In the past two weeks the Personality Parade department of this publication has received several hundred letters about a 32-year-old boy soprano who calls himself Tiny Tim.
Lady Iris McEwen of Palm Springs, Cailif.,asks: "Isn't Tiny Tim really Margaret Truman making her comeback in show biz?"
S.L.G. of Seattle, Wash., writes:"I am thoroughly convinced that Tiny Tim is James Symington, former chief of protocol in the State Department.
Can you confirm or deny?"
From Santa Barbara, Calif., Mrs. Joseph Quittner inquires:"Is this strange creature, Tiny Tim, male, female, or in between?"
Allen Hillman of Newark, N.J., says flatly:"I've solved the mystery of Tiny Tim.
He is actually George Hamilton, who used to date Lynda Bird Johnson."
Rarely has any character more quickly stimulated the public's funny bone and pricked its curiosity than Herbert Khaury, a tall white-faced , long-haired, what is it?
Who purposefully prances, flutters, and primps about on-stage, strumming his ukulele and singing old ballads in a falsetto which sounds so awful that it evokes mounting peals of
Tiny Tim is the funniest thing in show business since Mrs. Elva Miller, the little lady from Claremont, Calif., who became a recording sensation a few years ago by seriously singing off key.
Tiny Tim is a similar attraction.
Ever since his TV appearances on the Rowan and Martin Laugh-In and the Johnny Carson Tonight program, he has become the most intensely wanted "freak attraction" in show business.
At this writing four major film studios, Universal, Columbia, MGM, and 20th Century-Fox, are all bidding for his services.
His one album, God Bless Tiny Tim, is selling at the rate 10,000 copies per week, and his asking price for concerts has leaped from $5 a night to a guarantee of $5000 or 40 percent of the gross, whichever is higher.
Tiny's success is based on ridicule. When he appears on-stage, dressed like an unmade bed, looking with his hawkish nose and small beady brown eyes like some aberrational
Cross between animal, vegetable, and mineral, every person in the audience knows at once that he is superior to Tiny and that this strange creature must be greeted with sympathy.
When Tiny goes into his act, strumming, shrieking, giggling, simpering, and singing, the sympathy gives way to belly laughs.
The result is that everyone has a great time, and Tiny Tim laughs all the way to the bank.
The questions most frequently asked about Herbert Khaury, alias Tiny Tim, alias Vernon Castle, Emmett Swink, Larry Love, and Darry Dover, concern his sex life.
A young man propagated and reared in New York City by an over-protective Polish Jewish mother and a Catholic Lebanese father, Tiny loves to explain,"There is nothing queer about me.
I simply don't like to touch dear, sweet women. I've just spent $700 on cosmetics. I love to be clean, to smell sweetly. My manager Roy Silver, won't pay for them.
I love women, although they must not be touched before marriage.
Sometimes it's difficult but I have learned to resist temptation.
My Bible is always with me, protecting me from the temptation of dear, sweet 17-year-old girls.
My mother, my dear parents, they taught me to be so careful of s-e-x."
Tiny refuses to pronounce the word.
Instead, he spells it out, letter by letter, as if the articulation of the entire word would scorch his tongue and stain his soul.
It is all part of his act.
For example, when he visited my home recently, I subjected him to a word association test.
I said, "Black," immediately he countered with "White."
I said, "Freud," immediately, he raised both hands hands in feigned horror and shrieked, "Terrible."
I said, "Psychopathia sexualis." He screamed again, and in a tittering soprano, shrilled, "Oh! Mr. Shearer!"
I perceived then that much of Tiny Tim's act was a put-on, that he is not entirely the strange, bizarre, oddball he so innocently plays.
He is in fact a rather sophisticated, well-read young man who knows something about Freud, Krafft-Ebing, D.H. Lawrence, and the sleazy slices of life.
No boy raised on the streets of upper Manhattan, no veteran, of amateur nights, endless auditions, saloon concerts, song tryouts,
and Greenwich Village night clubs emerges the na´ve, gullible ninny that Tiny Tim likes to affect.
The truth, according to his mother, "Is that my Herbie is 32 years old, not 52, which is a lie the newspapers make up.
He is an honest boy, calls home three times a week, but he likes he should be a little bit mysterious, says it is good for his fans.
"He was born right here in New York City. His musical talent he got from me. I was singing when he was two years old because I myself was musically inclined.
Herbie used to violin, and he was always a Dodgers fan, playing baseball.
I taught him to grow up to be a nice boy.
I myself was busy working in the garment business.
His father, my husband Butros, used to be a knitter, now we are both retired.
"I am glad Herbie is successful. He is such a wonderful singer of those oldtime songs in a high voice.
He used to listen to our old phonograph for hours.
People say he dresses and wears his hair like a 'mischugguner' (Yiddish for lunatic), but they don't know show business.
If you are not mischugguner in show business these days, with these hippie-dippies and these hoppy-poppies, you are going to starve.
"Herbie is not what they call an overnight success.
He starved for years - with short hair, long hair, middle hair - not starved... I always fed him good.
But he was not the Rudolph Valentino he is today.
"You ask why is he not married. Is your business? Who asks you? He wants to be married?
Okay. About girls I never ask him. You ask him about girls and right away he is reading from the Bible.
It becomes all of a sudden, girls are forbidden fruit.
"So long he is happy and earning a living.
I don't care if never he gets married. He is too honest.
One of these swinger girls get hold of him, right away he is cooked.
"The neighbors ask why such a tall boy - he is more than six feet - is called Tiny Tim.
'Is this a family name?' they ask me. 'Is this a Jewish name, a Lebanese name?'
Like I told you, people don't understand show business.
They don't understand that Tiny Tim comes from a fairy tale."
Herbert Khaury, son of impoverished immigrants, was educated in upper Manhattan at P.S. 169 and George Washington High School, which institution he was asked to leave in his junior year.
"It was tragic for my dear father," he recalls, "but by then I had learned all the old songs of Irving Kaufman, Henry Burr, Ada Jones, And Rudy Vallee, and I was content.
"I got a job as a messenger boy, and at night I used to go into every bar in Brooklyn and ask if I could sing for my supper.
Most of the time they through me out.
But I never gave up, I always took my cut in the batter's box.
I was not one to quit.
"Gradually I caught on with Buddy Fryer.
He used to book all the amateur talent into theaters.
The prizes were $5 for first, $3 for second and $1 for third.
The best talent went on last. He always booked me first.
I was singing in my natural voice, which is tenor, and I was so bad people used to throw shoes at me.
Once I was so bad, a dear man in the back of the theater turned on a siren in order to turn me off.
"In 1953, however, I changed my batting stance. I switched to falsetto.
I figured I had nothing to lose.
I used to in and out of every music publishing office at 1619 and 1650 Broadway, always smiling, always happy.
I used to open with, 'Hello there. I have with me today the number-one song hit of the nation.
Are any of you dear people interested?"
"Most of the time they slammed the door on me.
Once in a while some dear man would lead me into another office and say to his partner, 'Look at this one. Have you ever seen anything like this queen before?"
"I tried to join the Army, especially the dear Air Force at least a dozen times.
But they always turned me down.
I asked to be stationed on the moon, but they told me we had no posts there.
"I honestly believe that my entrance into the big-time came in 1963.
Before then I was playing in Greenwich Village coffee houses for whatever I could get.
You know, they pass the hat around.
Some nights I would earn as much as $5, but I had to split with my agent, George King.
He took 50 percent.
It was dear George who named me Tiny Tim.
Before that I'd been Larry Love and Danny Dover.
But it was as Tiny Tim That I was booked into the big fat Black Pussycat at $10 a weekend."
Subsequently Tiny trilled his falsetto at a plethora of other Greenwich Village dives, several of which the police closed down after great difficulty in determining the sex of the paying customers.
Tiny Tim kept going. "I always take my cut at the plate. I'm always in there swinging." He played Expo '67 in Montreal.
There he was so awful, the fans bombarded him with beer cans which he batted back with his ukulele.
Big album sales
A few months ago, Tiny came to California to cut his Reprise album which today has sold some 300,000 copies.
The Reprise people got him a spot on the Rowan and Martin Laugh-In TV program.
And word-of-mouth reaction to his performance was so good that Roy Silver, formerly assistant manager for Bob Dylan and now manager of comedian Bill Cosby, signed him and turned him over to press agent Joe Sutton for the big buildup.
Success to date has not spoiled Tiny Tim.
He answers all of his fan mail, is excessively polite, loves to call on singing stars of yesteryear to whom he attributes his inspiration.
Surrounded off-stage by a bevy of teenaged girls, he quotes generously from the Scriptures, citing the evils of adultery, calling upon "The great spirit within me to resist temptation and preserve my virginity until marriage."
Cynical show business veterans describe him as a "no-talent fad," and predict "his run will last less than a year."
"So long as I can have $300 a month for life," says Tiny Tim, "I'll be happy."
At the rate his client is going, manager Roy Silver expects that Tiny's income this year will approach a cool million.
Whether Herbert Khaury is, under any alias, an over-age flower child, a wrong -century Don Quixote, or a tittering phony, the public is buying what he has for sale - laughs.