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*** and the smackdown: the crazy world of wrestling cult comic Andy Kaufman

Why did the Taxi and Saturday Night Live star travel across America paying women $1,000 to wrestle him? Could transcendental meditation have had anything to do with it?

By the time he died in 1984 of lung cancer aged only 35, Andy Kaufman had wrestled more than 400 women. One of those who grappled for three minutes in the ring with him, the mud wrestler Red Snapper (AKA Robin Kelly), says that his impulse to rumble in the ring was very ******. This raises the possibility that the entertainer who claimed to be both the intergender wrestling champion of the world and women’s wrestling champion of the World was sublimating his desires in spandex. From 1977 onwards, Kaufman travelled America offering prize money of $1,000 and/or his hand in marriage to any woman who would wrestle him for three minutes and pin him – and it’s notable that he went on to date several of the women he wrestled.

Alex Braverman, who has spent the past seven years working on a documentary that gets its world premiere at the Venice film festival this week, isn’t sure about the ****** explanation for why the hitherto sweet and mild-mannered Jewish kid from Great Neck, Long Island, who played goofy mechanic Latka Gravas in the sitcom Taxi and was a Saturday Night Live regular, acted the violent misgynist. “I don’t know what was on his mind or what was part of his sexuality,” says Braverman. “I only know that if that were an interest of mine, I don’t know that I would have the courage to pursue it.”

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