Sunday, 22 May 2016

When Mews knew Andy... Retro LadyLand talks Kaufman with Mews Small

During my interview with the absolutely delightful Mews Small she mentioned that she had known Andy Kaufman... The Andy Kaufman... The genius, the visionary, the completely balmy Andy Kaufman.
So I saved it for an article all of its own.

So here, without any pretence, without any backstory, is the interview of when Mews knew Andy...

Tell me about your appearance in Milo Forman’s Biopic of Andy Kaufman ‘Man on the Moon’.

“Well that's a very interesting story also because Andy was a good friend of mine.”

Wow!! I wasn’t expecting that! How?! When? Where?!

“As soon as I got the film [‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’] I had a month before I had to start filming and I was a little bit wary of being in a mental institution for 14 hours a day, so my girlfriend - who was in the Broadway cast of Grease - said maybe I wanted to learn how to meditate, so I did and it was very helpful, because a mental institution is a weighty place and I am a very feeling person and very sensitive. So I did it, and on one of these courses - which was a month long course - was Andy Kaufman.

Andy was a teacher of transcendental meditation at the place I went to, an old hot springs that WC Fields, John Wayne and all the famous stars went to. The TM organisation had bought the place and they wanted to use it for people wanted to go into deeper, longer meditations and take courses and also for teachers to do residential courses. 

Transcendental meditation is very easy, I mean if I can do it anyone can!  But
it’s so simple and so helpful. 

I was actually there [on the course] for five weeks.  

The first time I saw him [Andy] was on a course where a lot of it was silent. At the end they had a little talent show and he was hilarious... I don't actually remember what he did, but he established a relationship with me by peeking through the curtain at me. You know how he had those big, beautiful eyes? If they pointed you out it was a privilege... I considered it a privilege!

I would always see Andy, especially on Thursdays, which were silent days and we would always go on walks together.  One of our favourite experiences was on these days, we would walk in complete silence, which I think we both enjoyed immensely

But one of the most interesting things we did was organise a big benefit for meditating in the prisons up in San Francisco.  

I was pretty devoted to meditation because it helped me a lot, and I met these people who were teaching in the prisons.  They told me how useful it was, but how difficult it was because prisoners don't wanna close their eyes, because they were afraid that someone was going to stab them!
So I gather Andy, Doug Henning, Ned Beatty, Stephen Collins, Country Joe McDonald and others to do this big benefit concert up at the galleria in San Francisco and down in Los Angeles. It was called 'Freedom Behind Bars'. We had these two wonderful concerts and raised lots of money for these programs to teach prisoners to meditate.  It was a really great thing to do and Andy went on for over an hour! he liked to take things to the limit in conciousness... and Oh my God! I have those tapes! Actually me and the cameraman are probably the only people to have them!"

Tapes of the benefit? Lost Kaufman tapes... Would you ever show them publicly? 

"I didn't shoot them, so I would have to get permission if anyone wanted to use them and I wouldn't do that without talking to Andy's family... I wouldn't feel comfortable... I mean, what would Andy say?"

So, what was your relationship with him like?

"We played like children, it was more like play...

We just sort of had a flirtatious relationship and anyway there wasn't much talking because we spent most of our time meditating... 

I don't have any romantic stories (Ha!)

But being with him is an improvisation, you pick it up and wherever he went, you go!  He was fun, but I'm not quite as free as that. I want to know past, present, future and what you're thinking about blah, blah, blah... But that didn't seem to be part of our conversations and I sort of figured that we were okay, we were happy just spending time together and having a good time."

Did he tell you why he turned to spirituality and meditation? 

"No, we never discussed that... But meditation can be extremely good for your imagination, creativity and well-being and he had a need and a craving for that...

As a matter of fact it was quite tragic, because later Andy was living in Malibu and applying to go on other [transcendental meditation] courses, but they started turning him down and this was pretty heartbreaking for him as spending time in silence was a big part of his life." 

Such a shame...

"But then we became friends and then we spent time together back in Los Angeles.

I saw him when he was doing taxi, because when I was studying directing I was
allowed to sit there on set and observe. 

That was fun! There was Jeff Conaway, who is a good friend of mine from ‘Grease’ and of course Danny DeVito and Chris Lloyd from Cuckoo’s Nest.

And had my mother not gotten ill during that period, I would have had the opportunity to study directing under Danny DeVito. But I'm a very good care-taker and I spent hours in the hospital and I would sit there meditating… and so, instead of being a pain in the neck I would be useful.”

So what else did you get up to with him? 

"We did try and wrestle one time, in his living room, but I said it's not really for me... Maybe I missed an opportunity, but the wrestling didn't appeal to me that much!"  [laugh] 

Do you think he was really serious about it? It didn't look like he was holding back?!

"Was he ever serious about anything?! Ha!

... And he took me to a Thai restaurant... but basically we were just like two kids playing together." 

Was he really as 'weird' as he is portrayed? 

"I don't really know what normal is... but he was an eccentric person, but a good friend and I loved being with him..."

And what did you talk about?

"What did we talk about? I don't think even remember what we talked about, I
just remember playing like two children and then having these deep long silent walks and the whole time I knew him he never smoked a cigarette or any dope, or drink any booze. We were both very pure…”

But funny though..?

"Andy was hilarious! His whole thing was to take people beyond where they were going… I call him unbounded... Milos wouldn't let me use that word in the film though…”

Oh yes 'Man on the Moon'...  

“I never knew him to do any of those other things [The drink and drugs] but apparently he did, Larry Koraszewki is a great writer and I'm sure he did his research, but I didn't know that part of his life - the period when he was in Vegas I mean... All I saw was this amazing pure being with an amazing talent, he could go on and on and never falter... 

He used up every moment... Even if it was in silence... "

You appeared in the biopic, how did that come about? 

"When I heard about Man on the Moon I sent Milos [Forman] a note saying that I knew Andy, and if there was anything I could do I would be happy to do it.

They were actually in the middle of shooting the movie when Milos was looking for someone to play this administrator in the movie.  I don't know when he got my note, but there was a woman who was teaching Jim (Carey) how to meditate - because he loved Andy Kaufman and he really wanted to get into character -  and Milos Foreman, or the producers asked this meditation teacher and she mentioned me, to which Milos said "Oh yeah I know her!" [From Cuckoo’s Nest] and the next day I got called down to the set. They were shooting in downtown Los Angeles. So I read the lines and he says “Okay go to wardrobe and we'll shoot it tomorrow.

It was the easiest job I ever got! It was a great experience because I really did know Andy."

How did you think Jim Carey did portraying Andy Kaufman?

“I think he did a wonderful job. But when I met him everything was just right… except Andy had these soulful deep blue eyes that would just pierce right into my heart… So it was like everything was there, but it wasn't Andy.  It almost made me cry.

He was so good, but you can never we reproduce another human being.”

Did you ever meet his alter ego [Tony Clifton]? 

“No I didn't. I never did meet him… that was a whole other part of Andy I did not know… But then again, I knew parts the other people didn't...”

In the film they allude to Andy still being alive and faked his own death do you think this was possible? 

“I wish!

I don't know!

Anything is possible with him! I just don't know?!

But I wish that be true wouldn't that be fun?!

I could easily see him living a completely different life somewhere else….”

Maybe his is…

Thank you Mews... 

For more Information on both Mews or Andy, or even Transcendental meditation... Go to...

1 comment:

  1. A great insight into one of my heroes. Tank you very much...