In the early 50's, under the name Larry Love, he began performing old twenties tunes on the ukulele. He was billed as a novelty act at small clubs and talent shows and was often received by rotten fruit. His parents discouraged him at first, but when people he performed for at parties said nice things about him they allowed him to do his own thing, though they had little real hope that Tiny would ever succeed as a performer. They just resigned themselves to the sad fact that Tiny with his long stringy hair, raggedy, secondhand clothes, and face covered with makeup and white powder, would only end up on the street if left to fend for himself. He found employment in basement clubs where he'd perform with flea circuses, sword-swallowing bearded ladies and other acts destined to go nowhere.
Tiny Tim eventually acquired a cult following. A naive boy at heart, he was taken advantage of by an assortment of sleazy managers. While they helped mold him and develop his unusual act they also took more than half of everything he earned. His show developed into a combination of his baritone and falsetto voices, in which he would sing both popular hits and traditional 20's songs. He became famous for the duets he did with himself, singing anything from Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald to Sonny and Cher.
He got his big break in 1968 when he was signed by Warner Bros., who backed him up with enormous finances and catapulted him into fame overnight. His debut record God Bless Tiny Tim sold 200,000 copies. For months no one could turn on the radio without hearing his big hit, "Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips." In two years time he made over 30 appearances on The Late Show with Johnny Carson. On his most famous appearance, to an audience of 40 million viewers, he was married to 17-year-old Miss Vicky, who later gave birth to their child Tulip.
At the height of his career with his many television appearances, live shows at night clubs and fast-money gigs in Las Vegas he was making up to $50,000 a week; while he was only awarded one hundred dollars a week, room and board and all the skin creams, fancy foods, and perfumes money could buy. The rest was divided and stolen by his dozens of managers, lawyers, and consultants.
But Mr. Tiny Tim ended up being the epitome of Andy Warhol's "15 Minutes of Fame" prophecy. As people got used to him and realized he wasn't pulling their leg, he really was as unusual as he appeared, they grew tired of the novelty. Sadly, very few people realized the brilliance and genuine talent of this musicologist of twenties music.
He continues on, playing at county fairs and hotel lobbies and the occasional TV appearance, like his recent bit on Roseanne. He was recently married to the lovely Miss Sue and is still cutting records year after year always with an optimistic attitude that someday he will reclaim his old fame.
Goblin Magazine: Could you tell me about your recent wedding?
Tiny Tim: It was on August 18th of '95. Five hundred people were there, including the National Enquirer and various local radio and TV stations. It was an unbelievable bash. There was $10,000 worth of food. To rent the place and get the band to play, plus other things was another $25,000. I couldn't have afforded it but Sue could.
She has wealth but that is not at all why I married her. Before we were married I signed a contract saying I wanted nothing of her money, and I still work to pay my own way. I married her for her health, happiness and love.
GM: Do you have anecdotes about famous people you've met over the years like Bob Dylan?
TT: Bob Dylan I met in January of '67. He was living in Woodstock and he asked me up to see him, and he sent out a chauffeured limousine to pick me up. I got there at eleven at night and he met me at the door. He asked me how I'd been, and I told him what a pleasure it was to see him. I'd brought my cosmetics over and everything.
He sat down to talk in his giant front parlor and I said, "Mr. Dylan, do you know you have invented something in poetry that is so different and unique? You are today, to today's youth, what Rudy Vallee was in the 20's."
He asked about Mr. Vallee so I got out my ukulele and played him some of his greatest hits: My Time Is Your Time, Vagabond Lover, and some others, all in Mr. Vallee's voice. Then I asked him what he thought Mr. Vallee would sound like if he were singing Mr. Dylan's music today. So I sang, Like A Rolling Stone, which was very popular at the time, in Rudy Vallee's voice.
Then he asked me if I wanted a banana and I said, "No thanks I brought my own fruit." So we said good night and went to bed.
GM: Lenny Bruce?
TT: I had a following in the underground at that time before I cut my first record in '68. He told me he thought I was far out and I told him I thought he was far out. We both met when I used to play at a small club called The Page Three back in '64. He would sometimes record my thoughts on tape for him, especially stuff about girls I was in love with at the time. Well, we were such good friends that he put me on a bill with him at a club called the Fillmore East. He took out these giant full page ads in all the local papers, they read in big letters, "Lenny Bruce talks for money," and down below in smaller letters, "Tiny Tim sings for Love." On one night of that engagement, it was precisely on November 25, 1964, I hurried out of a Maple Leafs game (I chose them as my favorite Hockey Team because I love their name) to be sure I got to the Fillmore on time. When I arrived the police had busted the place and arrested Mr. Bruce.
Mr. Bruce was always interested in what I had to say and I liked him a lot. He loved the old singers like Irving Kaufman and Billy Murray. Sometimes he'd make me sing Kaufman's Will The Sun Shine For Me four times a day. We were both very romantic and liked to talk about girls a lot.
GM: Wavy Gravy?
TT: His real name was Hugh Romney. When I met him in '62 he was the son of an architect, straight as an arrow, and he wore a suit and tie. He was married to a seventeen year old French girl named Miss Lilly. Then in '63 I did a show with him called the Phantom Cabaret in New York. He had other acts on the bill like Moondog who was a Viking character with a long Viking stick and beard, he was blind. That theater was closed because the owner got in trouble with the law and that caused Romney to move to California.
He paid for my first air fare in '66 to Hollywood. By that time he had split with Miss Lily and he was going out with a twenty two year old girl named Bonnie Peecher who left a soap opera career to live with him; she was the girl Bob Dylan had on the cover of his Girl Of The North Country LP. He was continuing the Phantom Cabaret and living in a big bungalow. He gave me a private room with a shower and paid me ten dollars a night. Ken Kesey was in the show too.
When I first met Mr. Romney at the airport he was now Wavy Gravy, he was beating a piece of meat with a stick and was totally different. I'm not sure what brought on the change but it may have been acid. In his bungalow there was a strange group visiting him called the acid-test people. I thought they were a rock n' roll band, and that may have been part of the reason he changed. Also, when his wife left him something called out within his soul to change. Like many others he's fallen short of major fame. He's now on a Ben and Jerry's ice cream cap and he's written a book. There's nothing wrong with that but a lot of people want to avoid the fact they want to be famous. But he did do good.
GM: What was it like being politically conservative when you were surrounded by so many radical hippies?
TT: I don't like to be labeled conservative although I am sensible and moderate in my personal life. I don't care whether someone is liberal or conservative. I happened to be in a world but not part of a world. I admired the people's verve and conviction in their ideals, although I disagreed with a lot of what they said.
We are all sinners. I urged and desired to have some of the beautiful women who were around for a night or two. But He said it was wrong, and I prayed to watch myself and keep away from the bad, as well as stand up and pray for what they weren't doing right. But it wasn't for me to preach to them. I had to accept the fact that I was only in their world to observe. I had a wonderful gift and they didn't. I just had to be humble and pray for myself as well as them.
GM: Why do you think people had such extreme reactions of love and hate to you?
TT: It's the nature of life. When someone gets big you see it more but its a natural reaction for people to like and hate someone because of the evil nature of the person. I can't blame them. Where I was concerned I came on the scene looking weird with my long hair, white face makeup and high voice; of course it was a strange vision to what they call "normal" society. That created a feeling of misunderstanding, if I were to label myself I'd call myself a Master Of Confusion.
GM: How do you deal with temptation?
TT: I like as many women as President Kennedy liked. Of all the womanizers, believe me, the worst one is right here. No I don't have any S-E-X. I have had to pray to the lord to keep me away from women for just a sensual touch, not even intercourse. Frankly, I don't even care for intercourse, and this is selfish, but as long as I am touched, if it lasts for three seconds or five minutes, I love the thrill. But the Lord says no, fornicators and adulterers will not get into heaven. If I am weak I say it was wrong, I pray to the Lord, and I pick myself up to start again.
GM: But what about the relationship between you, women, and honey?
TT: The honey was wrong, I get carried away at times. When one hits fame and the big time - the pleasures and delusions of freedom, of living with success and having the best health, the best food, the best applause; then the best women come along. When that happened I had fantasies of trying to please the women in the most sensual way I could. So they would say he's strange but he's good and there's something nice about him.
So the honey came right on the spot, I didn't think of it ahead of time. I just wanted to please her and delight in the creature the lord had made. I wanted to taste her in the purest, I would have the greatest joy if she were in ecstasy all night, and that's what I wanted to do. The Bible said, "Eat honey and live." I saw honey as a symbol of purity, I wanted to taste the women who I gave ultimate pleasure with the honey. If I hadn't repented I would have become a mastermind in how to thrill women. I would have collected them and had them back again and again, the younger the better, because youth magnifies energy and vibrancy.
GM: Do you think you should have changed your image? It seemed to get in the way of people realizing you had genuine talent.
TT: Never, originality is the key to success. I kept with my style when I was hot for a year or two. When it ended I was not going to change it because things were now in a slump. You got to stay with the ball through thick and thin, and not drop it, no matter what the turmoil is if you know you're right. In your heart, if you know what you're doing is right and you have a good concept you should not change your idea for the public.
I was walking around New York with my white makeup and long hair in the age of Eisenhower before any of the 60's happened. It wasn't just for show. I had to feel I was original. I will go down with my last breath saying, "I still will make it." Like your paper is your original thing, Mr. Joost, and you have something going for you. You can listen to what people say and then do what you know is right.
GM: Thank you. Could you tell me why you're so obsessed with cleanliness?
TT: There is some obsessiveness, yes. We've been given not only hands, and feet and legs, but we are living in the greatest century in the world. When you go into the supermarket with those wide aisles and thousands of products, underarm deodorants, liquid soaps, mouth wash, body lotion, etc.; to keep the body clean when we have such beautiful showers and accessories is so important. I hardly change my clothes. I'm a lazy dresser, but my body is clean and white. I haven't missed a shower since December 20, 1989. I take a shower for about twenty minutes, I shampoo and condition my hair every day, and I cream my body from head to toe after I come out of the shower. Because I'm not offending people with underarm odor, bad breath, food between the teeth, etc. It is to be favorable in society and know I am not offending anyone. The soul is more important than the body, but to keep them both pure is divinity.
GM: Do you still think there are men living in the moon?
TT: Not men, I like to phrase it 'some sort of life.' I'm no prophet but common sense tells me I do not see miles and miles of nothing. Steven Spielberg with his movies and Jules Verne with the Submarine in the 19th century; these were subconscious revelations of what were to come. It was like the Good Lord gave them an image of the future and the facial characteristics that the aliens will have. Like computers used to be science fiction in comic books and are now a part of everyday life.
In the future people will ask, instead of 'how could you marry that Black man or White man,' it will be 'how can you marry that creature from Mars?' If my wife passed away and a beautiful alien woman came from space then I would definitely marry her. The only question is if the embarrassment of the Garden Of Eden applies to the universe.
GM: What have you been doing since 1970?
TT: I've been trying to make it again. I just want to be big one more time. If I do, great. If I don't, great. Thank the lord I had one hit record. But that second hit is avoiding me.
GM: Any final words?
TT: As Dr. Schuller said on his show Hour of Power, "Believe in your dreams and not in your fears." If I have a second saying, also from Schuller, "Never a tassle without a hassle." As Fred Fischer wrote in a song in 1917 (best known for writing the song Chicago) "If you do what is right, your heart will be light. And you will have all the blessings on earth."
Tiny Tim Website