Close Encounters of the Treasured Kind #7: The Eccentrics Part 3
The three wonderfully distinctive personalities I encountered and will mention in this series were all outspoken, eccentric to be sure, but full of passion for the unusual things in life. They all shared a sharp and wicked sense of humour and a youthful exuberance that probably presented itself to most who crossed their paths. I'm fairly certain of this because I had friends who encountered them as well. I feel extremely fortunate to have met all three. Sadly they have all passed on.
For many years when living in Los Angeles, I regularly frequented a "macrobiotic"/Japanese restaurant called Inaka (which means "country style"). I began my relationship with this small but popular restaurant as a customer, motivated by becoming healthier through a diet consisting primarily of cooked grains and vegetables (with some beans and seafood also permitted). Years later I began marketing a naturally sweet rice drink I invented called 'Amashake', and exclusively for Inaka, a pudding made from that drink that used seaweed as a thickener and maple syrup as a sweetener.
It was during this later period that I really took notice of comedian, actor and entertainer Andy Kaufman, also a frequent diner. As a customer myself, I had seen him in the restaurant many times before, and knew he was a regular performer on a popular TV series called Taxi, but since I had never watched the show or seen his comedic performances, took little notice. When he became enamoured with my Amashake chocolate pudding I came to know him fairly well. If my memory serves correct, he'd be at the restaurant every one of those nights when I delivered the product, anxiously awaiting its arrival, having eaten half a dozen or so, perhaps even more, of the last delivery.
He was a strange one, always standing straight, looking a bit like he was in a trance. His typically shy, innocent demeanor (perfectly captured by Jim Carrey in the excellent film Man on the Moon) also implied he knew something you didn't but, like a kid with a secret or a more subdued Harpo Marx, he wasn't gonna talk about it.
His questions to the staff working at Inaka about the chocolate pudding availability became so frequent, I had the temerity to put on the wall menu one night "Andy Kaufman's chocolate pudding" without asking his permission. On the next night, just after he arrived, Andy asked (of course) about the dessert, and then looked at the wall menu. Afraid that he'd find my gesture offensive, I tentatively said "I hope that's all right" and he immediately replied "No, I'm flattered."
We became friends. He would talk about his favourite movie, A Miracle in Milan, relationships, people he met and even play little jokes on the staff at the restaurant, several of whom he became quite close to. His was a warm, beautiful spirit. It almost seemed like he was personally drawn to those who were perhaps a little down on themselves and needed a lift. He provided that.
One night he was talking to the owner of Inaka and dropped, for us, a bombshell by saying he'd have a steak, chocolate cake at a well known L.A. hotspot and then come into Inaka to "balance it out." I remember Jay (the owner) and I in unison shouting "NO ANDY! It doesn't work that way!"
Even later, when he contracted what was diagnosed as cancer, he visited the restaurant, once in a wheelchair. The chemo and the disease it was designed to fight had taken its toll. Andy sadly lost that fight. I miss him.
I have included here Andy's first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (03/03/1977) so that one can get an idea of his offbeat sense of humour and amazing talent.
Of all the Elvis Presley impersonations, his was Elvis' personal favourite.