Tiny Tim and Wife--
Has He Lost His Giggle?

by Lloyd Shearer


I recently spent a morning in the lobby of a Hollywood hotel with Tiny Tim and his 17-year-old bride, the former Vicki Budinger of Haddonfield, N.J.
    They were fresh from their exhausting two-week honeymoon in the Bahamas, but talcumed Tiny was beside himself with exasperation.
    "Dear Mr. Shearer!" he screeched, his voice stamping its foot loudly. "So much has happened since I last saw you. You won't believe it, but I've been taken. Oh! Yes! Mr. Shearer. I've been taken to the cleaners."
    Two years ago, after a life of mostly rejection and ridicule, Tiny Tim (real name-Herbert Khaury) struck it rich. From all sources-radio, recordings, television and personal appearances this freak singing attraction grossed $850,000 in ten months. He became a show business phenomenon.
    But this past December when Tiny married "Miss Vicki, my darling, fantastic angel," on the Johnny Carson television program, his net worth, according to Tiny's current manager Ron de Blasio,"was about three cents."
    When I asked Tiny, "Where have all the flowers gone?"-the tall, beak-nosed king of the put-on ran a nervous hand through his shoulder-length hair. "I just don't know, Mr. Shearer. I just don't know," he declared.
    I reminded him that the FBI had picked up his former manager, Joseph Kaufman, for trying to unload stolen securities on the London market.
    "Thank the dear Lord," Tiny exclaimed. "At least they paid my taxes." Then as an afterthought, "But that's life. You have to start in all over again. And this time, Mr. Shearer, I have Miss Vicki, that sweet, adorable, fantastic angel, beside me as my wife." Then reading from his pocket Bible, "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away."

Not bitter

    Tiny Tim is not bitter at the loss of his fortune or, if he is, he is actor enough to camouflage it. Bitterness and recrimination are not consonant with his image. Supposedly, Tiny is a queer but happy butterfly who threads his way among the tulips, strumming his ukulele and singing his tunes in a contralto tremolo which has been cared to the sound of an anemic fire alarm.
    Tiny has no time to investigate his former associates or to accuse anyone of financial skulduggery. In fact, it was his Lebanese-Catholic father, Butros Khaury, and his Polish-Jewish mother, Tillie, who last year first suspected that their "Herbie" was being bamboozled. His mother works as a dressmaker and his father is a retired knitter.
    It was they who encouraged him to return to his original manager, and it was de Blasio in turn who encouraged Tiny to get married.
'He needed a woman'

    Without disclosing his singer's true age, an estimated 36, de Blasio says, "Tiny had reached the age last year where he needed a woman, a steady woman. He's perfectly normal, you know! So I suggested marriage. Tiny said he would keep his eyes open for a likely candidate."
    She appeared more quickly than he had anticipated. It was last June, and Tiny was autographing copies of his book, Beautiful Thoughts, at Wanamaker's in Philadelphia. Vicki Budinger, a tall, thin, brown-eyed young woman of 17, asked for his autograph, then disappeared.
    Tiny, hamming it up for all it's worth, describes the day, June 3, as "heaven-ordained."
'Knew she was the one'

    "The moment I laid my eyes upon that fantastic angel, that dream of a beauty, that lovely, delightful young woman," he gushes, "I knew she was the one for me. I called for my manager. 'Ron,' I cried, 'I've just seen the most adorable angel, the only true and beautiful one, and she's disappeared. You must find that dear child. You must. She has become my life."
    De Blasio asked the Philadelphia press to help Tiny in his search. The press cooperated, and two days later Vicki Budinger, shy and somewhat bewildered, appeared at the King of Prussia shopping center where Tiny was holding forth in another autograph session. Tiny took over from there.
    Ten weeks later he proposed and was immediately accepted.
    Since his marriage, Tiny has been greeted by new waves of publicity and prosperity. His price for one-nighters, which had gone down to $2500, has zoomed to $7500. He is getting top salary-between $7500 and $10,000-- for appearances on the Andy Williams, Red Skelton and other TV shows. He is asking $25,000 for full-week stands.
    Tiny has hired a new press agent, a new accountant, and a new attorney, but it is his marriage to "Miss Vicki" that has renewed his career.
    She is the new gimmick who is trotted out for inspection at all Tiny Tim press conferences and asked such memorable questions as: "How do you like being married to Tiny Tim?" "He's wonderful." "What do you call him?" "I call him Herbie. Sometimes I call him dear." "How many children do you want?"
'Cooks marvelously'

    Tiny always interrupts at this point, "My darling Vicki and me--we want as many children as the good Lord allows."
    When Miss Vicki is asked if she can cook, Tiny again interrupts. "She cooks marvelously," he says, "things like spaghetti." The truth is she hasn't as yet tried. Other questions for the bride: "Where do you plan to make your home?" "I don't know. We've been living in different hotel rooms." "Did you enjoy your honeymoon with Tiny?" "Yes, I did." "Has your marriage been consummated?" "What does that mean?" Like Tiny says, she's an "angel."
    "Declares Tiny's manager: "I guarantee that Miss Vicki will be pregnant before the year is out. Beneath his falsetto Tiny is really a tiger."

Tiny tiptoes through the lips. The wedding ceremony, which took place on the Johnny Carson TV show, drew a viewing audience of more than 45 million.

March 1, 1970
Source: The Sunday Bulletin (Philedelphia)
Reproduced according to "Fair Use"

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