Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Andy Kaufman: I'm From Hollywood at the Brooks

Posted By on Wed, Mar 10, 2010 at 11:20 AM

One of the oddest and most compelling moments in the long, rich, twisty history of Memphis culture had to be the stretch in the early ’80s when comedian and television star Andy Kaufman came to Memphis to be a professional wrestler.

Arriving as an emissary from distant Hollywood at the very peak of Memphis wresting, Kaufman became a fixture at Monday Night Wrestling cards at the Mid-South Coliseum and on the Saturday morning wrestling broadcasts on WMC, Channel 5, first challenging women to matches and then getting into a feud with Jerry Lawler that the pair eventually took national via a notorious appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.

I remember watching all of this play out in real time as a grade-schooler living in Eastern Arkansas and a dedicated Saturday morning wrestling watcher. At the time, I only knew Kaufman as the guy on wrestling. Apparently lots of adult Memphis wrestling fans were similarly in the dark.

Kaufman died of cancer in 1984, but his whole wrestling saga was captured in an entertaining 1989 documentary, Andy Kaufman: I'm From Hollywood, which contains copious clips from the WMC vaults as well as after-the-fact interviews with Kaufman associates such as partner Bob Zmuda, Taxi co-stars Tony Danza and Marilu Henner, and comedian Robin Williams.

Andy Kaufman: I'm From Hollywood will screen tomorrow night at the Brooks Museum of Art as part of the ongoing "Reel to Real" series, where local film-scene insiders share work that's inspired them.

The Kaufman doc is being hosted by local producer Adam Hohenberg (Forty Shades of Blue, Cigarette Girl). Hohenberg will lead a discussion following the screen while Kaufman favorites milk and cookies are served.

Andy Kaufman: I'm From Hollywood screens at the Brooks Thursday, March 11th at 7 p.m. Admission is $8 or $6 for museum members.

A clip from the film:

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