Apparently - an investigative report!
(NOTE: Looking for the usual Red Meat Politics? Scroll past this long entry!)
By Brad Friedman on 5/14/2004, 11:35pm PT  

Hopefully the usual Bush Bashers and Kerry Haters will pardon a brief pause for my continuing flight of fancy over this Andy Kaufman thing. It should all be over one way or another by Sunday (theoretically). So feel free to scroll past this long item if you're looking for the red meat!

I've been kicking myself all day for waiting so long to decide to buy tickets to the "event" around the corner at House of Blues this Sunday to mark the 20th Anniversary of Andy's Death (and possible re-appearance?), as there is now no more $50 SRO tickets. So it looks like I'm SOL instead.

So in lieu of it all, and noticing an alarming number of "Andy Kaufman" searches that have hit this blog in the last day or two, I went about a bit of armchair detetive work on the whole thing, and found a tidbit or two along the way.

If you're lost at this point, please see my "Andy Kaufman Returns?!" piece from last week for background, and then feel free to return.

Anyway, here's a few items of note as Sunday nears...a website called AndyKaufmanLives.com was begun last September 2003 by a guy known only as "Enrique". It's one no-frills continuous page where "Enrique" muses on his belief that Andy could have faked his death. He does so by periodically posting skeptical questions that folks may have and then goes about answering them. For example...

9/12/03
What about life insurance? Isn't that a crime? Isn't that how most people get caught?

Yes, that is how most people get caught. Many people fake their death so that life insurance can be collected. Any hint of possible fraud and insurance companies conduct an investigation.

I have read that no life insurance policies were collected.

Good enough...then suddenly the 9/16/03 entry is in a different font and color:

9/16/03

**********Message from the owner of the URL**********

Hello, my name is Steve. I am the owner of Jetelectro cartoons which owns this URL.

I have received many requests for info on Enrique and this web site. Many have asked who he is, where does he live, and how can we reach him. The answer to all of your questions is, I have no idea. I will explain briefly how this came about and why I am no help in getting you answers.

Awhile back I received a phone call from someone who identified himself as Eric at first, then by the end of the conversation he said his name was Enrique. He said he got my name from a friend of a friend in the animation business, although he never said who. He asked how much I would charge to buy the URL, set it up with a hosting service, then type periodic updates for roughly 1 year. A few days later I received a money order with no return address. So I bought andykaufmanlives.com. About a week after that I received a CD, no return address, containing the original HTML document to put up on the site. It came with typed instructions that I would be getting faxes every once in awhile, and that I should add them to the document exactly as typed.

So once again, I have no idea how you can reach him. I don't even know if he will be reading this (although I assume he does to make sure I copied his faxes correctly). I don't know why he wishes to stay anonymous, although I assume it is to avoid criticism over his views. I have received a few of those kind of e-mails also.

Okey doke...Odd enough. But then as I was highlighting the above text to copy it here, I discovered that hidden throughout the page, which has only a plain white background, there is text in a white font so that it can't be seen. Frequently just "Andy Kaufman," or sometimes more elaborately: "Andy Kaufman, Latka, Andy Kaufman lives, Taxi, Andy Kaufman Lives, Andy Kaufman, Andy Kaufman Lives, Latka, Andy Kaufman, Taxi, Andy Kaufman Lives"

That's a trick frequently used by websites that hope to get their page listed high on the various search engines when people might be searching for example, for "Andy Kaufman Lives". Search Engine "'bots" see that text - and add it to their index - even while normal humans don't. But if the above message from "Steve" is to be believed, and he was only suppose to transcribe "Enrique's" typed faxes verbatim, there would be no invisible text to be retyped.

So either "Steve" is lying to "Enrique" about simply retyping what he's sent (in order to up the hit rates for the page - which doesn't carry any ads in any case) or the whole thing is a swell sham and "Enrique" actually is "Steve" since supposedly "Enrique" claims that he doesn't know enough about HTML to do it himself, and therefore, would be unlikely to use the old "hidden keyword trick".

For the record, searches on both Google and Yahoo find no such company as "JetElectro Productions". However a "Stephen Maddox" of Greenwood, IN, is the owner of AndyKaufmanLives.com according to a WHOIS search.

But let's move on...In February of 2004 "Enrique" makes his last post for many months. In that post, he points to a message board, (which he had also pointed to and posted on some months earlier). The message board is ostensibly dedicated to the hardcore Andy fans, and of late is all about the 20th Anniversary "re-emergence" stuff.

More on that message board in a moment.

No more posts from "Enrique" on AndyKaufmanLives.com since that February 28, 2004 post, until today - a post from "Steve" again:

May 14, 2004

**********Message from the owner of the URL**********

Hello, I am Steve from JetElectro Productions

We have received many e-mails asking if Enrique will add new entries to this site. For the longest time I did not know. Yesterday I received a new fax from Enrique with 3 new questions and answers. He requested that it not be posted until this weekend. Also, we at Jetelectro think it is interesting that Bob Zmuda will be interviewed on Air America radio this evening. If you find that interesting go to www.airamericaradio.com and click on listen live. He is scheduled to be on "The Majority Report" this evening, Friday May 14. 8pm in New York. 7pm here in the Midwest.

Thank You

And then this final post on the page, today, again from "Enrique":

Do you think Andy Kaufman will reveal himself on May 16th, 2004?

No. As much as I would love that to happen, I do not believe it will. A fake death is absolute, as absolute as a real death.

So he will not be at the tribute in Hollywood?

I did not say that, I said he would not reveal himself. I do not believe he would appear at the tribute as Andy Kaufman, or in a costume, or any other suspicious fashion. I would say that if the man we knew as Andy Kaufman was at the tribute, no one would know.

How would no one know? These are his close friends. Are you suggesting plastic surgery? A sex change? Reincarnation? A House of Blues employee?

I wouldn't know

"Enrique" is starting to sound more and more like Andy's Co-Writer and current inhabitant of Andy's "Tony Clifton" character Bob Zmuda if you ask me.

Now back to the message board I mentioned previously...An hour or two ago, a new post there from "Anonymous" (which is what "Enrique" seems to go by when he posts on this board, apparently...though he hasn't posted for months...until today):

Subject: enrique

Message: has returned with some interesting news. stay tuned to his page in coming days. thank you.

There is, of course, a "Link to Enriques' Site" at the top of this message board.

An alert poster there, also noticed the following from a 10/30/03 post on "Enrique's" site:

Could he be in another country?

Why not? I was on the island of Aruba last week and no one knew or had even heard of him. I talked with cab drivers, store owners, hotel clerks, pool boys, bankers, waiters, and tourists. The name meant nothing to them. So how easy would it be for him to be a retired American living in a beach house?

The reference to "Aruba" is notable, given this exchange from last week's LA Weekly article on this whole affair:

Answering Machine, the next morning, 2004: “Hi, it's Lynne Margulies [Andy's girlfriend]. Hey! It was Aruba! I just woke up this morning and thought of it. Aruba. That's where Andy used to talk about going. Just jokingly, I think. I don't know where Aruba is, and I don't think he did either. But it sounds good. AH-ROO-BAH!

So there you have it...Just about all I've gleaned in the last hour or two while avoiding the mess that is Iraq, the Whitehouse, and everything else.

Oh, except for this last piece of business found by one of the message boarders in the "fine print" at the bottom of the Comic Relief page (Bob Zmuda is one of the founders of Comic Relief) advertising the event:

Please note: This is a non-televised event. No cameras or recording devices will be permitted. Tickets are non-transferable and photo I.D. is required. Audience members will not be allowed to enter or leave the theater during the last 30 minutes of Andy Kaufman --- Dead or Alive?

Hmmm...Odds are the joke is on me for having even paid it all this much attention (And you! For having read this far!) But that was, after all, largely the point of whatever the hell it was that Andy did. We were the show. And so I'm glad to play my part yet again for Andy...20 years later.

We'll see what --- if anything --- happens on Sunday. But, as the song says, "If you believed they put a man on the moon..."