Originally printed on November 30, 1996 in the Family Announcements.
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Tiny Tim, who died on 30 November, 1996, was one of the most singular characters to ever grace the entertainment industry.There are few who would be able to match his falsetto singing voice, let alone recreate his eccentric personality and bizarre appearance. He was probably also the most famous ukuleleist in the latter half of the 20th century.His career began in the 1960s and he achieved fame as a novelty act. He made numerous appearances on television and even played in front of 600,000 people at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 to a standing ovation.Herbert Buckingham Khaury was born on 12 April, 1932, in New York to a mother and father who had immigrated from Poland and Lebanon respectively. He was a loner and dropped out of his Washington Heights high school at an early age.He was obsessed with pre-1930s American music and became determined to be a singer. To this end he learned guitar and ukulele. He began performing in the 1950s. His earliest recordings were made privately for the benefit of girls he liked – it’s unknown if the affection was ever returned as a result.He went under various guises, including Larry Love and Darry Dover, before eventually settling on Tiny Tim after the Dickens character. He generally wore black robes and white make-up (to hide his self-perceived ugliness) and had a big bush of curly hair, sometimes dyed red. His 6ft 1inch frame dwarfed his tiny ukulele, adding further to his comic appearance.He began to accrue a cult following around Greenwich Village with his odd-ball renditions of forgotten favourites. His break came in 1968 when he was featured in an independent film about the scene called You Are What You Eat.He made his TV debut on the variety show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In where he sang the song that would provide his first top 40 hit and become his signature tune, Tiptoe Through The Tulips.Numerous television appearances followed, including regular slots on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson – in 1969 he married 17-year-old future model Victoria ‘Miss Vicki’ Budinger live on the show in front of 40 million viewers, further enhancing his peculiar reputation.He recorded three albums in the late 1960s. His appeal lay largely with the older generation who respected his admiration for old-time tunes, but the assorted hippies at the Isle of Wight Festival gave him a rapturous reception, particular for an a capella version of There’ll Always Be An England sung through a megaphone.His novelty wore off somewhat in the ’70s and ’80s and his career began to dwindle, though he continued to record on a small scale and made a few lucrative appearances in Las Vegas.There was a minor revival of interest in Tiny Tim in the 1990s when he made a few cameo TV appearances. He recorded two more albums and collaborated with rock bands, including a punk version of Tiptoe Through The Tulips with the band Ism.Despite being diagnosed with a serious heart condition, he manically refused to stop performing. He suffered two heart attacks on stage, dying in hospital shortly after the second in 1996. Tiptoe Through The Tulips was the last song he ever performed.His unconventional appearance belied his staunch conservatism and Catholicism. He disproved of his first wife’s modelling career and he was also extremely mindful of good manners, addressing everyone he met as Mr, Mrs or Miss.He was married three times in total, divorcing Victoria in 1977. The couple had their only child, Tulip Victoria in 1971. His second marriage was in 1984 to ‘Miss’ Jan Alweiss and lasted until 1995, when he married ‘Miss’ Susan Marie Gardner who was present at his death.