Lost Media Archive

Kaufman as Clifton, with the hookers on his lap, having a heated discussion with Judd Hirsch.

In 1978, performance artist and comedian Andy Kaufman reluctantly signed on to the sitcom Taxi to play a variation of his "Foreign Man" character re-named "Latka Gravas". Among Kaufman's numerous stipulations was that his alter-ego character, "Tony Clifton", an obnoxious, abusive lounge singer, would be guaranteed a certain amount of guest appearances. So, what was meant to be Clifton's debut episode "A Full House For Christmas" was written, with Tony playing Nick DePalma, the gambler brother of Danny Devito's character, Louie. Kaufman, whose Latka character was absent from the episode, would make a "guest appearance."

Clifton was miserable to work with, he brought two prostitutes with him (and declared that he had re-written the script to include them), he couldn't act, and generally angered everyone present. The decision was then made to fire Clifton and replace him with another actor. On the day this was to take place, cast member Tony Danza brought his Super 8mm camera to the set to document it. Ed Weinberger, the producer, announced to Clifton that he was fired. Clifton went on a tirade, and he, Weinberger and cast member Judd Hirsch got into a wrestling match on the floor. Danza filmed this as it was happening. Clifton was then removed from the studio by Paramount security. Several days later, while Danza was screening the film for his co-stars, Andy (back as himself), walked into the room and watched the film as well. He remarked that Clifton was "an asshole".

Danza's footage of the incident hasn't ever been seen by the public and it's unknown if the footage still exists to this day. According to Kaufman's former girlfriend, Lynn Margulies, Danza had informed her that he had lost the footage. The only physical evidence of the event publicly available are a couple of still photos (taken by Kaufman's co-writer Bob Zmuda) of Andy (as Clifton) being removed from the lot by security guards, as well as an actual photo from the set which was released in the recent book, Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally. The film was recreated in the 1999 Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon.


Tony Danza Discusses Andy Kaufman

Tony Danza describing the incident in an interview.