Marlin Refereed Matches Between Kaufman, Lawler

Hendersonville TN Star News – January 7, 2000
By Suzie Perkins

Sumner County Executive Tommy Marlin is anxious to see the new movie “Man On the Moon.”

After all, he might be portrayed in it.

Not only does the semi-biography of Andy Kaufman depict the late comedian’s famous “Mighty Mouse” and “Foreign Man” routines, it highlights his alleged feud with professional wrestler Jerry Lawler.

And that’s where Marlin comes in.

“I wrestled and refereed for 18 years,” Marlin said in an interview last week. “I think I refereed both matches between Kaufman and Lawler, and a match between Andy Kaufman and a woman.”

Because of all the publicity surrounding ” Man On the Moon” (named for R.E.M.’s tribute song to Kaufman), the Comedy Central cable network recently aired the 1994 video, “I’m From Hollywood,” released 10 years after Kaufman’s death at 35 from lung cancer. The quasi-documentary details Kaufman’s wrestling “career,” including his very public and highly publicized antagonism towards Lawler.

At one point in the video, referee Marlin’s attempts to intercede in the 1982 grudge match between the two men are clearly shown.

“It ended up as a little problem between them – I’ll say that,” Marlin responded when asked if he thinks the friction between the wrestler and comedian was serious.

“When you wrestle, you work hard. It’s a business, it’s an exhibition. In 18 years, I never saw any ketchup (fake blood). But I did think Lawler got out of line when he slapped Kaufman on the David Letterman show.”

Marlin’s brother, Eddie, was the promoter of the Kaufman and Lawler bouts in Memphis, along with many others over three decades.

“He was involved in wrestling 30 years,” Marlin said of his sibling. “I started with him, he’s the one who got me into it after I got out of the Navy. I loved every minute of it, except the traveling.”

You can’t argue with Marlin on that point.

“Here was our schedule – Monday in Memphis, Tuesday in Louisville, Wednesday in Evansville, Ind., Thursday in Jackson, Tenn., and Friday in Tupelo, Miss.,” Marlin recited without missing a beat. “Saturday morning was television in Memphis, then Saturday night in Jonesboro, Ark. That was our regular routine every week.”

And, as if that weren’t enough, Marlin was based out of Nashville then, working days for the telephone company.

Marlin has stayed a little bit closer to his Hendersonville home in recent years, as property assessor for Sumner County and now as county executive.

And he has seen clips on televison from “Man On the Moon.”

“Just from the little bit I’ve seen, I think Jim Carrey does a good job in portraying Andy Kaufman,” he said. “I heard he’s having a hard time (distancing himself from the Kaufman character) because he lived it so thoroughly and put his heart and soul into it.”

Does he plan to see the movie?

“There’s no doubt about it,” Marlin said. “Maybe I’m due some royalties.”

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