Regardless of the subject, the best docs make you understand how a lot we would have liked a movie on a selected topic. And that rule couldn’t apply extra to Tiny Tim: King for a Day, director Johan von Sydow’s overview of the otherworldly life and instances of probably the most WTF pop celebrities of the final century. (It hits theaters on April thirtieth.)
For many who vaguely recall Tiny Tim, or by no means heard of him in any respect, the person born Herbert Butros Khaury was the oddest of geese even in the course of the Sixties, when all people was letting their freak flags fly. Tall and portly, with a protruding nostril and hair that regarded like a humid mop falling over his face, Tiny didn’t appear to be any of the tune-in-and-turn-on musicians and earnest folkies who additionally emerged from the New York membership scene. (Even his wardrobe bucked the instances: He tended to put on fits.) He additionally distinguished himself musically: At a time of protest songs, amped-up folk-rock, and psychedelia, right here was a man strumming a ukulele and warbling, in a falsetto that seemed like a lovestruck hen, pre-rock requirements like “Tiptoe Via the Tulips.” From his look to his borderline-leer smile, he was candy and creepy on the identical time.
However as King for a Day paperwork — in probably the most element but, other than Justin Martell’s 2016 bio Everlasting Troubadour — Tiny Tim grew to become the least doubtless family title of his day. In seemingly no time in any respect, he went from being pelted with rubbish whereas singing on New York streets to hanging out with Bob Dylan in Woodstock (we see a fast clip of them collectively, for a deliberate D.A. Pennebaker film that by no means materialized), guest-starring on selection and discuss reveals (particularly the large Giggle-In), and scoring a prime 10 album. He was even booked on the 1970 Isle of Wight competition, the place followers, both surprised or stoned, cheered as he warbled the British patriotic tune “There’ll All the time Be an England,” full with a megaphone.
Because the Band (who, because the Hawks, backed him on a number of tracks on the soundtrack of the oddball 1967 doc You Are What You Eat) as soon as sang, life is a carnival. And it actually was with Tiny Tim. In 1969, he and his then 17-year-old girlfriend, Miss Vicki (Vicki Budinger), have been married on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Present, the place Tiny had been a recurring visitor. As we hear Carson announce throughout one in every of Tiny’s later appearances, the marriage was the highest-rated TV occasion of its time subsequent to the moon touchdown. The proto-reality-star facet solely swelled over time: When Tim later talked publicly about his divorce from Vicki, he’s turned his life right into a real-life cleaning soap opera.
Throughout his heyday, Tim was a proud outsider and even one thing of a queer icon, and King for a Day makes a declare for him as a forerunner to androgynous pop stars starting from glam rockers to Boy George. In the way in which he reworked from schlumpy man to makeup-plastered carny entertainer [let’s tweak either the pop star above or the pop star here to avoid rep], he positively appears to have paved the way in which for Alice Cooper. However as King for a Day relates, he was additionally proudly heterosexual (and keen on groupies and a level of kink, which tormented him).
Neither smirky or patronizing, King for a Day makes use of archival footage, intermittent animation and interviews with pals, fellow entertainers and the final of Tiny’s three spouses to flesh out his again story. Not surprisingly, Tiny grew up feeling lonely, freakish and sexually conflicted. However we additionally be taught he was the kid of a Lebanese father and Jewish mom, and his father specifically didn’t appear to know what to make of his son (particularly when he finds one in every of his male pals in the identical mattress, even when they weren’t having intercourse). When Tiny positive aspects sufficient confidence to start out singing in public, he’s heckled, and one in every of his first gigs is being a part of a freak present in New York’s Occasions Sq., the place he sings close to a bearded girl and different human oddities. However when he’s all of the sudden (and, he claims, divinely) impressed to sing in a trilly falsetto like Bing Crosby on helium, stardom and fame come calling
Tiny’s humbling previous few years are the stuff of docs previous, current and future. By the daybreak of the Eighties, he was on a everlasting comeback path, which included making an attempt to go nation, showing within the campy 1987 horror film Blood Harvest and remaking “Tiptoe Via the Tulips” with a punk band. A number of the most poignant clips in King for a Day doc the interval when he was performing in a touring circus, as if his life had gone full circle again to the freak-show days. And judging by letters and diaries (learn by “Bizarre Al” Yankovic), Tiny, who was reportedly extra critical than his public persona let on, knew all too nicely that that had occurred.
However give Tiny Tim this: He died loving what he did. In 1996, he suffered a coronary heart assault throughout a efficiency in Minneapolis, simply because it appeared as if he was on the verge of some type of kitschy rediscovery. It’s onerous to say whether or not that comeback would have ever occurred. His singing voice and information stay the definition of acquired style, and King for a Day received’t essentially ship you again to his songs the way in which different first-rate music docs can. However watching it, you’re feeling glad that such a real oddball lived his explicit dream and by no means revealed any public bitterness over the arc of his life. His legacy, it seems, was the very last thing from tiny.