April 12, 1932 – November 30, 1996
“Santa Claus has got the AIDS this year.”
This story comes from many helpers. My pal Rebecca Mennel who is always willing to lend me a hand, Naomi in Minneapolis, for her photographs, and above all, Miss Sue, Tiny Tim’s widow. Thank you, one and all. I kiss you.
This I can say with absolute certainty, Tiny was a professional. He always gave his all. He was an unusual character, and he made it work for him, and for this, we should all be grateful. He made people smile.
Miss Sue – Tiny’s widow – Helps with clarifications in red
Tiny was born Herbert B. Khaury, in New York City. He became famous by appearances on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In. Tiny met his first wife, Miss Vicky of Haddonfield, NJ, at Wanamaker’s Department store while she was getting an autograph of Tiny’s book Beautiful Thoughts. They were married on Wednesday, December 17th, 1969 on The Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson.
Ten thousand tulips were imported from Holland to decorate the set. The audience of 268 was made up of family and friends. Twenty million watched the wedding. It was the second highest rated TV show of the 1960’s, second to the moon landing. I don’t know where it rates in the history of TV. After the wedding, the couple vowed to abstain from sex for 3 days in honor of an Old Testament prophet, Tobias. They had one daughter named Tulip. They divorced.
Tiny Tim remarried in 1984 to Miss Jan. They very nearly divorced that first year, and they never lived together, but Tiny and Miss Jan were legally married for ten years, though they were estranged for much of that time. Tiny divorced Miss Jan in the Spring of 1995. He married Sue Gardner on August 18th, 1995, at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
Tiny and Miss Sue lived in this nice house, on a quiet, tree-lined street in Minneapolis.
Miss Sue says of their marriage, “We had a very traditional marriage. He was the head of the household, and made the decisions. I looked up to him, as an older person, as a man. I pledged to love, honor and obey. It was OK, because I know the Bible says its supposed to be that way, and he was so wise, and so kind. Not a bully. I knew he would never oppress me, and he didn’t.”
Tiny traveled and performed for 300 days out of the 14 months they were together, and flat on his back in bed, for most of the remaining time. Miss Sue told me that, “We did not know that time was so short.” Tiny had developed congestive heart failure in the fall of 1995. It was only a few months after Tiny and Miss Sue were married. When he was working at the Flamingo Hotel in Laughlin, NV, some friends of the couple had called Miss Sue and told her Tiny was in bad shape and that she should fly out immediately. He had not slept in 3 or 4 days and could not lie down flat without the feeling he was suffocating. His friends had taken Tiny to the emergency room but they refused to treat him as an outpatient, saying it would be malpractice. Tiny refused to be admitted, because he didn’t want to miss any shows. When Sue got to Laughlin, she got on the phone and found a doctor willing to treat Tiny as an outpatient. They put him on a treatment and he improved rapidly. Sue stayed with him for the next few weeks. When they got home to Minneapolis, the local cardiologist informed them that Tiny had 3-5 years to live.
In September 1996, Tiny went to perform at the Ukulele Hall of Fame. He collapsed before he could sing the first note. He fell forward off the stage and down another two feet to a concrete floor, hitting his head. Friends rushed to his side until the ambulance arrived. Tiny regained consciousness as he was carried out and waved to his fans. After a week in the hospital, the couple flew home and the same doctors who told them Tiny had 1-3 years left, said that he could die at any moment. They told him that he wasn’t to work until after the next year. Tiny convalesced at home for two months and did his usual radio interviews, often more than 1 per day and at all hours of the day and night. He also had a lot of dizziness from the head injury. He cancelled a local appearance at the Lincoln Del Restaurant.
But on the night he was to be at the restaurant, they called and asked if he would like a complimentary dinner. They just wanted him there even if he didn’t perform. Of course, Tiny grabbed the ukulele on his way out the door, to the Lincoln Del.
When we got to the Lincoln Del, Tiny ate part of a sandwich, but he was more interested in singing than eating. Within 20 minutes he was up on stage, and did a whole set with no problems. Miss Sue had been arguing with him about whether he should do the up-coming gigs for the Catholic League of Women and the Women’s Club of Minneapolis, but he did so well at the Lincoln Del that it lulled her into thinking it might be OK.
However, the gig at the League of Catholic Women was harrowing. Tiny performed a whole set, with the expert and supportive back-up of Jerry Mayeron’s band, but Tiny was obviously shaky and exhausted. After that, Miss Sue was even more worried about the scheduled appearance at the Women’s Club of Minneapolis, but she felt it was not her position to tell her husband what to do.
He had been hired for this performance because Miss Sue’s stepmother was a prominent member. The day of the gig, Tiny was not feeling well, and did not want to go, but he also could not disappoint his fans. He fell trying to get into the limo, because he was very dizzy.
Tim almost fell coming up the marble staircase and Miss Sue tried to support him. Miss Sue asked him how he was feeling and Tiny told her he wasn’t taking his medicine (he had a habit of this). There was a lovely dinner, but Tiny didn’t eat much. After the meal, Tiny was introduced to the bandleader, and was given a very cold reception. The bandleader didn’t know Tim was to perform that night. He refused to have his band back Tiny on stage saying the band didn’t know the songs. Tiny asked, “You don’t know I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover?” Tim was told he would have to play without accompaniment. Tim would be called to perform at 9:00 PM. 9:00 arrived, then 9:30 and 10:00 went by and he still hadn’t been called to perform. Sue wanted to get her stepmother and tell her that Tiny was going home, because he was exhausted and didn’t feel well. Sue’s stepmother went to find the lady in charge. The bandleader called a break without introducing Tiny. It was a terrible insult to him. A guest vocalist should always be introduced at the end of a set, when the crowd is warmed up. The crowd had filtered out of the room leaving only a few people. This was a deliberate insult by the bandleader. The lady who ran the affair went up to the microphone and introduced Tiny to an empty room. Tiny got up and stood at the microphone. The cords were tangled around his feet and his ukulele was out of tune.
Tim was sick but didn’t want to disappoint the guests. People were applauding him. Sue went to take his arm because of the uneven footing and because she could see him shaking. He waved and blew kisses to the audience, something Tim always did at the end of every show. Sue took Tim’s arm and asked if he was all right. He just stood there and said, “No, I’m not.” Those were the last words he ever spoke. Tim collapsed on the stage. A doctor started CPR. The ambulance was there in a matter of minutes. They worked on him for half an hour, there on the floor. The EMTs told Miss Sue that Tim would probably not make it, but Sue already knew that. They worked on Tim for another hour and fifteen minutes at the Hennepin County Medical Center before they gave up.
Miss Sue was with him when he died. He was 64 years old.
Many celebrities attended the funeral. According to Miss Sue, Elton John was there, but made himself scarce. She thinks that Howard Stern was there, in drag, and of course E! was there, to cover the event. About 400 family, friends and fans attended. It was held at St. Mary’s Basilica in Minneapolis.
It was nearly full, and open to the public. Miss Sue sat in a receiving line for two hours before the funeral, and the people just kept coming.
Tiny was laid to rest with tulips. In his casket, he had his ukulele on his chest and a single mauve tulip beside him. Here is a picture of Tiny in his casket. I asked Miss Sue what she thought of it. Her response was, “Tiny would have loved it. I can just hear him laughing about it!”
Miss Sue adds: Strangely enough, Tiny had said a few weeks before his death, that he wanted to send out Christmas cards that year with a picture of himself on the front lying in a coffin. Inside was to be another picture of him, sitting up, smiling and waving, with the caption, “Not dead yet!” Miss Sue vetoed this idea. Weeks later, Tiny’s friend Johnny Pineapple called Miss Sue and told her something very strange. Johnny had a job that year working at a photo shop that made custom Christmas cards with photos on the cover. He was shocked to see that someone had apparently gone to the funeral and had a picture of himself taken next to Tiny’s open coffin, and had ordered a set of Christmas cards with this picture on the front
Tiny was buried at Lakewood Cemetery Mausoleum, Minneapolis Minnesota.
Miss Sue selected the section where Tiny is interred, because the stained glass window in that section is about the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Part of the lyrics say, “The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him, his rage we can endure, for lo his doom is sure, one little word shall fell him.” Because of this, the stained glass window has a little devil running away in the upper corner. Miss Sue knew that Tiny loved this hymn, and would have laughed to see that devil running away. He also would have appreciated the pure white marble in this section , not only because white was his favorite color, but because this is the only non-imported marble in the building. Tiny was a patriot!
I asked Miss Sue about Miss Vicky and their daughter Tulip. Miss Sue responds, “Tulip is a Jehovah’s Witness and they are not allowed to set foot in a church of another denomination, so she could not come to the funeral itself. However, she and her husband, her kids and her mother-in-law did come to Minneapolis at that time, and attended the dinner we gave after the funeral.”
“Many people were there who had been important in Tiny’s life. One of his boyhood friends was there, his second wife came, many dedicated fans, his cousin, Hal, and his wife. We set up a mike and let people come up and just talk about Tiny, and I think almost every one of them cried. They talked about what a good man he was and how much he had meant to them.
I think this was an eye opener for Tulip, who had not known her father at all well.
When I asked after Miss Vicky, Miss Sue replied, “She prefers to be called Victoria. It amazes me that she is the only person I have ever spoken to who knew Tiny well, and did not like him. However, Victoria may have had to take the brunt of it, I’m afraid. I might not have done any better than she did if I had tried to get along with him when I was 17 years old. She had to try to take care of a baby alone, with no money, staying in hotel rooms and a half furnished apartment, and he had an awful manager at the time that heckled her. She has bad memories.”
Trivia: Tiny used Eterna 27, Jergen’s body shampoo, Vaseline Intensive Care (yellow bottle) for upper torso, Vaseline Intensive Care (green bottle) for the lower half. He applied Oil of Olay eight times a day. He never ate meat or cheese, and drank salsa from the bottle.
More: Tiny’s album for children, For All My Little Friends, sold over 20,000 copies the first week. Tiny’s signature song, Tiptoe Through the Tulips, made him a major star in 1968 when it made the top 40.
Tiny Tim often said he wanted to die on stage. Stop it.
When I asked Miss Sue about Tiny’s opinion of homosexuality, she responded, “Tiny never judged people. He thought that homosexuality was wrong, but he was not repulsed or outraged by it. He knew that “there but for the grace of God go I.” He was always around all kinds of people, and accepted everyone.”
Okay, fame hag time. I did meet Tiny Tim once. He did a concert in Chicago, and I attended. I stood in line afterwards to meet him,
and he signed a promotional card for me.
A very nice man. Very odd, but nice. Here is a concert picture.
On a final note, Miss Sue adds, “If I were a wilting lily, I could never have stood up to being married to Tiny. As I said to my father once, “I think there are smoother rides than this at the rodeo.” Being married to a celebrity, especially a controversial one, means lots of surprises. You roll with it.”
Trivia from Findadeath.com friend Heather Southam: Scott – I read with interest your story on Tiny Tim – here is something that might be interesting to you about Tiny – I once attended a concert he did in Antler, ND, (population under 100) this was around ’81 or ’82. Tiny was there to do a charity concert – they were trying to raise funds to keep the school open and the town alive – I heard that Tiny came to Antler for the concert and only asked that he be paid for his expenses – seems like he was that kind of guy – unfortunately the expenses were more than were raised by the concert – anyway I digress – It was a great concert – he was quite the showman and I was very impressed by his vocal range – I have to admit I went to the concert expecting a few laughs – and actually had a pretty nice time – my mom and I even got our picture taken with him! Well, I have probably told you way more than you want to know – but I thought this might be some good trivia for your story – how many other celebrities would have done this?
Great story Heather. Thanks for submitting it.
OCTOBER 1, 2000: Thanks to Findadeath.com friend Mark L. Childrey, “He did a radio interview with a radio station in Greensboro North Carolina a few years ago.
Seems like in some of his quirks (like the lotion stuff) that he had a preference for Viva paper towels, not to soak up spills, but I think he used them for for personal hygiene, like toilet paper because they were super absorbent. And if I am not mistaken, I think he also wore Depends adult diapers, because he didn’t like to use bathrooms like other people.
I swear I’m not making this stuff up, it’s what I heard them saying on the radio after the interview. I think dear old Tiny suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder.” Wow. Thanks Mark.
Miss Sue: Tiny used Viva paper towels to dry off after showers in hotels. He did not trust the cleanliness of the hotel towels.
February 20, 2001: From Findadeath.com friend Ted, in Ohio: “I’m writing with some more (if it really matters) Tiny Tim trivia. I was listening to a “Best of Howard Stern” broadcast this morning, and actually didn’t change the station because they rebroadcast the last interview Stern did with Tiny before his death. Some interesting factoids:
Sometime in ’95 or ’96, Tiny was involved in an accident at Philadelphia’s airport involving one of
those little white carts. Apparently he was in the passenger seat, waiting for the baggage handler to get in and drive him to another gate. Somehow, however, he managed to hit the accelerator pedal on the thing, and it took off, knocking several people down before finally striking a wall. Tiny said he grabbed the wheel and INTENTIONALLY steered for the wall so the damn cart would stop hitting people! No one was seriously hurt, but you could tell he felt very badly about it. Police questioned him for quite some time, mainly because Tiny was very up-front about the fact that he’d had two beers before his flight to Philly, and then two more upon arrival. (Tiny looooved his beer. Not an alcoholic–just fanatical about a good beer.) But he was never charged. They found out later that the cart had no brakes. I found it fascinating that he remembered the name of the baggage handler, the victims, and the police officers involved in the incident. Odd, but kind of sweet in a way.
Miss Sue responds: The driver left the cart, but did not turn it off. Instead, he left the key in the cart, in the on position, which meant that the cart was held back only by the emergency brake. He then left the area, leaving the cart totally unattended. This was against the airport policy. When Tiny got in the cart, his weight jostled the vehicle, and the brake let loose. This caused the cart to begin to roll forward slowly. Tiny tried to hit the brake, but he hit the accelerator by accident. The cart started to move faster, and it hit several people. It ran over one woman, breaking her hip. Tiny was horrified, so he grabbed the wheel and steered the cart into a wall. Tiny was sued posthumously, and Miss Sue could not defend him because her witness was only hearsay. Her homeowners’ insurance paid the settlement. The airport and the driver accepted no responsibility for the accident, and Tiny suffered some adverse press.
Now for some short tidbits:
Perhaps Tiny could have controlled the runaway cart better, but he never learned how to drive! He told Howard he’d never been behind the wheel of a car in his life.
Tiny never had a case or even a nice leather bag to carry his ukelele and music around in–he always
carried them around in a shopping bag.
Lastly, Tiny used several different stage names before the one that made him famous. An example he gave was “Larry Love,” a name he used while opening for a flea circus on 42nd Street in 1957!”
Thanks Ted. Interesting stuff.
A couple of my magician friends saw Tiny Tim at Hubert’s Museum.
One worked there for a time. Apparently, Tiny Tim performed under the
name of not just Larry Love, but Larry (The Singing Canary) Love.
Visit Miss Sue’s website for Tiny here www.tinytim.org
This just in, January 2004, from Findadeath friend Mike C:
Here is the gist of it, but I will include references with the file itself to Miss Vicki direct from Court TV in regard to New Jersey vs. Rabbi Fred Neulander. Miss Vicki was the Rabbi’s latest girlfriend at the time of the trail for the murder of his wife Carol Neulander. The Rabbi had given Miss Vicki his directory wife’s green Toyota, and I believe that she had possession of it for a year at the time of the trial. This bit of information really startled the jury.
The Rabbi hired a member of his synagogue (Len Jenoff) who he was counseling for alcoholism to murder his wife. Jenoff informed the Rabbi that he was a private investigator, and had worked for the FBI and was involved in covert operations during the Reagan administration. Mr. Jenoff also hired Paul Daniels to assist in the murder. Jenoff posed as a delivery man and entered the home. As Carol Neulander’s back was turned, he bludgeoned her with a metal pipe. Paul Daniels then entered the home and finished the murder.
This just in, December 2004, from Findadeath friend (Help, help, me) Rhonda:
I am a lover of your site. You got balls man, big ones! But on the Tiny Tim thing. You said his daughter Tulip didn’t attend because she was a Jehovah’s Witness, and they couldn’t enter any other church. That is not true. The choice is left up to them, it’s not an automatic no no. She CHOSE not to attend. Some people!