . . . everything. And I was in a position of authority—kind of.
"Hey, there!" I called out in my most managerial tone. I introduced myself as an off-duty employee and claimed that he was busted for sneaking. He grinned. I told him that I'd wrestle him in exchange for letting him go. He agreed, but wanted to see the movie first, so we sat through Guyana: Cult of the Damned together.
Outside, I told him of my tomboyish childhood in Tennessee and of meeting famed trailer-trash wrestler Jackie Fargo in his Nashville mobile home. I knew I'd scored some points.
We drove in his nondescript boat of a car to the apartment I was borrowing. We talked about Pink Floyd, our parents, my history as a Jesus freak, and Andy's fascination with the Gospel. He wanted to make a film about an evangelist, he said.
Then we pushed all the furniture to the walls to make some space.
And we wrestled. And wrestled. And wrestled.
He let me have a couple of pins, and I flung myself upon him with glee. We must've had some moment of intimacy, perhaps a kiss, because we were soon driving back to his house. I secretly hoped to gawd that it would look like a place where Andy Kaufman might live.
It did. It was a modest, spacious, sparsely furnished home up a hilly cove in the canyon area. Propped up against a table, waiting to be hung, was a huge painting of Andy as a fiery, white-haired evangelist clutching a bible. Ah, yes, the movie. Hmmm. I knew Andy from Taxi and SNL, but movies seemed too big for him. The painting certainly was.
FAN MAIL AND TAXI SCRIPTS lay about the tables, plus a surprising number of hate letters. Since he'd begun wrestling women, Andy got a lot of threatening "fe-mail," as we called it, from women who just couldn't take a joke. Or performance art. Or a dead-serious, asexual, Jewish maniac. Any of those could apply. One critic had written Andy on a sanitary napkin—Kotex Super, I believe. (She had far too much to say to use a tampon.)
Meanwhile, Andy dressed for action and provided me with a wrestling "uniform" of 100 percent cotton white thermal long johns. A mat was produced from a storage space and rolled out onto the floor. Suddenly I felt like I had taken a number. Did he do this for all the girls? But I snapped out of it. I was about to wrestle Andy Kaufman, and no chaste, suburban inhibitions were going to spoil it.
I enjoyed falling and tumbling on the mat. Andy attempted to draw rage from my uterine core, but I didn't buy into it—not like the hordes of ringside mamas, not like the nation of liberated women. I just laughed and choked on spit and growled like an alpha bitch.
He didn't hurt me, but he didn't hold back, either. We did scissors and pretzel holds, but lacked the space for atomic drops. I couldn't believe my luck—finding a hero, possible genius, madman, lover, and wrasslin' partner all in one night.
His famous conga drums stood silent by the back windows. Later, in a moment more sexy than anything between the sheets, Andy gave me a riveting Vegas conga performance in the nude. Furry chest puffed out in the schmaltzy grandeur of a bad nightclub stud, penis flaccid and swinging in time to the impromptu Elvis medley—it was the absolute best!
During our short time together, he was both a playful sweetheart and a mind fucker on the prowl. He provoked the same feelings I got as a fan, when Andy might or might not be messing with you. But I don't think I ever woke up kissing Tony Clifton.