DEVOUT OR DERANGED?

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

His extended engagement at The Scene led to a signing with Sinatra's Reprise label, TV spots (including playing a coffee-house singer on the first episode of Ironside), and, ultimately, his 15 minutes that have lasted 26 years, Tiny's December 1969 wedding to Miss Vicky on The Tonight Show. (She left him in '72.)

But even though this unlikely talent Made It--Tiny even joined the Beatles on their fan-club Christmas record in '68--his public image at the end of that strange, confused decade was one of, well, strangeness and confusion.

"Even before the record came out [his chart-humping God Bless Tiny Tim], when they saw me on Laugh-In, mail was coming in, and I knew I was hot. But the letters--`Who is he?' 'Disgrace to the nation'--and the articles; there were editorials saying, 'What's Happening to This Country?' 'Worse Than the Vietnam War.'

"But the biggest question was, 'Are you putting us on? Is this an act?'" His response is part Zen, part resigned subway outcast. "If I say I'm putting you on, they'd say, 'I told you so.' If I said I'm not, they'd still say the same thing. . . . The difference between me and Rudy Vallee, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley is with them, people said, 'Aaahh!' With me they said, 'Uugghh!' The emotion of negativity was so, so emotional that they had to be there. I was the one they loved to hate."

And, to hear him tell it, very little has changed.
He's been married again, to Miss Jan in 1984 (though still legally bound, she left him only months after the wedding), he's been performing at carnivals and nightclubs, more or less broke, living in trailers and hotels, but has never escaped the bizarre aftertaste made by his now-decades-old celebrity imprint.

"The Tiny Tim image is not one that people rejoice over," he says, measuring his words. "It is an image that still is as the Master of Confusion. What is he? What is he saying? Is he a geek? Is he a queer? They can't relate and they're ashamed to say they even remember me. They don't want to be connected to a mental disturbance. They are ashamed to be noted with this type of character."

Which brings us back to Spooky World.
This is 1994, and this jovial, 69-year-old man who still uses moisturizers and facial cleansers 12 times a day is more than happy to perform 14 shows a week at a Halloween amusement park, play at nightclubs for people who could be his grandchildren, and even look beyond his own death.

Though he's obviously an avowed Christian, Tiny Tim willingly tackles the question of reincarnation. "I would want to come back--but only with the spirit of Jesus Christ in my heart, only if I have that--I would like to be John Holmes. He had great equipment--may he rest in peace--and I would love to love one woman completely and be able to satisfy her for hours. Only if it was that way would I want to be John Holmes."

But he can't, of course, be John Holmes. He can only continue to be Tiny Tim, an exceedingly polite gentleman with long hair, a piercing falsetto, a ukulele and a crabgrass career that hasn't stopped growing--in one direction or another--since he took the stage at a Christmas party at 1540 Broadway, New York City, 1951.

"I just think my career is floating like the dollar," Tiny Tim says in his hoarse Brooklyn purr. "Up and down. I think it's like a steel rod in the water, and the water just passes it but always knows it's there. I hope that some way a record of mine will be played that may revive me to the top again."

But until then, he'll stick with "Tiptoe Through the Tulips." Tim chuckles. "I never let myself get tired of the hand that feeds me.

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