November 30, 1996 – Tiny Tim was born Herbert Khaury, and gave his birth date as April 12, 1932. The son of a Lebanese father and Jewish mother, he grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, and was a loner, eventually dropping out of high school.
His interest in American popular music (chiefly from the 1890s to the 1930s) began at a young age, as did his desire to be a singer, and accordingly he learned guitar and ukulele. His first performances — under the alias Larry Love — took place in the early ’50s, and according to legend, he debuted at a lesbian cabaret in Greenwich Village called the Page 3, where he became a regular. Khaury performed at small clubs, parties, and talent shows under a variety of names; his parents tried to discourage him at first, but relented when they saw that not every gig ended in ridicule.
By the early ’60s, he had gained a cult following around the thriving Greenwich Village music scene, particularly after he began to incorporate bizarre renditions of contemporary songs into his repertoire. He finally settled on the name Tiny Tim after the character in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (according to some accounts, it was suggested by a manager accustomed to working with midgets). Tim’s appearance in the film You Are What You Eat led to a booking on the hugely popular comedy series Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.
He was an instant sensation; whether or not he was seen as an object of ridicule, no one had ever seen anything like him. He appeared several more times on Laugh-In, and became a frequent guest on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, also performing on the Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason variety shows. His eccentric personality became as well-known as his music: he was obsessed with bodily cleanliness, and his distaste for sex seemed logical when paired with his gentle, asexual demeanor.
A hot commodity, Tim signed a record deal with Reprise and issued his debut album, God Bless Tiny Tim, in 1968. His signature rendition of “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips” became a hit, and the LP sold over 200,000 copies. Striking while the iron was hot, Tim recorded a follow-up, Tiny Tim’s Second Album, which was released at the end of 1968. Its follow-up, an album of children’s songs titled For All My Little Friends was released in August of 1969.
On December 17 of that year, Tim exchanged vows and tungsten wedding bands when he married his girlfriend, 17-year-old Victoria Budinger (known as Miss Vicki, in typically respectful Tim fashion), on the Johnny Carson show. The couple later had a daughter, Tulip, but mostly lived apart, and divorced after eight years. Following his wedding, Tim continued to perform around the country, including some lucrative gigs in Las Vegas; unfortunately, many of his business associates took advantage of his naïveté, leaving him with few savings from his run of success.
By the early ’70s, perhaps due to simple familiarity, America’s fascination with Tiny Tim had waned. Even after the TV appearances and high-profile gigs dried up, Tim kept plugging away, performing whenever and wherever he could. He recorded steadily for a series of mostly small labels throughout the 70’s and 80’s.
He remarried in 1984 to 23-year-old Miss Jan. They lived apart most of the time and the marriage lasted until 1994. Tim joined a circus for 36 weeks.
In the late ’80s, he moved to Des Moines, IA. In 1992. In August of 1995 he married for a third time to Miss Sue, and he moved to Minneapolis.
During the mid-’90s, Tim raised his public profile with appearances on the Conan O’Brien and Howard Stern shows; however, in September of 1996, he suffered a heart attack while performing at a ukulele festival in Massachusetts. Upon his release from the hospital, Tim resumed his concert schedule, but sadly, on November 30, he suffered another heart attack in Minneapolis while performing “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips,” and died an hour later at age 64.