DEVOUT OR DERANGED?

EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT TINY TIM. DON'T ASK.

"After the voice came, I had to think of something else. I bought a book written by Rudolf Valentino that he wrote in 1922 called Daydreams. There was a picture of him turning to the right in profile, and his hair was parted over one of his eyes, a little over the brow, let's say. I took that style and mine grew. . . . By 1954, it was down to the ear, over the brow, where it had a very strange look.

"Now the makeup and the white powder also came between '52 and '54. The reason for that was I had always looked at beautiful women, and I'm not saying 18. I'm saying 14, 15, 16, 17; that's when a beautiful girl can be so innocent and wonderful in her youth. But I had pure thoughts, I wouldn't dare bring up fornicating, but I thought if I married one like that, they would be an eternal princess forever and I would get to heaven. I looked for these women, and I still do today.

"If I went out with a 14-year-old girl, I would definitely ask her parents' permission and bring her back the same way she left. I just want to take a look at that beauty, just like a vampire who wants to suck in the blood, but doesn't want to kill the victim."

But, even in Tilt-a-Whirl New York, Herbert's visage was somewhat startling.

"It took a lot of nerve to go out in public to begin with," Tim says with a sigh. "In 1954, I was thin, lanky, no fat under the chin, and I'd be on the subways with long hair and white pillow makeup, people moving away from me. Every day, from 8 in the morning when I went out to look for work to when I came back, that white makeup was on with the long hair, and there were torturous parts from these kids coming back from school. I went into Harlem a lot of times in these black neighborhoods, and the black kids would say, 'Hey, man! What's going on with that boy?'"

Bear in mind this was before hippies, beatniks and freaks, back when Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs and Cassady had yet to howl or go on the road. Meanwhile, Tim was walking the streets, riding the subways of New York, a living billboard of weirdness in his singular world of self-creation, an outcast army of one.

And this had nothing to do with being cool, nothing to do with raising his middle finger at normal society. An absolute definition of irony, Herbert Khaury just wanted to be liked. By girls. Young girls. By any means necessary.

"My gut feeling told me that white was the color to bring me into a paradise," he rasps. "White symbolizes pure. Angelic. A fantastic passion of purity. It symbolized the young girl with creamy skin and an angelic nature, cuddling with me in a paradise to a Rudy Vallee song. I repeat, it was not a show-business ploy alone. Where I was concerned, Jesus Christ came first, romance second and show business third."

But did it work?
"Sure it worked," he mocks. "In a negative way, in a very torturous way. Girls would now call me, 'Ugly! He's grotesque!' But at least they did pay attention, whereas before they did not. But there were the few who were nice; there were a few who had the looks and did start to pay attention to me. It was worth the few beautiful ones over the majority."

And so Herbert Khaury attempted to follow his idols--Vallee, Valentino and Crosby--into the world of setting female hearts aflutter, and ended up in the world of New York City amateur nights. And that's also where the name Herbert Khaury was finally put to bed. Varlee Roth, Alexander Hemingway, Emmitt Swink, Judas K. Foxglove, Larry Love, Darry Dover were all pseudonyms employed by this odd man from Brooklyn, until he met, well, let him tell it. "A man named George King, the man who coined Tiny Tim. He had a beret on, an FDR cigarette holder, a mustache like Errol Flynn and a bottle of Seagram's 7 with Tropicana orange juice in his back pocket," says Tiny, who apparently has a memory like a broken sieve. "He would sign talent, mostly girls, and bring them to clubs and producers. But he knew I had no money, and he had nerve galore, so he'd bring me to Greenwich Village clubs, sit down with anyone and say, 'Tiny, give these people a song.' That's how I got into the Village. Later, he changed his name to Fred Martin and became a gigolo for old women who had money."

After moving up to decent gigs at period Village mainstays like the Big Fat Black Pussycat and the Page Three, Tiny finally made it to the legendary Steve Paul's The Scene. The joint was maison secondaire to the Velvet Underground, Warhol, and whichever glittering hipsters of the day happened to be in town. And he will never forget his first show there. "I was so thrilled on that miracle night, December 5th, 1965, and when I came home at 2 in the morning, the building I lived in was on fire. Thank God it didn't get to my mother's room."

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