December 27, 2023 | Brendan Da Costa

Sensitive Facts About Tiny Tim, History’s Most Eccentric Singer

Tiny Tim was the high-pitched singer of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”. However, his quirky 15 minutes of fame wilted like a rose in winter. 

1. He Tip-Toed His Way Through Life

In the late 1960s, Tiny Tim fascinated audiences with his weird outfits, ukulele, and falsetto so high that it could shatter glass—or wilt flowers. As a sensitive and tender-hearted musician, he just wanted to bring joy to people’s lives. In the end, however, he would have to tip-toe his way off stage and out of trouble with his ex-wives.

tiny tim split image

2. He Was Born Into A House Of Horrors

Tiny Tim, born Herbert Khaury in April 1932, only really ever wanted to bring people joy. But he had it rough from the very beginning. His mother was well into her 40s when she gave birth to him. It was such a difficult birth that doctors had to perform a C-section to deliver him safely. Safely into a house of horrors, that is.

Tiny Tim's patentsCBS, The Ed Sullivan Show (1948–1971)

3. His Parents Were Polar Opposites

Tiny Tim’s mother came from an Orthodox Jewish background. His father, on the other hand, came from a Maronite Christian background from the hinterlands of Lebanon. His mixed heritage contributed to his unique look, but his life wasn’t always so cohesive. His parents fought constantly and Tiny Tim had to work hard to introduce harmony into their household.

American singer and musician Tiny Tim. in a publicity photograph taken in 1969Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

4. He Was Always Musical

In between his parents’ constant bickering, Tiny Tim managed to hear the music. In fact, his musical talents were apparent from the very beginning. His first memory was listening to Henry Burr’s "Beautiful Ohio" when he was just three years old. His mother even recalled that he used to sing with her at the tender age of two.

He hadn’t yet discovered his ear-splitting falsetto.

Tiny Tim performing for media interviews during Country Music Fan Fair at the Tennessee State Fair GroundsChristina Lynn Johnson, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

5. He Nearly Caught Fire

Long before he became famous, Tiny Tim was on fire—almost literally. On Independence Day in 1935, a stray firecracker found his window and he nearly went up in flames. The firecracker set some clothes on fire and the inferno quickly spread. Thankfully, Tiny Tim’s dad came to the rescue and put out the blaze with his bare hands.

But this wasn't the only trouble that shook up the household.

Tiny Tim on tour 1968 in Germany, American pop musicianullstein bild, Getty Images

6. He Saved His Parents’ Marriage

Tiny Tim was always a peacemaker. He even managed to save his parents’ marriage. After years of bitter bickering and financial hardship, Tiny Tim’s father had finally had enough. He packed up his things and threatened to walk out. Tiny Tim—then actually quite literally tiny—stepped in front of his father and begged him not to go.

Seeing his son in such distress, he decided to stay.

Tiny Tim playing instrument and singingMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

7. He Just Wanted To Find His Princess

At the height of his fame, Tiny Tim had one of the most watched weddings in television history. But he had actually found his true love years earlier. At just four years of age, he recalled waving to a beautiful Spanish lady with long, dark hair from his bedroom window. “It seems I’ve always looked for that Fairy Princess,” Tiny Tim said.

It would take him decades to find her.

Tiny Tim sitting at a desk giving an interviewMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

8. He Played Music, Not Sports

Tiny Tim escaped his parents’ heated arguments by disappearing into his room and a world of music. By the age of five, he had taught himself how to play the guitar—because he couldn’t play much else. According to Tiny Tim himself, as much as he loved baseball, he couldn’t swing a bat to save his life and the other boys never wanted to play with him.

He would, however, eventually get to join a pro sports team.

Gettyimages-84881921 Photo of TINY TIM playing instruments and singingDavid Redfern, Getty Images

9. He Wanted To Be A Hero

Tiny Tim was, by all accounts, a good kid. Except for his sticky fingers, that is. Growing up, his father didn’t much care for comic books but Tiny Tim was obsessed with Captain America. He envisioned a more just world, filled with superheroes. To escape his troubled home life, he just had to have those comic books. Even if he couldn’t afford them..

Tiny Tim singingMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

10. He Had Sticky Fingers

As a one-hit wonder, Tiny Tim would eventually have enough money to buy whatever comic books he wanted. But, growing up, he didn’t have two pennies—or tulips petals—to rub together. Years later, at the height of his fame, he admitted that, in his younger days, he had stolen “one or two” comic books. He ended up paying for them with his pride.

Tiny Tim giving an interview Momento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

11. His Father Was Ashamed Of Him

When Tiny Tim’s father found out that his son’s finger plucked more than just guitar strings, he lost his temper. He was so ashamed of Tiny Tim that he hit him right there in public. Clearly, the lesson worked. Tiny Tim never took anything without paying ever again. In fact, he became almost too generous for his own good.

Tiny Tim playing  ukuleleMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

12. He Fell In Love With His Nurse

In 1942, Tiny Tim had another close encounter with the Grim Reaper when his appendix burst. In the isolation of his hospital room, he listened to music and fell as madly in love as any 10 year old boy could. He developed a crush on his nurse, Miss Diana, but his real affections were for a certain classmate of his, Audrey Dash.

He had to show her how much he loved her.

Tiny Tim sittingMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

13. He Gave His Crush His Most Valued Possession

Tiny Tim gave Audrey Dash his mint condition copy of Captain America No 8. To his dismay, however, she returned the comic with tattered edges. When he asked her what happened to it, she replied that her father had used it to punish her. The incident tainted comic books for Tiny Tim and he gave away all of his collection—even the stolen ones.

Tiny Tim singingMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

14. He Was A Coward

Tiny Tim always thought of himself as a coward. When a neighbor accused him of stealing, he remembered the beating his father had given him and panicked. Instead of denying the accusation, he blamed it on another kid in his building and hung his head in shame. “The Lord punished me with this trauma,” he explained ruefully.

Tiny Tim singing outsideMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

15. He Discovered His Talent By Accident

Tiny Tim was something of a musical prodigy. He learned to play the violin, mandolin and his eventual favorite instrument, the ukulele. But, even today, audiences remember him most for his unusually high-pitched falsetto singing voice. The discovery of his unique, glass-shattering instrument was, however, a total accident.

Tiny Tim playing ukulele Momento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

16. He Had A Revelation

In a 1968 interview, Tiny Tim recounted how he first learned that he could sing in his upper register. “I was listening to the radio and singing along,” he recalled. Then he made a life-changing discovery. He said that he “had something of a revelation” when he learned that he “had another top register”. The experience wasn’t just life-changing.

Tiny Tim giving an interviewMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

17. His Voice Was A “Religious Experience”

Throughout his life, despite his mother’s Orthodox Jewish influence, Tiny Tim was a devout Christian. As he explained it himself, he viewed Jesus Christ as a real-life superhero, much like Captain America. When he discovered his ability to sing in an upper register, he described it as a “religious experience”. Even the angels could hear his falsetto.

And by angels, we mean people living in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, CaliforniaCarol M. Highsmith, Wikimedia Commons

18. He Just Wanted A Little Fame

Given his humble beginnings and sensitive disposition, Tiny Tim didn’t think he’d ever be famous, even if he tried. Nevertheless, he moved to Los Angeles and took up a job as a messenger for MGM, just to be close to the entertainment industry. By night, however, he pursued his passion for music, playing at amateur clubs throughout the city.

His falsetto attracted the right ears.

Tiny Tim, Press Photograph Of 1969Herman Laesker, Wikimedia Commons

19. He Had To Stand Out

Apparently, his high-pitched squawk wasn’t enough to set him apart. To stand out from the other would-be talents at the amateur clubs, Tiny Tim had to try everything. In an effort to set himself apart, he started to wear the wild clothing that would go on to become part of his appeal. He wasn’t as authentic as people believed, however.

Tiny Tim singingMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

20. He Wanted To Be Like Valentino

Tiny Tim really just wanted people to like him and feel joy listening to his music. But he knew he wasn’t too easy on the eyes. As such, he tried to model himself after one of the biggest Hollywood heartthrobs of all time, Rudolph Valentino. After seeing a poster of Valentino with long hair, he decided to grow out his own luscious locks.

He should have bought some glasses instead.

Grayscale photo Of the A ctorRudolph Valentino with a Cocker Spaniel dog wearing a gray suitUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

21. He Needed To Check His Eyesight

As it turns out, Valentino never actually had long hair. Tiny Tim had mistakenly grown out his luscious locks because of a mistake. The poster that Tiny Tim thought captured Valentino with long hair had actually been a promotional poster for 1921’s The Sheik. Valentino had simply been wearing a tassel. Tiny Tim kept his curls anyway.

Nils Asther FactsLibrary of Congress, Picryl

22. His Mother Wanted To Commit Him

Tiny Tim’s new look and quirky stage performances thrilled audiences from Los Angeles to New York and he quickly developed something of a cult following. But the radical change was cause for concern for his mother. She insisted on checking him into Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatry evaluation. Fortunately, his father intervened.

Tiny Tim singingMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

23. He Developed His Act

Thanks to his father, Tiny Tim managed to avoid the loony bin. Over the next few years, he developed his act and became a regular performer in Greenwich Village. His local celebrity status attracted attention from far and wide and he started performing his most famous song, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”. But he didn’t quite have his signature style just yet.

Greenwich VillageFelix Stahlberg, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

24. He Had A Lot Of Stage Names

Over the course of his career, Tiny Tim performed under several pseudonyms. Texarkana Tex, Judas K Foxglove, Vernon Castle, Emmett Swink, Dary Dover, and even Sir Timothy Timms—just to name a few. No one really knows how he came up with those absurd names. But the origin story behind his eventual moniker was comedic gold.

Tiny Tim singingMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

25. He Was Actually Very Tall, Not Tiny

Ironically, there was nothing tiny about Tiny Tim. Standing at 6’1, he was usually the tallest performer on any stage. However, on one occasion, when Tiny Tim followed a little person's act on stage, his manager had a stroke of genius. He introduced the lanky falsetto singer as “Tiny Tim” as a joke but the moniker stuck with him for life.

Tiny Tim and fansRon Galella, Getty Images

26. He Finally Got His 15 Minutes

Slowly but surely, Tiny Tim’s high-pitched vocals caught the ears of talent scouts. After some cameo appearances in films in 1963 and 1968, he finally got his big break. He was the featured guest talent on the premier episode of the popular comedy-variety show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. All he had to do was enjoy his 15 minutes of fame...

Tiny Tim in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-InNBC, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967–1973)

27. He Was Very Unassuming

Tiny Tim made an unassuming stage entrance. After the show’s co-host, Dan Rowan, introduced him, he sauntered on stage with a shopping bag, pulled out his ukulele and then stunned the audience. He broke out into a glass-shattering performance of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and “On the Good Ship Lollipop” as the world watched on in amazement.

Tiny Tim in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In NBC, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967–1973)

28. He Left Everyone’s Ears Ringing

Tiny Tim’s big breakout performance left everyone speechless—and with ringing ears. But, despite the hair-raising tone of his singing voice, audiences simply couldn’t get enough of him. He appeared on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In twice more that same year, performing his most famous song, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”. He had everyone fooled.

Tiny Tim in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-InNBC, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967–1973)

29. His Real Voice Was Deep

His unique dog whistle of a voice made him a sensation overnight. But, no one knew the real Tiny Tim. Even though his most impressive instrument was his falsetto, his real singing voice was considerably lower. In fact, Tiny Tim’s natural singing voice was a deep and sonorous baritone. He misled people in more ways than one.

Tiny Tim singing on a mic and playingMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

30. He Got To Live His Dreams

With his breakthrough performances on live television, Tiny Tim recorded chart-topping albums—even if they were mostly for children. As a bona fide star, he got to live out some of his dreams, including hitting the ice with his favorite sports team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. There was just one problem. He couldn’t skate to save his life.

The Maple Leafs score against DetroitConn Smythe Fonds, Wikimedia Commons

31. He Was Athletic Spiritually

Even though he loved sports ,Tiny Tim never had the potential to be a star athlete. In fact, he was so bad on the ice that members of the Toronto Maple Leafs had to help keep him upright. To his credit, however, he knew that his talents lay elsewhere. “I was always athletic spiritually,” he quipped after coming off the ice, “not physically".

Tiny Tim giving an interviewMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

32. His Fans Thought He Was British

Given his dapper outfits, unique affectation, and falsetto voice, most audiences didn’t believe Tiny Tim’s schtick. They thought that his whole persona was simply an act he had developed to get his moment in the spotlight. In fact, at first, his fans believed that he was actually British, not American. However, it became plainly obvious that he was 100% authentic.

Tiny Tim in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-InNBC, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967–1973)

33. His Falsetto Was False

Tiny Tim’s falsetto might have been false but his personality wasn’t. Even his harshest critics had to admit that Tiny Tim, as quirky as he was, was simply being himself. They just accepted that he was “a lonely outcast intoxicated by fame” and a hopeless, hapless “romantic”. Speaking of romance, he certainly wasn’t short on lovers.

Tiny Tim in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-InNBC, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967–1973)

34. He Put On Quite The Show

Tiny Tim’s most memorable television appearances had nothing to do with his musical talents. Nevertheless, he left audiences cringing. When he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on December 17, 1969, a massive audience tuned in to watch something they had never seen before. At least, not live and on television.

Tiny Tim on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson singingNBC, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992)

35. He Finally Found His Fairy Princess

At a book signing in a Philadelphia department store, Tiny Tim finally found his fairy princess. His future bride, a young and gushing “Miss Vicki," so enchanted Tiny Tim that he tracked her down after the event. Totally smitten with the young lady, he started up a long distance relationship with her. And it all happened in the public eye.

Tiny Tim on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson speakingNBC, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992)

36. He Had A Stage Wedding

When Tiny Tim appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson later that same year, he made a stunning announcement. After just a few short months of long distance dating, he had proposed to Miss Vicki. Johnny Carson was so excited at the news that he offered to host the couple’s wedding—live and on television for the world to see.

Tiny Tim on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson having a weddingNBC, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992)

37. His Wife Was Underage

Tiny Tim accepted Carson’s offer. A few months later, in front of a viewing audience of more than 40 million people, Tiny Tim gave a performance that no one would soon forget. He married this then-17-year-old girlfriend, Victoria Budinger (AKA “Miss Vicki”). Sadly, this strange marriage was destined to run into some stormy weather.

Tiny Tim on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson having a weddingNBC, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992)

38. He Had A Tulip Of His Own

Tiny Tim was always a little on-the-nose with his sense of humor. So, when his young wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in 1971, he knew exactly what name he had to give her. He named his only daughter Tulip, after his one hit single “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”. Ironically, Tiny Tim was never really fond of children.

Tiny Tim (with tulips) during Ron Galella, Ltd, Getty Images

39. His Ex-Wife Had A Wild Life

By 1977, the bloom had gone out of Tiny Tim’s and Miss Vicki’s marriage. Their love wilted like a tulip in the desert and they got divorced. In a stunning turn of events, Miss Vicki eventually went on to find herself dating the dangerous ex-Rabbi, Fred Neulander. A jury convicted him of offing his own wife. Not that Tiny Tim gave much more consideration to his own exes.

Tiny Tim performing on stageMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

40. He Found Love Again

Tiny Tim found love again at the Williams Club in New York in 1983. He was 52 years old at the time and well past his 15-minutes of fame. Nevertheless, he managed to impress the 23-year old would-be singer, Jan Alweiss (AKA Miss Jan). Their love blossomed faster than a rose garden on fertilizer. If that rose garden was full of weeds.

Tiny Tim and Jan AlweissRon Galella, Ltd., Getty Images

41. He Eloped In Vegas

Tiny Tim and Alweiss didn’t waste any time. After just one year of dating, they skipped town and had an impromptu ceremony in Las Vegas. But the shoddy wedding wasn’t enough to keep the in-laws happy. To please Alweiss’ parents, the couple held another ceremony at a synagogue a year later. That did not, however, make their marriage any more traditional.

Tiny Tim in amusement parkMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

42. He Never Lived With His Wife

According to Tiny Tim’s eventual third wife, Susan Marie Gardner (AKA Miss Sue), Tiny Tim’s second marriage was a sham. She revealed to the tabloids that Tiny Tim and Alweiss had never actually lived together in the 11 years they were married. If anyone would know the sordid details, it would certainly have been Miss Sue.

Susan Marie Gardner and Herter Butos Khaury, better known as Tiny Tim  weddingStar Tribune, Getty Images

43. He Preferred The Chase

According to those who knew him well, Tiny Tim preferred the “chase”. Once he actually managed to marry a woman, he would promptly lose interest. Instead of living with Alweiss, he simply bought her an adjoining house next door. When he wasn’t away on tour (which wasn’t very often) he would visit his mostly estranged wife.

However, it’s not like either of them were lonely.

Tiny Tim on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson speakingNBC, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992)

44. He Had An Open Marriage

According to Miss Sue, Tiny Tim and Miss Jan had a very unique marriage. Because of their strange living arrangement, Tiny Tim and Alweiss had something of an open marriage. Based on this information, there's a good chance that Tiny Tim had been “dating” Miss Sue while he was still technically married to Alweiss.

Tiny Tim on a boatMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

45. He Found One Last Love

It’s not clear what prompted Tiny Tim to finally call it quits with Alweiss. But, in 1995, he nipped their marriage in the bud. Without missing a beat, he married Miss Sue later that same year. She would be with Tiny Tim until he sang his last ear-popping song. Suffice to say, he gave new meaning to the term “swan song”.

Tiny Tim in whiteMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

46. He Still Had Some Fans

By late September 1996, Tiny Tim’s 15-minutes of fame had long since expired—and so had his sensitive heart. Nevertheless, he still had some devoted fans in Montague, Massachusetts. After giving a rousing interview, he attended the local ukulele festival. Clearly, however, he had over exerted himself. The bloom, as they say, was off his rose.

Town Hall, Montague MAJohn Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0 , Wikimedia Commons

47. His Heart Was Too Sensitive

Tiny Tim suffered a terrible heart attack at the ukulele festival in Montague. Just like when he was a child recovering from appendicitis, Tiny Tim found himself in the hospital for three weeks. The doctors warned him never to perform again, given his “weight, and dietary needs for his diabetic and heart conditions”. 

Tiny Tim performingMomento Film, Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020)

48. He Didn’t Want To Disappoint His Fans

Later that year, Tiny Tim gave his final performance. He was set to play at a gala benefit put on by the Women's Club of Minneapolis. Before going on stage, however, he knew that something wasn’t right. He told his wife, Miss Sue, that he wasn’t feeling 100%. Nevertheless, he didn’t want to let down his fans—what little of those he still had.

Miss Sue, of Eden Prairie,Star Tribune, Getty Images

49. He Tiptoed To The Grave

Despite not feeling his best, Tiny Tim insisted on going through with his performance. He managed to make it through his entire set—almost. While performing his very last song of the evening, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips," he experienced yet another severe heart attack. This time, he would have to tiptoe his way to the grave.

Tiny Tim  speakingJeff Goodman, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

50. He Was Pushing Up Daisies

Miss Sue quickly rushed to her husband’s side. She asked Tiny Tim if he was feeling alright and he could barely muster the strength to tell her that he wasn’t. As she tried to help him back to their table, Tiny Tim collapsed. Despite the best efforts of EMTs and paramedics, Tiny Tim never regained consciousness. He would be pushing up daisies, not tulips.

Tiny Tim's final resting placeBaseball Bugs, Wikimedia Commons

51. He Has An Insidious Legacy

Tiny Tim’s loved ones ensured that he received the only burial befitting a one-hit wonder like him. They had him interred in his crypt with nothing but his beloved ukulele and a single, perfectly preserved tulip. For someone who simply wanted 15 minutes of fame, however, his legacy lives on forever—even if only insidiously.

John Wayne Tiny Tim Laugh In 1971NBC , Wikimedia Commons

52. His 15 Minutes Aren’t Up Yet

The song that made Tiny Tim famous, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips," took on a life of its own long after he was pushing up daisies. The frightening falsetto became the haunting theme for 2010’s Insidious. As a horror film star and aficionado himself, however, Tiny Tim would have been proud that his favorite song still bloomed.

Tiny Tim on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson singingNBC, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992)


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