Is Andy Kaufman Still Alive? Probably Not
Yesterday, Defamer published an article titled “Is Andy Kaufman Still Alive?” Gothamist, theComic’s Comic, Dangerous Minds, and others posted similar stories. The posts were based on accounts of a very strange ten minutes during Monday night’s ninth annual Andy Kaufman Awards, during which Andy’s brother Michael claimed to not know if Andy was alive, and then may or may not have been reunited onstage with his long-lost niece (Andy’s daughter). I was a judge at the (untelevised) event, so I figured I’d share what I saw and clear some stuff up.
I met Michael in January when I interviewed him about “On Creating Reality,” an Andy Kaufman exhibition at Maccarone gallery in New York. I hadn’t spoken with him since then, but last week I got an email from Wayne Rada, the producer of the Andy Kaufman Awards, saying that Michael wanted me to be a judge at the finals. I said I’d be happy to, and when I got to the Gotham Comedy Club I was told that Michael would be making a “very special announcement” at the end of the show.
After the contestants finished their sets, I went to the basement with the other three judges, who told me that, with the exception of tonight, Michael was always down there with them. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but in hindsight it seems obvious that I was asked to take Michael’s place in the judging process so he could focus on making his special announcement at the end of the show.
We probably deliberated for all of about four minutes before coming back upstairs, as the host of the show was wrapping up. Before announcing the winners, he said, Michael would like to say a few words. Michael walked up to the stage and squinted a little in the lights. He’s a soft-spoken man with mannerisms eerily similar to his brother, and when he began to speak the entire room fell silent.
The Imaginary Republic of Molossia
I am driving to a place that doesn’t exist. I am doing this because the President of Molossia emailed me. He’d seen something I’d written about his little nation, so he invited me for a visit. “I will gladly escort you around Molossia and show you the sights; it would be an honor,” he wrote. “I hope you will favorably consider my invitation and come see our great nation! Warmest regards, His Excellency President Kevin Baugh, Republic of Molossia.”
“Is he crazy?” friends ask me, but I don’t know the answer yet.
On a Friday in September, I begin the long drive from Berkeley through the Sierra Nevadas. I skirt the north end of Lake Tahoe and hit traffic headed to Reno for the holiday weekend. In Reno, I sleep over a casino. The next morning I drive through Virginia City, Nevada, an old boomtown over a vein of silver ore where Mark Twain began his writing career, just outside a fictitious locale made famous by Bonanza. Molossia is a reasonable distance into the desert. I spot the sign:
His Excellency Kevin Baugh, President of Molossia, emerges from the house dressed like a caudillo: he wears a tricolor sash of the Molossian national flag looped through a gold epaulette. Beneath the hat, a pair of Kim Jong Il-style sunglasses cover half of his face. He welcomes me enthusiastically, pumping my hand as if I am a long-awaited diplomat. I am encouraged to pay the customs fee: my pocket change. I deposit it into a tin can affixed to the door the Customs Booth. A sign informs me that many things are not permitted in the Republic of Molossia. Among them: firearms, ammunition, explosives, catfish, spinach, missionaries and salesmen, onions, walruses, and anything from Texas with the exception of Kelly Clarkson.
I tour the “country”—there is a miniature-scale Molossian railroad, national parks, battlefields, and cemeteries. The president moves from place to place talking about Molossia’s various conflicts: the Dead Dog War, the War with Mustachistan. I participate in the Molossian Space Program by launching a stomp rocket and am awarded the title of Space Cadet, along with a certificate.
Apparently Women Love This 13-Year-Old Skateboarder Named Baby Scumbag
Steven Fernandez, aka Baby Scumbag, is just a normal 13-year-old skater from a bad neighborhood in LA. A normal 13-year-old skater who’s sponsored by a bunch of companies, has 38,000 subscribers onFacebook and 140,000 followers onInstagram, and gets photographed with guns and sexy (adult) women. He’s been skating since he was nine (here’s a video of him at 11), but unlike other absurdly talented kids likeRene Serrano and Evan Doherty, he’s developed a whole persona that revolves around trying to get girls and eating junk food (again: typical 13-year-old). It’s hard to tell how much of that is him putting on an act and how much of that is real, but either way, young Stephen knows more about what people on the internet like than all the “social media gurus” two and three times his age put together. I called him to ask what he wants to be when he grows up.
VICE: Hey, Steven how’s it going? I didn’t force you to miss school, right?
Baby Scumbag: Hey, VICE lady. Just chillin’. Just got home from school. Got out a little early.
You like school, or what?
Yeah, school is cool, but it’s kind of tough out here in poverty. You see a lot bad stuff around here, like gang-related stuff, drugs. I live in Compton, California. The border of South Central.
So, you’re super popular at school, right?
Nah, I’m just a normal kid going to school. An average teenager.
How did you get start getting sponsored?
Well it all started when I had posted a video of skateboarding, and people actually enjoyed watching the video. As I started making more videos, I started getting more sponsors as well.
What’s a typical day in the life of Baby Scumbag?
Hang out at school, homework, skateboarding, maybe even go film. And a little masturbation.
Unearthing America’s Treasure Trove of Rare, Private Press Vinyl
In the current era of digital music and laptop bedroom musician-dipshits, anyone can make music and distribute it to the masses for little or no money. You basically fart and you have “released” an “album” online. Entire music genres have grown up around this concept and the ease that comes with it. But years ago, before computers and the internet, recording and disseminating your music was much less democratic. Buying physical instruments, recording music, creating sleeve artwork, and creating vinyl albums was a serious undertaking and not for the casual hobbiest. Yet, many unknown and obscure musicians did just that, without major record label help, going DIY and privately pressing their work themselves. Today, a new book from Sinecure Press, titled Enjoy the Experience, hits shelves. It stands as the most extensive look into this culture. Plumbing the depths of many obsessed collectors’ archives (including their own), editors Michael P. Daley and Johan Kugelberg pulled the best of the very best records. The book includes albums by lesbian folk singers, pizza parlor organists, religious cult leaders, and singing Werewolves, to name a few examples. You can check out some our favorites in the gallery above. We spoke to Michael and Joahn about this massive project and the joys of getting weird with wax.
VICE: This book seems like it must have been a massive undertaking. How long did it take you guys?
Michael P. Daley: It took over three years to make the actual book. However, the collectors who’s archives we dug into have been amassing the contents for several decades.
What gave you the inspiration to take on such a labor of love? How did this all start?
Johan Kugelberg: I started receiving Paul Major’s record catalogues in 1986 or 1987. He’d describe records that made me want to move to the USA. Whenever some of them arrived in my mailbox in the old country, they were instant game changers. Records described in the mainstream as “psychedelic” just weren’t compared to the strange private press vinyl Paul conjured up.
When I moved to NYC from Sweden in 1988, my first exposure to buying these kinds of records in actual shops was that summer, in a junk shop with Tim Warren of Crypt Records. He’d show me some of the wildest homemade covers and crazy lounge records. It was off to the races. We’d stop in thrift stores driving around New England, bringing back piles of crazy records. In the early 90s, I hung out with Brandan Kearney and Gregg Turkington (of Drag City), who were the best mentors a young lad could have as far as next-level vanity pressing sounds go. There was a bit of a network of private press fan-boys motivated ultimately by those holy moments of pure human expression that are much more common on privately released records than on mainstream releases.
How did you go about finding all these records? Once you found them, how did you find the information and back story about the artists?
Michael: These records came from a whole host of private collections, however the foundation of the whole book was from Johan’s coffers.
The backstories came about differently for each author. For myself, I went through files of old newspapers finding advertisements for gigs, ebay-ed old periodicals, googled like a madman, in an attempt to construct a chronology from existing sources. In some cases we located the performers and they were very kind, like the great Sherry Emata. In other cases, the performer was located, but they weren’t so vocal.
Johan: Michael and myself have been working together for over three years and share a lot of enthusiasms. A number of collectors that I was already pals with provided all access to their collections and to the artists that they’d tracked down. Paul Major is an unbelievable source of insight, information, and enthusiasm. We are now working on a book reprinting all of his record catalogues from the 80s and 90s, which I think is some of the best music writing ever by anybody. I love Bangs and Meltzer, but I love Paul’s writing more.
Did you have physical copies of all the records? Did you listen to a lot of them? Did you find any hidden gems we should know about?
Michael: All the record reproductions are from physical copies. We’ve been trying to listen to every single one. The problem is that while there are about 1100 LP covers in the book, there’s actually double that in the office, so we have our work cut out for us. However, I’d say most have at least been needle-dropped at this point.
As for hidden gems, all of them are stupendous in one way or another. Even the ones that might be considered “technically bad,” are still really interesting, and not just in that superficial “so bad it’s good” kind of way. All of these records are artifacts that represent a living person’s dreams and aspirations at a point in time. For me, I relate the beauty of these objects to the famous last shot of The Shining, when you stare into the old photograph and the echoey big band music starts playing, except in this case, you are hearing echoey music and an old movie comes into your mind instead.
There’s a whole plethora of backstories behind each one of these, too. Some of these records are attempts at being famous, some are actually money laundering devices, some are just for friends, and some are souvenirs for live shows at a lounge. So even when they are bad, or silly, or downright baffling, their greatness is realized when it strikes you that this is all very real, that the LP is the crystallization of a time and place in the past.
Johan: The more of these records I hear, and the more album jackets I look at, brings about a notion of an American cultural vernacular. It makes me think that things like rock and roll, hip-hop, jazz, and hamburgers, could not happen anywhere else. And that there is a singular and sublime artistic narrative in here. As a first generation immigrant, I have no problem with readily admitting that it reminds me of how much I love the USA and its people.
Enjoy the Experience comes out today on Sincure Press. If you purchase it through their website, you can get the deluxe version with a slipcase, fold-out poster, and clear vinyl Century Records on how to make your own record (for the same price as in stores!). That’s really cool.
This Man Thinks He Never Has to Eat Again
You know what’s a complete waste of time, money, and effort? Eating. I mean, wouldn’t you rather just ingest a tasteless form of sustenance for the rest of your life and never have to go through that tedious rigmarole of opening and eating a premade sandwich or feasting on a pile of fried delicacies ever again? Rob Rhinehart—a 24-year-old software engineer from Atlanta and, presumably, an impossibly busy man—thinks so.
Rob found himself resenting the inordinate amount time it takes to fry an egg in the morning and decided something had to be done. Simplifying food as “nutrients required by the body to function” (which sounds totally bulimic, I know, but I promise it’s not), Rob has come up with an odorless beige cocktail that he’s named Soylent.
I wasn’t sure if he was trolling at first because that’s the name of a wafer made out of human flesh and fed to the masses in the seminal 1973 sci-fi film Soylent Green, but then I read the extensive post on Rob’s blog about how he came to make the stuff, and I started to believe he was serious. Soylent contains all the nutritive components of a balanced diet but just a third of the calories and none of the toxins or cancer-causing stuff you’d usually find in your lunch of processed foods. Despite the fact that it looks a bit like vomit, Soylent supposedly has the potential to change the entire world’s relationship with food, so I spoke to Rob to find out how.
VICE: Hi, Rob. Why did you decide to boycott eating?
Rob Rhinehart: It was a combination of things. I was home for Christmas and saw an elderly family friend get admitted to the hospital after losing an unhealthy amount of weight. He was losing strength in one of his arms and found it very difficult to cook. I started wondering why something as simple and important as food was still so inefficient, given how streamlined and optimized other modern things are. I also had an incentive to live as cheaply as possible, and I yearned for the productivity benefit of being healthy. I’d been reading a lot of books on biology, and I started to think that it’s probably all the same to our cells whether it gets nutrients from a powder or a carrot.
What was the next step?
Hacking the body is high risk, high reward. I read a textbook on physiological chemistry and took to the internet to see if I could find every known essential nutrient. My kitchen soon looked like a chemistry lab, and I had every unknown substance in a glass in front of me. I was a little worried it was going to kill me, but decided it was for science and quickly downed the whole thing. To my surprise, it was quite tasty, and I felt very energetic. For 30 days, I avoided food entirely, and I monitored the contents of my blood and my physical performance. Mental performance is harder to quantify, but I feel much sharper.
So what’s in Soylent, exactly?
Everything the body needs—that we know of, anyway—vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients like essential amino acids, carbohydrates, and fat. For the fat, I just use olive oil and add fish oil. The carbs are an oligosaccharide, which is like sugar, but the molecules are longer, meaning it takes longer to metabolize and gives you a steady flow of energy for a longer period of time rather than a sugar rush from something like fructose or table sugar. I also add some nonessentials like antioxidants and probiotics and lately have been experimenting with nootropics.
Welcome to the Twin Zone - Your Mind Is About to Be Double-Penetrated
above: Thurman and Sidney Sewell, better known as the ATL Twins, cozy up around a woman’s butt in the bed of their penthouse apartment in Midtown Atlanta. Photos by Paul Birman, Chris Nieratko, and Troy Stains.
Do you think we could fuck Selena Gomez?” asked the voice on the other end of my iPhone, a little over a year ago. His deep Tennessean twang added extra emphasis to the word fuck.
“Yes, of course. Definitely,” I replied. “Who is Selena Gomez?”
“She’s that Disney bitch.”
In the year since this conversation, I’ve realized that most people find it hard to believe that I had never heard of one of the most famous young celebrities in the world until Sidney and Thurman Sewell—better known as the ATL Twins—mentioned her to me that day on the phone. But I’ve been a bit out of the loop on all things Disney since I stopped writing for their children’s digest, Disney Adventures, back in 1995. The only Disney bitch I know is Minnie Mouse. And even though I was unaware of Selena and her hit Disney teenybopper television show Wizards of Waverly Place before our call, I’m still confident that one day Thurm and Sid will double-penetrate her young orifices to oblivion. That’s what the ATL Twins do. So it was strange that they seemed so hesitant.
“But she’s dating Justin Bieber,” Thurm continued.
“Do you think Justin Bieber has a nine-inch cock?” I asked. “And even if he does, he definitely doesn’t have two of them.”
“Nah, I doubt it,” Thurm said and began laughing hysterically.
And that, my friends, is what you get when you fuck with the ATL Twins: 18 inches of raging-hard dick coming at you from either side. They are a package deal. The Twins had called to tell me that they had just been cast in Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine’s beautiful new film about four bikini-clad, seemingly goody-goody gals on spring break in St. Petersburg, Florida. The girls—Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, and former Disney stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens—get in way over their heads when they are arrested at an out-of-control hotel party, and a gun-toting drug dealer named Alien, played by a scumbagified James Franco, bails them out of jail alongside the Twins, who are employed as Alien’s silent henchmen. Despite not uttering a single word in the film, the Twins’ presence is as memorable as any of the headliners, and their unsettling silence only adds to their mystique. Their roles will only intensify the public’s curiosity about the real story behind the brothers, resulting in more pussy than they will possibly be able to handle (their volume is already at critical mass).
The entire cast loved the Twins. Weeks before the film’s release Selena Gomez was on French radio saying that she and the girls passed time by laughing at their antics. And James Franco was so affected by working with them that their time together inspired a poem, published for the first time here:
Something scary: There is a pair of twins
They’ve got hip-hop style
And chase ambulances
For a living.
But they want to be famous.
They’re the same person
In two bodies.
They are never apart.
They sleep in the same bed,
Finish each other’s sentences,
And share their women.
They like double penetration,
It’s all they talk about.
At one point they were engaged
To a Penthouse model;
Only one would have been legal,
But they both would have kissed
Her at the wedding ceremony.
Ever since they were put on this earth, the longest period of time the ATL Twins have spent apart has been six hours when Sidney was locked up for a DUI. Otherwise they are always together, with the exception of a few minutes here and there to shit, shave, and shower. Every possession, emotion, and experience is shared: They have one car, one bed, and sleep with the same women. At 13 they simultaneously lost their virginity to a 21-year-old stripper, and they were once both engaged to a Penthouse Pet who, according to the Twins, broke their hearts after her parents pressured her to leave them. Someday they want to father children from one woman, which isn’t so surprising when you consider that they believe themselves to be a single person with two bodies. They are mirror-image twins, meaning that the egg that spawned them split in two somewhere around ten days after fertilization, which is very late in the game (any longer and the chances of birthing conjoined twins increases dramatically). They are genetically and physically identical, but their features are reversed. Sid is right-handed, while Thurm’s a lefty. If they stand face-to-face, you notice that what seem like slight differences in their appearance actually mirror one another exactly. Unlike the bearded, fictitious dildo in those Dos Equis commercials, Sid and Thurm are truly the most unique and interesting men I know.
A Weird Hotel in Houston Is Freaking Reddit Out
Last week, Reddit’s internet detectives swarmed on a subreddit for Houston, Texas after a user called Joelikesmusic posted a mysterious thread asking insiders what the deal was with a bizarre room at the localHotel ZaZa. As you can see in the picture above, the decor in room 322 errs more on the deeply unsettling, Jodorowsky side of a “comfortable, welcoming hotel experience,” with sinister paintings hanging above a concrete floor, what looks like a two-way mirror next to a bed that’s chained to the wall, and a portrait of Stanford Financial Group president Jay Comeaux overlooking the whole distressing tableau.
The room was accidentally booked for Joelikesmusic’s work colleague, who was then supposedly told that room 322 wasn’t meant to be booked at all. And it’s not difficult to see why—it looks like a snuff movie location. But despite the room being an absolute creep-fest, Kyra Coots, the Houston ZaZa’s head of e-marketing, told the Houseton Chronicle that—like the other themed rooms ZaZa prides itself on—the “Hard Times” room is just a “kooky” take on yet another theme: jail.
Being the internet, people have started to throw around entirely unfounded conclusions about room 322, based on wild speculations they’ve made about things they can ascertain from the photographs.
THE THEORIES ABOUT THE PICTURES ON THE WALL
Some think they’ve linked Stanford’s Jay Comeaux to ZaZa President Benji Homsey, suggesting they could’ve been in the same or related fraternity chapters at university. Comeaux went to Louisiana State University, home of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity and the secretive frat, “the Friars.”
The goal of the Friars is apparently to resurrect DKE’s “Zeta Zeta” chapter—could the name ZaZa itself be a reference to this? Is Benji Homsey the “Benny H.” whose signature is on another of the room’s portraits?
THE THEORIES ABOUT THE ROOM NUMBERS
Others have connected Comeaux and the Friars to the elite Yale Skull and Bones Society, which counts ex-presidents George Bush Jr. and his dad as members. The number 322 is supposedly relevant to the group, as well as the skulls and bones littering the room.
There are websites that claim the Skull and Bones Society dates back to 1832, when it “paid obeisance to Eulogia, the goddess of eloquence, who took her place in the pantheon upon the death of the orator Demosthenes in 322 BC.” The number 322 is also thought to reference the club’s founding in America after originally being established in Germany, it being the second chapter—1832 - 2. Writer on the occult Nick Farrell told me the numbers refer to “Hebrew geomatria—each letter is a number so you can add up numbers to make words; 322 means any of these. It depends on the context, but ‘lamb’ would be a common one and ‘man’ another, but it could also be the number of a demon.”
YouTube sensation Shoenice22 has spent the last two years eating and drinking everything from sticks of deodorant, to tampons, to full bottles of grain alcohol. He’s a grown up and more self-destructive version of that weird kid at camp who would eat worms for attention.
Anne of Green Gables Is Now Totally Boneable
This is what Anne looks like on the new cover. Anne of Green Gables should not be jerk-off fodder, but here we are.
The new book jacket of Anne of Green Gables has been causing a stir among fans of the book, who say that (paraphrasing): “That whore is not Anne of Green-fucking-Gables.”
It might be a coming-of-age story, but this edition really seems to focus on the “of-age” aspect—as in, “barely legal.” Furthermore, enough of the plot is predicated on her red hair to suggest that whoever took this photo didn’t bother reading the book. What is this, fifth grade? Read the book before you hand in your assignment, cover art designer dude.
Based on this cover, I would guess that Anne of Green Gables is the sultry tale of a romp in the barn with the farmer’s daughter, not a story about a spunky, adventurous, red-headed orphan with her own unique sensibilities.