THE TIMELESS WISDOM OF TINY TIM
by Paul Grant
Tiny Tim was born Herbert Khaury sometime between 1925 and 1930. While his show business career has lasted eons, true fame was his for only the better part of two years. One thing remains certain: Tiny Tim is the novelty act that won't go away! The success of 'Tip-Toe Thru' the Tulips With Me", Tiny's cover of a 1929 Nick Lucas' hit, combined with his marriage on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson thrust him to national prominence in 1969. By 1971 he was more or less forgotten. But this reporter remained a loyal fan, and when he visited Los Angeles in 1993, we had a chance to talk of his career before and after the fame of those heady two years.
Since this interview Tiny has divorced Miss Jan and has gone on to wed his precious Miss Eva, who is now seventeen years old. He continues performing whenever he can, although to some extent his appearances have taken on the characteristics of a freak show. Backed by musicians who had no conception of what he was trying to present, his performance at the time of this interview left me feeling as if I was viewing a horrible accident. I didn't want to look, but nevertheless I did.
As it is written on his debut album:
"THE WORLD IS WIDE
WITH MANY THINGS WITHIN
BUT FEW SO RARE AS HE
GOD BLESS TINY TIM."
TINY TIM ON... WOMEN
TINY: I was performing live in the Catskills in the '40s, during the summer when my parents were vacationing there. I sang songs like (sings) "Playmates/ Come out and play with me," and in '41 (sings) "I got spurs that jingle jangle jingle."
SCRAM: Were you playing the ukulele at this point?
TINY: No, it was all acapella. I was singing all the hits from the musicals. In those years 20th Century Fox had all the musicals. (At this point Tim begins recalling names of young girls who stayed at the bungalow colonies where he sang during the summer, adding that he was in love with a beautiful girl who was just ten years old. He then proceeds.) Let me get something straight in here. You can write everything you want. I have pure thoughts. Even right now I will tell you that I just met on July 28th, at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, this lovely girl, Miss Eva. She is only fifteen and I talk to her every night. Her father knows she calls me. She wanted to come out to see me when I was in Sacramento. About two days later I told her I would love to have her come down, but my manager told me I could not, being that I'm still married. My wife is separated from me.
SCRAM: This is Miss Vicki?
TINY: Miss Jan . My second wife. I married Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show in 1969, when she was seventeen, and she left me in 1974. She got the divorce, I never signed anything. I married Miss Jan in '84 in Las Vegas. She's a very beautiful girl, only thirty-four, now forty-two. Who knows who's she with tonight. The only reason she's not here -is that my fears were justified. She separated from me every year. We lived alone anyway, two blocks apart in New York. I was madly in love with her, still am. She has the greatest mind I've ever seen for a beautiful woman. But she cheated on me every year, came back when it was over and then would leave and start all over again. Finally, two weeks ago she admitted that she met this guy in '91 and I asked her, "How many times did you kiss him? I've got to kiss the lips that kissed..." And when I married her, she took the pill. The thing is that the young ones can have kids easier. I had one with Miss Vicki and we lost one, then she took the pill.
SCRAM: Is that Tulip?
SCRAM: Do you know of her whereabouts?
TINY: She's in Burlington Heights, New Jersey, from what I read in The Enquirer.
SCRAM: (Laughing) You have to learn through the tabloids?
TINY: Always. I always read The Enquirer, since 1946. There's nothing like it. It keeps me well-informed. And so she's hid in Burlington Heights, having her second kid.
SCRAM: You're a grandfather!
TINY: Twice. She married a guy so I can say it legitimately now. But I haven't seen her since 1992. I just told her I was living in Des Moines in October, and I haven't heard from her since.
TINY: Since I was not good-looking and since I was always in a paradise with beautiful women, going back to the late '30s, I didn't want to have this nose cut off because I wanted to take the challenge of making it without an operation. Part of that was show business, the makeup and the hair made me feel romantic. The white makeup was like purity, and I always looked at young women as pure things, especially those that fit into my dream world. If I saw a girl of fourteen or fifteen from my front window and she was lovely, I would go into the bathroom and wash my hands with soap and water, and cream of course with Jergens Lotion. I always creamed my hands after washing. If you don't mind, you can feel how soft it is. (I touch his hands and Tim giggles uncontrollably.) Even then it made me feel so romantic. If I saw this lovely girl I dreamed about I had to be clean, at least in my mind, so when I wore the makeup it was for the purity. My showers were always to keep spiritually and physically clean. I only take small little showers when nature calls.
SCRAM: What led to your marriage to Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson?
TINY: I met Miss Vicki on June 3rd, 1969, ten minutes after twelve in Wanamaker's. She had on a gray dress above her knees. She was seventeen years old. I fell in love with her immediately. I asked her mother and father for her hand in August at the Steel Pier; they said yes. I didn't announce it to anybody, I gave Mr. Carson the first privilege. In September I told Mr. Carson on the air that we were getting married at Christmas. He mentioned that there used to be a television show called Bride and Groom, but there had never been a television show in which a celebrity got married on the air. He asked me if it would be okay to do it on the show. He said he would be away for Christmas, but if we could do it on the air about a week before that, it would be done in good taste and NBC would pay for it. And he also said that NBC would pay for Miss Vicki's gown. The minute I heard that I thought inwardly, "Boy, would I look good to her mother!" I wanted to give her the best even though we weren't getting along. It's very hard to get along with me. I always dream of other women. Even before the Carson show was getting ready, I almost ran away with another girl, Miss Iris. She was so beautiful. I met her in California and took her to New York while I was engaged to Miss Vicki. I kept her in my mother's house for a day. I offered to take her back to California but I couldn't break Miss Vicki's heart. She was seventeen. She never would have forgotten it. We had fights even beforehand. And the reason I had a fight like that with her was because I learned that she had been going out with one of the Christy Minstrels, who was married. I always wanted faithfulness in marriage. Nothing is as bad as unfaithfulness in marriage. Anyway, I agreed to the marriage on the Carson show.
SCRAM: What did Miss Vicki think of the idea?
TINY: She was shy, but I think she loved it and was awed and overcome by the idea of what it would do for her and her parents in Haddenfield, New Jersey. She certainly was not in love with me. I don't blame her. But she had the looks I loved. Basically, I told her all about myself before the marriage. I'm hard to live with. In this marriage Jesus Christ rules. I was bitter when I found out that she was using birth control pills. But at least she had a kid. Miss Jan, oy, she never had any and all her lies were the curse of this marriage. I can't totally blame her because I had my faults too. But she did lie specifically and I still love her and would still be with her if she comes clean. But going back to this one, Miss Vicki knew all about it before the marriage. The fact that she was seventeen, some kids are fifteen. This girl Miss Eva, she's fifteen years old but she has the mind of a twenty-five year old. Miss Vicki and I had one thing in common - our minds stopped at ten! (Loud laughter). You have to realize that about yourself. But praise to the Lord for the strength he gives me. I even told Miss Vicki's mother before the marriage, "Your daughter does not love me. But I will man-y her, because heaven forbid, I should break her heart." So we went through the marriage. Right after the marriage, we had a reception in which two-thousand people crashed the gates at the CBS ground floor restaurant. All of the gifts were stolen. After that we went back to the Waldorf and had an argument right then and there. I'll tell you Paul, if you ever get married, at least don't argue before the marriage 'cause quarrels as Pastor Vandeman said, leave scars. I don't care how small they are. They ways leave a memory. On our honeymoon there unbelievable argument. I didn't have any S-E-X with her as far as I remember for three days. You see, didn't care if she loved me. I just wanted to make the marriage work. It never happened.
TINY: In 1963 I got a job at the Page 3 in Greenwich Village. It was a place where the girls liked each other I was making forty dollars a week and loved every second of it. Very beautiful girls came in there. There was one girl, her name was Miss Roberta and she was lovely. She had the body of Raquel Welch and she used to hug and touch me. You can say what you want, but I wished she dominated me. I wanted to be dominated by her in the worst way. She was quiet, gentle but firm. But pure thoughts aside, I wanted her to chain me to her bed and make love to me all night long! (Laughter) Those are dreams we all have.
TINY TIM ON... HYGIENE
SCRAM: It's been said that you take up to five showers a day.
TINY: That's an exaggeration. I take one big shower. I haven't missed a shower since December 20th, 1989, except one time in the flood in Des Moines, Iowa on July 12th. I was on my way to Santa Cruz and there was no water, but I made it up so it doesn't count. I always cream my body The showers take at least twenty minutes. I shampoo and condition my hair every day with Color Vive conditioner from Loreal. And finally after years I found a shampoo that is so soft and wonderful. Anyway, I color my hair every fourteen days to keep the gray away. However, the other showers, the small showers, whenever nature calls, I always clean with soap and water all the time, making sure everything is nice and pure. And then I do have, from eating, I've developed hemorrhoids. I praise the Good Lord and my manager who told me it comes from certain foods that can't be digested, such as meats and cheeses and bread, like Wonder Bread, which has no roughage. Even fried foods, such as vegetables, will clog the system. So I have now learned to eat raw tomatoes, raw pears, raw bananas, grapes, apples here and there and of course a lot of vegetable chili, especially bean dips. So I still cleanse all the time, but I always use these creams, not Preparation H, but Nupercainal. I use Anusol and I use Americain, three or four times a day to keep me nice and soft. I always use every day Mitchum Underarm Cream. Only the cream, which works so well. However, I wish Colgate-Palmolive still made Vito Cream. They took it off the market in 1960. They had the greatest underarm deodorant cream, which only checked perspiration and didn't stop it. It was Vito. I wish they'd put Vito back in its original formula, 'cause Vito did say no to underarm odor. (Loud laughter)
TINY TIM ON... GOD
TINY: The first paid contest where I got money was at the Alliance Club in 1954 in Greenwich Village. This is the first time I used the high voice.
SCRAM: How did that come about?
TINY: My mother was Jewish and my father was Catholic. I just thank Jesus Christ for the blessing, without his grace I wouldn't be here. I prayed about it and then one day in 1952 I woke up with a sound that was strange. I had a feeling for a high voice. It sounded like no one else and I started developing that and by the time I hit the Alliance Club in '54, I had the nerve to demonstrate this in public over singers with better voices. (Sings "Almost Like Being in Love" and "You Are My Sunshine.") I brought down the house and before I knew it, Larry Love and the high voice started to move.
SCRAM: Larry Love is a great name.
TINY: I wish I had it instead of Tiny Tim.
TINY TIM ON... THE PAST
SCRAM: Did Rudy Vallee enjoy your music? After all, he was quite conservative
and I wondered if your appearance effected his opinion of you, since you have stated that he was your idol along with Bing Crosby?
TINY: In answer to your question, I would say no, he didn't. It's funny when you think of someone who was so instrumental in your lifetime and the cold hard facts of life that that one person may not think much of you. But that's the way the ball bounces. He was a good sport. Vallee was a consummate musician and he played the saxophone as well as sang. But the only time that I came close was in 1977 on the Joe Franklin Show. He was a guest and he said that he didn't want to hear about the old days. And I said, "Mr. Vallee, I don't want to get into an argument with you, but I can't forget these great days. You were the rage of the age, you were the Valentino of song. I used to listen to your records with the lights out (and still do) and dream of these women." Then I sang to him this song which was on the other side of "The Vagabond Lover" in 1930. (Tiny sings the song. Quite touching, I might add.) I'll tell you what happened. I felt the vibe that I was in his body in 192 9 and '30, with his curly hair. This hold came over me. When I opened my eyes while I was singing, his eyes were closed. He was reminiscing for that one moment. That whole time, after that was over, it was the last time I saw him. He didn't speak to me at all after the show. I personally think he was touched, shocked and amazed for that one moment.
TINY TIM ON... BEING PERRY MASON
If you remember, in 1964 there was a vicious murder in New York, the Wylie Girls were killed, they were bound together in their fabulous Madison Avenue apartment. Their parents were very wealthy. I went to the police department under the name of Julius K. Foxglove. They sat me down and grilled me and I told them I had a theory about the murder. I told them that I thought their uncle committed the murder. They told me to stick to singing and they would solve the murder and that was the end of that. At that time I was very into Perry Mason and read all of the books by Erle Stanley Gardner. I played Perry Mason in bed. I memorized the books word for word and for a time I felt like I was Perry Mason, so I felt that my theory on the Wylie case would be welcomed by the police. Even today parts of Perry Mason creep into my life when I have to question Miss Jan, such as "You say you were going down the street, wearing your white shoes. How do you know your shoes were white? Did you look down before you left?" Well, obviously it gets a little carried away!
TINY TIM ON... MICK JAGGER
He first saw me perform at a party for the Rolling Stones in 1964, when "Time Is On My Side" was hitting the charts. I was on exhibition because of the high voice, and because I was labeled at the Page 3 on a big poster outside the club, "The Answer to the Beatles." (Picks up the uke and begins singing "As Long as She Needs Me.") It brought down the house. Jagger came over and I asked him if I could sing a song for him. He nodded and I sang "Time Is On My Side" and making the noises of a clock between the lines. He just looked at me with his eyes wide-open and then came down to the Page 3 to see me.
TINY TIM ON... FAME
SCRAM: Tell me about your television appearances. Was Laugh-In your first time on television?
TINY: No. For the record, my first appearance was in 1953, on something called The All-Night Show. I sang (singing in his Larry Love style) "See the pyramids across the Nile / Watch the ocean with a sunny smile."
SCRAM: That was a big hit at the time.
TINY: (Laughing) Not the way I sang it! I sang it at a quarter-to-three in the morning while the credits were rolling. My next appearance was on the Joe Franklin Show. Just for a minute in 1965. 1 first met him in 1950, when he was a great collector of records. I went up there with an old 78 Brunswick of Bing Crosby. (Tim sings a couple of songs imitating Crosby). He couldn't believe I was singing. He wanted to get me out of the room. He got on the air in 1952 but he remembered that. In '65 when he was very popular in New York and I was playing in the Village, he called me and told me to smile at the camera and not say a word. He mentioned that Halloween was coming. Well, you know, it was the first break I got. My third appearance was in March '66, on coast-to-coast television. It was The Merv Griffin Show. It went over great.
SCRAM: What did you sing?
TINY: (Sings "Living in the Sunlight, Loving in the Moonlight.") I also sang "Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips." It brought the house down. However, the mail came in, and 99% of it asked, "What did you have on? What's happening to this place?" They were not happy, and Westinghouse canceled my next appearance due to the complaints. Arthur Treacher, Griffin's co-host, asked sometime later on the show, "Whatever happened to Tiny Tim?" Griffin looked at him and said, "Who?" After that, when I became hot and Griffin had moved to CBS and was competing with Johnny Carson, Griffin wanted me back on his show. I refused and instead went on with Carson. I signed with Reprise and was represented by Roy Silver, a top manager. Carson held up my album for the camera on his show before I came out to sing in April of '68. The first Carson show brought down the house. When I left, instead of going out the right way, I went backwards into the curtains. I was the first guest and because I couldn't get off the stage, he brought me over to sit down. And they were laughing at the jokes. I felt great elation to be on the show. He sold the album so well and I decided because I was so hot, not to go on the Joey Bishop or the Merv Griffin Shows.
SCRAM: After the decline of your career, what have you been doing all these years? T I N Y: Since 1 9 7 0, one year after the marriage, to this day, it's been so close to the top. It's like a roller coaster ride that never reached. There were times I played pretty nice places. The concert halls of Vegas were gone. My last appearance at a major club in Vegas was in 1970, when I gave Helen Reddy her first big break at the Fremont Hotel. By this time my manager Roy Silver was out of the business and I never saw my money. I had to work in dumps and dives, from Brooklyn to Jersey. As a matter of fact I worked the Continental Baths, where they had men with no clothes on, except for towels. Barry Manilow was my opening act. As far as Carson was concerned, I was on his show one more time, I think in 1 9 7 1. As for the next several years, from 1974 to 1983, 1 went on tours with other has-been acts, such as Norman Brooks, who was a Jolson imitator, George Gobel, who was nowhere until he revived himself again on the Hollywood Squares. I was with Sherman Helmsley from The Jeffersons. I played with Eddie Fisher, Jack Carter, Pinky Lee and John Carradine. We traveled on a bus, day after day, staying at the Holiday Inn. Get up the next morning, leave at 7:00, go on to the next town. Then I went to Australia. I've been there maybe ten times. But the most fantastic job I ever had was two years with the circus. In '85 and '87 1 was with the Allan Hills Great American Circus. I had a trial run in '84 for about two weeks. I've gotta tell you. Allan C. Hills Great American Circus was a third-rate circus. We worked from March to November in those years. Every day a new town. We left Sarasota in March, came back in November. It was town after town. We left at five in the morning, got back to bed eleven at night and left at five in the morning again. There was a murder, they worked eighteen hours a day. They had the worst food in the world. They hired drifters from the towns we played and served generic foods. There was the gorilla act, the bear act, the gypsy act. I followed the ponies. I did ten minutes. The Wall Street journal did a big spread on me about going from the top in Las Vegas to playing a circus fifteen years later. But Allan C. Hills did something no one else had ever done. He showed there was a place for a name singer in the circus. This is the only type of living vaudeville left. The hardest part was moving with Miss Vicki to Brooklyn in 197 1, when Miss Tulip was born. We had seven rooms in a nice area, Avenue J. But three were not furnished and Miss Vicki was already disturbed. She was very unhappy and I could sense the end was near. In those years it was tough to visit my mother, who still lived at 601 163rd Street in the '70s. Going back to the old neighborhood, there were no autographs asked for. The coolness of the public was already there. I could walk down the street and walk into stores. Here and there people would ask for autographs but you knew it was over. But I'm grateful to baseball stars and hockey stars which I followed religiously. Maury Wills, Billy Martin were great hustlers. Ed Stanky and Carl Furillo. These were hustlers who died to win. I said to them and I said to myself, "You gotta pick yourself up. You gotta keep moving. You can't lay there and feel sorry for yourself. Millions have never made it. This is the cross you have to bear. You got the roses, you get the thorns." So through all these heckling years, the biggest regret in this business was not trying to make it again, but romances. That the romance with Miss Vicki did not last. The one with Miss Jan did not last. And that other romances were broken up because of my temper.
SCRAM: Any final words?
TINY: In this business, or any business, you're either up or you're down. There's no in-between here. I will always keep fighting for the top as long as I have breath and health. Believe in your dreams and not in your fears. Never a tassle without a hassle. Originality is the key to success. I'll do my best and pray for the rest.
Wanna read more? The very rare with slightly marred covers Scram #4 is available. You can also find this story in our special Having A Rave Up With Scram Magazine issue, with the Peter Bagge cover and all the best historical music features from our first eight issues. For details click here.