Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b Herbert Boutros Khaury, 12 April '25, NYC; d 29 Nov. '96, Minneapolis) Vocalist; an entertainer who never pretended to be anything else. Probably damaged at birth by oxygen starvation and a borderline case of cerebral palsy, he was ugly and ungainly; his mother's name for him was 'Dope'. He spent his childhood listening to old songs, began performing around NYC as a crooner but had a hopeless voice; he worked as Darry Dover, Larry Love etc and hit upon the idea of singing falsetto '53; by '64 he worked with Richie Havens and Bill Cosby, and was discovered in Greenwich Village by Reprise Record's Mo Ostin '67. Fame began with dotty versions of 'Be My Baby' and 'Sonny Boy' in film You Are What You Eat '68; further breakthrough on TV's Laugh In. Tall and toothy with dirty- looking long hair and loud clothes he was instantly funny at the height of hippiedom, but his innocence was real. A falsetto version of 'Tiptoe Through The Tulips' with his trademark ukulele went top 20 '68, but he knew songs going back to the first ever recorded, 'My Name Is Mr Phonograph'. Albums God Bless Tiny Tim, Second Album and For All My Friends were hits '68--9. He married his 'Miss Vicky' (Victoria May Budinger) on TV 17 Dec. '69; they had daughter Tulip, soon split up. His handlers sniggered all the way to the bank; hopeless with publicity and money, he declared at the height of anti-war protest that 'those Commies need to be taught a lesson' and lost half his fans; he told interviewers that he didn't like his latest album and WB dropped him. He appeared in a rare Australian documentary The Street Of Dreams about the closing of Luna Park, a pleasure beach where he once broke the world's nonstop playing and singing record; toured with a circus mid- '80s. His second marriage lasted a month '84; he married again Aug. '95 (Sue Gardner, a life-long fan) and things were looking up: radio's Howard Stern was a fan and gigs started coming in; he carried on despite suffering from congestive heart failure. Hundreds came to his funeral.