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 TV Character Bios

GRAVAS, Latka & wife, Simka
(Taxi)
( 555-6328
c/o The Sunshine Taxi Company
New York City, NY (Manhattan)

Latka is a lovable garage mechanic. He comes from an undetermined East European nation and speaks a language with gibberish sounding phrases like "yabba Ibby dibby dabba." Latka reports to cab dispatcher Louie DePalma who always gives him a hard time.

Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravas
 

Latka wished to be "an American fun guy taking each day in high gear." So, to obtain his wish, he gathered up copies of Playboy and a tape of a smooth-talking FM DJ and Latka left "to alter my lifestyle to fit the fast lane." Latka’s intensive study into the world of the swinger forced a personality transformation in the form of an alter ego called Vic Ferrari, a suave, ingratiating womanizer who spoke English without any hint of a foreign accent.

Andy Kaufman as Vic Ferrari - Photo courtesy of TAXILatka later married Simka Dahblitz, a peasant girl who recently moved from Latka's homeland to New York City. Prior to the marriage, there is the Gewirtzal. This is the person who proposes marriage for the groom-to-be. The bride-to-be accepts the marriage proposal by grabbing the nose of the Gewirtzal. In addition to the Gewirztal, there is the Murzik. This is what the groom's mother tells the bride-to-be before the wedding. How the bride reacts to the Murzik determines if the mother gives her blessing. The Murzik consists of these comments: "men are nothing but lazy lumps of drunken flesh. They crowd you in bed, get you all worked up, and then before you can say 'is that all there is,' that's all there is. They pass out smokes when you are still whimpering from pain of delivery. Your flaxen hair will become like dead grass and your once firm breasts will fall to the floor."

Carol Kane as Simka Gravas - Photo courtesy of TAXILatka and Simka celebrated marriage in the traditional style of their old world country, but in a reversal of American customs, the bride wears a suit and the groom wears a dress. To be worthy of marriage in the eyes of their Elders, the couple had to pass a test ("If one of them should fail any question of the test, they will never be married.").

Beginning the ceremony with a howling noise, the priest puts a crown of rue on the bride's head. If she can successfully walk with the crown on the head, she is declared a virgin. Unfortunately, Simka drops the crown but she manages to convince the priest she is still "pure").

The next step in the ritual involved the correct answering of three questions. Question No. 1: "Who is it that is not your brother yet he is your father's son." (the groom answers "It is me"); Question No. 2: "What is the greatest gift a person can give to another?" (The answer: $5,100); and Question No 3: "There is a beautiful baby and there is Simka. A wild bore is charging. You can save only one. Who do you save? [This is a trick question, because no matter what a person answers, the answer will be graded wrong. and the priest will say the couple "can never be married." This is done to see if the person really loves their partner and is willing to defy the Elders' wishes and marry their chosen mate, anyway]. Simka, of course, goes into a tirade supporting her love for Latka and the priest joyfully announces they are marriage material. The priest closes the wedding ceremony with the words: "May the stars shine upon you and may God grant you many children. You are now husband and wife." With the ritual finished, the couple kicks up their heels doing the traditional dance called the "Plumitz."

After their marriage Latka and Simka conducted a sacred post-marriage ceremony called “The Schloogel.“ In the old country where Latka and Simka were born, newlyweds in an expression of love and sharing of their new found happiness, would introduce their closest acquaintances to "ideal" marriage partners. If the newlywed's friends did not attend the ceremony, it was considered a great insult. Following the tradition of their country, Latka and Simka hosted a party at which Alex Rieger, Elaine Nardo, Tony Banta, Louie De Palma, and Jim Ignatowski were supposed to meet their ideal life partner. On first glance, it appears they did.

~ SOME LATKA-ISMS ~

Latka:

As they say in my country, the only thing that separates us from the animals are mindless superstition and pointless ritual.

   

Latka:

In my country everyone shares everything with everyone.
Alex: Oh, that's nice, Latka.
Latka: Otherwise they shoot you.
   
Rev. Jim: Death to the revolutionary rebels!
Latka: But I am fighting for the revolutionary rebels.
Rev. Jim: Death to the imperialist stooges!
Latka: But they were thrown out long ago.
Rev. Jim: Death to the puppet regime!
Latka: But there is no puppet regime.
Rev. Jim: Who the hell are we fighin'?
Latka: The tyrannical despot.
Rev. Jim: Well, the tyrannical despot will soon know the name Jim ...ummmm....
Alex: Ignatowski.
Rev. Jim: Right! Already it's spreading!
   
Elaine: No way I'm gonna marry him!
Bobby: It's just a marriage, Elaine! It's not like you have to have sex with him or anything.
Latka: Who asked you?

Taxi Logo

TRIVIA NOTE: Latka Gravas was an East European immigrant with a strange Slavic/Russian accent He claimed to be from an Island in the Caspian Sea. The concept for the Latka character evolved from a street incident when Andy Kaufman was approached by people who insisted he give them his money. Instead of arguing or fighting with them, Andy put on a very sweet slavic-like accent and began to cry "I don't have any money. I don't know what to do. Leave me alone." His pathetic demeanor chased away his would be muggers. Andy later used his "Foreign Man" character for his comedy act. Andy Kaufman often courted controversy to gain maximum comedic exposure. For instance, he enjoyed a brief professional career and challenged all the women in the audience to fight with him while obnoxiously declaring they were weak and not as good as a man. Andy's stint as a wrestler even got him smacked down on television by a male professional wrestler. Andy received real injuries from the encounter and for weeks afterward was seen wearing a white neck brace. Born January 17, 1949, Andy Kaufman died of lung cancer May 16, 1984. Comedian Jim Carrey portrayed Andy Kaufman in the biographical film homage Man on the Moon (1999


TAXI/ABC/NBC/1978-83  

Judd Hirsch as Alex Rieger
Danny DeVito as Louie De Palma
Marilu Henner as Elaine O'Connor-Nardo
Tony Danza as Tony Banta
Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravas / Vic Ferrari
J. Alan Thomas as Jeff Bennett
Jeff ConawRandall as John Burns
Carveray as Robert L. 'Bobby' Wheeler
Carol Kane as Simka Dahblitz-Gravas 
Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim Ignatowski

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