Everytime I would see Weird Al Yankovic, something would eerily remind me of Tiny Tim. You wondering who that is, right? A pop culture icon who permeated the 60’s and 70’s landscape who was viewed by many as an outcast. Born Herbert Khary, Tiny Tim’s rise as pop culture icon is literally the ultimate fairytale. His wedding to Miss Vicki (Victoria May Buttinger) on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show was viewed by over 45 million Americans (giving the show it highest ratings EVER) and his oddity of a personality has been celebrated by the likes of Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga. Like many novelty acts hoping to bask in lasting stardom, there were plans and hopes for the journey.
Narrated by Weird Al Yankovic and Directed by Johan von Sydow, we learn there is way more to Herbert Khary than a simple “Tiptoe Through The Tulips.” Like every artist everybody starts somewhere and Khary’s story is no different. Utilizing some transparently intense diaries, powerful mostly black and white angular animation and interviews with family and friends, one can’t help but become captivated by this portrait of one of a persona that paved the way for the David Bowie, Prince, Boy George and Lady Gaga’s of the world. His voice, was a colorful throwback to the old 30’s and 40’s recording artists played on the Victrola, yet your heart stings knowing how a life in the limelight comes with its own special psychological drama, bordering on the insane. Although I enjoyed the animation infusion to drive home the eccentricity associated with this artists, I found myself wanting to know more. After all, this is someone who broke Billboard’s Top Ten record charts. What was his secret to success?
Von Sydow accomlishes this task with a brief revisit through his childhood in the Big Apple before rapidly skipping over his early years gigging at circuses and shady burlesque venues prior to the discovery that changed everything. His popularity and fascination from the public peaked in late 1969, after his wedding to Miss Vicki with a consequent occasional pop up on the television circuit. Had he lived a decade longer, there’s no doubt that he would have been a pre-cursor for celebrity driven reality shows like “The Osbornes,” “Keeping up with the Kardashians” and even the Housewives franchises. He would have become groundbreaking discussing such subjects as psychiatric disorders, his deep admiration for Donald Trump, Jesus, aliens, old music and women. Not to mention being a complete sensation on any and all social media. Seriously, who knew he was such a highly sexually charged human being who was tortured between his fascination of men and women.
What happened to Miss Vicki? Well, they had a daughter Tulip Stewart (who he referred to as the ‘blessed event’ or ‘the baby’). Both admitted that outside of the limelight he was a litte out of sorts. His parents messed him up so much emotionally, that he was literally incapable of love. Switching managment put him on the radar of the FBI with allegations and suspicions of being ‘mobbed up.’ Fed up, Miss Vicki left the marriage even though he claimed to never divorce. He would go on to become entangled with a few more women (Miss Sue and Miss Jane) in the process of going from riches to rags returning back to live with his mother believing would one day glory days would return. A thought constantly squelched by the criticsm of his mother Tillie.
At the end of the day, there is something to be said for artists getting sucked up in the business of show losing sight that there has to be a balance of life and career to truly survive personally and professionally. All work and no play is never a good presciption for anyone ever.
Having said all of that, the pacing is a tad bit on the slow side for the first half, but does not distract from this fascinating trip of a human being with a unique creativity that was misunderstood and perhaps a bit ahead of its time. How sad and disappointing it must have been to attempt to claw your way back to former glory and never again reaching that penacle of success. It’s a cinematic therapy lesson sorely needed for anyone who has been on this journey not quite knowing which way to turn. Plagued with heart issues, he lost his battle in 1969 during a set singing his signature song one last time while falling into the arms of Miss Sue. Eccentricity, quirkiness made him one of the most original artists to grace the planet while keeping it 100% every step of the way. Not yet on the streaming circuit, this unusually crafted doc is produced by Juno Films and playing at theaters now.