This week on Cultureteca, a new fragrance inspired by Andy Kaufman’s 1979 performance at Carnegie Hall, and some thoughts on the art of the irrepressible song-and-dance man; the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two; Grand Theft Auto V played on a motion simulator; and a new shoe by the vegan company Keep and Deakin of Animal Collective.
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Andy Kaufman Milk & Cookies: A New Fragrance
Xyrena, the Los Angeles-based celebrity partnered on-demand perfumery – conceived in 2013 by Killian Wells, and emerging this year with fragrances for the singer Aaliyah, the Kentucky high school basketball player Dalton Maldonado, and the RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Pearl – has recently launched a new fragrance which commemorates the actor, comedian, song-and-dance man and all-round performance artist Andy Kaufman.
Kaufman remains well known for his role as Latka Gravas on the long-running and Emmy Award-winning series Taxi, for his late night appearances with David Letterman, for his misdoings behind the mask of the embittered lounge singer Tony Clifton, and for his confrontation with Michael Richards on Fridays in 1981. But central to his legacy is an April 1979 performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Following a show which featured Robin Williams disguised as Kaufman’s grandmother, and a Native American ritual meant to revive an elderly woman who had apparently died on stage, Kaufman took his entire audience, in twenty buses which had to make a return trip, out for milk and cookies. They were taken for their treat to the New York School of Printing on 439 West 49th Street.
It is this show which Xyrena’s Andy Kaufman Milk & Cookies celebrates. The fragrance features top notes of sugar and sweet butter, a chewy heart of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and creamy milk, and base notes of vanilla and white musk. It made its public debut last month, on 11 October during the annual Andy Kaufman Award show at UCB East – the recipient of the award this year was the comedian Brett Davis. Everyone in attendance received a sample of the perfume, which comes in extrait concentration. And now the fragrance is available courtesy of the Xyrena website, at a price of $42 for 50 ml.
Kaufman’s brother Michael – who occasionally played Tony Clifton – said ‘It’s great to have Andy brought back, in any way, even if only in a bottle. Call me crazy but I still fantasize about the day when Andy will return, performing in front of live audiences again’.
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On Andy and Empathy (A Revision)
On the topic of Andy Kaufman, here is a good place to put, in a revised form, a short piece of writing hitherto exclusive to Culturedarm’s Tumblr:
‘Andy Kaufman’s art was complex but essentially humane. Silliness, an introvert’s idle playfulness extroverted, was one of the defining features of his persona. Rather than dwelling within the caustic, the dark or the tragic, he often utilised the more commonplace aspects of misfortune – presenting himself as discomforted physically or financially, the victim of some agitated misunderstanding, or a participant in a mutual incomprehension. In turn, his art showed less the relationship that is often said to exist between comedy and tragedy, emphasising instead the close relationships comedy shares with sympathy and empathy. Kaufman attempted to bring his audience through the guise of comedy, beyond an instinctive sense of sympathy, towards an empathetic understanding both thoughtful and comprehensive.
He saw his viewers not as a generic viewership, but as individuals who could be reached, and he endeavoured to reach people by surprising them and shifting their expectations. In contexts which tend to feature standardised and repetitious forms – the context of the stand-up stage, where comedians tell jokes with punchlines, defining the terms and the moments of laughter; or of the talk show, where celebrities answer questions amiably, tell amusing stories, and promote their latest work – Kaufman sought defamiliarisation, something jarring and unique.
The concept of defamiliarisation comes from Russian Formalism, and considers how poetic language fundamentally differs from the language of everyday use. Kaufman was poetic in his use of language, and more, poetic too in his movements and gestures. He never considered himself a comedian, instead referring to himself as a song-and-dance man; and when incorporating music into his act, he was able to perform musically in a way physically, vocally and emotionally agile. He was Elvis Presley’s favourite Elvis impersonator not because he most resembled Elvis – for a start, he possessed a much slighter physique – or because he well mimicked his vocal mannerisms, but because he understood, felt and could demonstrate the same acute rhythmic sensibility and unfettered, openhearted emotion.
Take the video below, one of Kaufman’s appearances on David Letterman’s show in the early 1980s. Kaufman comes on stage wearing a turban and a sort of diaper, he performs a dance, he manages some press-ups, swallows a sword, evidently having practiced, and then he sticks on a false moustache and performs a pristine and beautiful rendition of the Slim Whitan song ‘Rose Marie’.’
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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two
The end of this week meant the worldwide release of the fourth and final installment in The Hunger Games film series. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two concludes the narrative of bloody entertainment and creeping revolution in Panem, as Katniss Everdeen steals into the Capitol seeking a decisive showdown with the tyrannical President Snow.
Mockingjay – Part Two proves a fitting finale. Though the series has always been more than a match for other epics thanks to its tense and intricately constructed battle sequences, The Hunger Games continues to endure in the quiet moments, depicting lulls in the passage of time and reflective moods which stay true to the pattern of life. There is nothing here that amounts to a plot twist, because everything is rooted in character and amounts to a steady unfolding of logic. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson are again at the centre, portraying one of the most equal relationships on film, while Woody Harrelson and Philip Seymour Hoffman – in his final performance – excel in supporting roles.
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GTA V on the Force Dynamics 401cr Motion Simulator
On Tuesday the Force Dynamics team uploaded the video below, showing off Grand Theft Auto V gameplay experienced via their 401cr motion simulator. It looks like a lot of fun, but more surprising is the inherent humour in violently running over pedestrians.
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Keep x Deakin: The Ramos Deakin
Five years ago Josh Dibb, the quarter of Animal Collective better known as Deakin, collaborated on a pair of shoes with Keep, the Los Angeles vegan apparel company. Now he has designed a second shoe, in the Ramos line of mid-tops. The Ramos Deakin is ‘inspired by our shared love of outdoor gear and utilizes light-weight, water-resistant nylon in a collapsible body, reminiscent of a sleeping bag’. In black with blue and red accents, it features bungee stretch laces and a gum cup sole. Pre-orders for the limited edition shoe will end this coming Wednesday, with pairs set to ship in April.