http://www.thrillermag.com/uncategorized/jerry-lawler-on-andy-kaufman-and-the-early-days-of-wrestling/How did you meet Andy?The first time I met him was when he came down to Memphis to wrestle against some women out of the audience. What took place was, Andy was from Long Island, New York, and as a kid he grew up watching TV out of the New York area, which was early WWE. Andy was a big wrestling fan from a kid, and one particular wrestler he idolized was Nature Boy Buddy Rogers. Andy told me later, “I was always really fascinated with the fact that a guy could go on television and be a big star and intentionally try to make everybody despise him.” And, if you really look at Andy, he was not really a comedian. He hated being referred to as a comedian. He was a performance artist, and he said he would rather elicit a negative response from the audience rather than a positive one. You know, he never told a joke in his life. He just did things to get responses. So, once he became a celebrity, he decided that he wanted to live out the fantasy that he had as a kid growing up of being a bad guy wrestler. So, he went one day and he approached Vince McMahon, Sr. What Andy had actually started doing, he had actually started doing a little skit in some of his comedy club and night club routines where he would challenge some girls out of the audience and they would come on stage and wrestle him, and his writer, Bob Zamuda, would be the referee, and Andy had his little thermal underwear wrestling outfit he wore. Andy was enjoying that, but the people who came to his show certainly didn’t come to see him do wrestling, so it wasn’t being received very well. So, he had the idea that he would love to try it in front of an actual wrestling audience, so he went to a show in New York, he approached Vince McMahon, Sr., he introduced himself–and of course, at this time, Taxi was huge, he was a big star–and he told Mr. McMahon, “I would just like to be able to come to one of your shows, and challenge some women out of the audience and wrestle them in front of a wrestling audience.” Vince McMahon, Sr. told him, “Andy, our fans are so skeptical anyway. I’m hesitant to involve a TV actor with our wrestling. I’m just afraid people would think we’re all just actors.” So, he turned him down. Fortunately for me, I had a friend named Bill Apter, who was the senior editor and writer for Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which was a wrestling magazine at the time, and he overheard the conversation, and he approached Andy afterwards and said, “Hey, Andy, I have a friend down in Memphis that has a territory down there. They wrestle every week in Memphis, draw ten thousand fans. Let me give you his number. I be he would be interested.” All of a sudden, I just got a call from Andy Kaufman, and he told me that back story, and I said, “Man, yeah, we’d love to have you come down and do that.”AAA Andy came down to Memphis. He lived out his little fantasy. He incited the whole city. Everybody wanted to lynch him, and hang him by his neck. He came in for about four weeks in a row just wrestling women out of the audience, and every time he came in, we’d get a sell-out. So, finally, I thought, “Man, how can I get the rub for myself off this guy,” right? So, finally, I went to Andy, and I said, “Andy, this has just about run its course. You need to have a match against a man, and that match needs to be against me.” He said, “No, I could never do that. I would get killed.” I said, “Andy, it would be against me. I’ll make sure I don’t kill you.” He finally agreed, and that’s how we got started into the promotion of our match. I got into the ring in the last time he wrestled a woman there, and it was just sort of like the movie, Man on the Moon. I pulled him off the top of this girl, and then all of a sudden he just went ballistic, threatening to sue me, threatening to sue the wrestling company, threatening to sue the city of Memphis. It was great. So then, I made the interview. I said, “Hey, why don’t you be a man. Instead of settling this in the court, let’s settle this in the ring.” Then we had our match, and of course, after that, Andy went to the hospital. Totally unplanned, totally unscripted. Andy went to the Memphis hospital and stayed with his neck in traction for three days.Was he really hurt?No, I don’t think anything was wrong with him. I’ve never hurt anyone with a pile driver yet. Anyway, that led to us being on the David Letterman show, which as you know, I wound up slapping him. That little clip where I slapped Andy is now in Washington, D.C. in the Museum of Radio and Television History as one of the top one hundred moments in the history of television.Lawler_Kaufman2Were you guys in on that? Was Letterman in on it?I swear to you, I swear to God, nobody knew what was happening. It just evolved. Certainly, Letterman didn’t have any clue that I was going to slap him. I felt that’s what Andy wanted to do because we didn’t want to end our feud. The Letterman people had something totally different scripted. I was supposed to apologize to Andy, and Andy was going to apologize to me for making fun of wrestling, and Andy was going to end the show by singing, “What the World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love.” Before the show, Andy called me up in my hotel room and said, “What do you think of what they want us to do?” I said, “Well, it’s their show, and it would pretty much end our feud.” He said, “Yeah, I know. What would happen if you just hauled off and slugged me?” I said, “Well, since we’re taping at 5:30, and it doesn’t show until 11:30, probably they won’t show it, and I’ll get arrested.” He said, “Yeah, you’re right.” But, it put the seed in my mind. And, I remember, we were at the end of the second segment, and Andy hadn’t apologized to me, I hadn’t apologized to him. Dave was going to take another break, and I’m thinking, he’s going to come back and we’ll be off, that was going to be it. So, when Dave started to wrap things up for the second segment, I just rose up out of my seat and slapped the crap out of him. It’s like watching somebody else do it. Not only did they show it, it became a folklore legend. It’s amazing.