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‘Tiny Tim’ Doc Tip Toes Through Career of ’60s Darling

The falsetto-powered crooner's life is more fascinating than this cursory glance

Tiny Tim wasn’t just the ultimate novelty act.

The man born Herbert Butros Khaury dropped into the Summer of Love when we needed him most. Or, more specifically, the peculiar gifts he brought along with his signature ukulele.

“Tiny Tim: King for a Day” honors his curious place in pop culture but moves so swiftly through his life it leaves far too much behind.

TinyTim: King For A Day Official Trailer

Tiny Tim’s rags to riches to rags story began, where else, in New York City. The fledgling singer worked the wackiest clubs around, including a “freak show” where his sky-high falsetto and pasty face fit right in.

He eventually scored more prominent gigs, including star-making turns on “The Tonight Show” and “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.” The latter, featuring co-host Dick Martin’s priceless reaction shots, secured Tiny Tim’s bid for stardom.

But then what? How could a one-trick pony keep our attention?

It helped that his love life became a national obsession, culminating in one of the most viewed events in TV history -- his marriage to “Miss Vicki” Those nuptials didn’t last. Nor did our interest in this sexually ambiguous troubadour.

A larger question demands an answer, though. Who was Tiny Tim, who passed away in 1996 from a bad heart? Was he as peculiar off-screen as well as on? How deep was his talent pool? And what about his parade of girlfriends and creepy seductions?

Tiny Tim's Wedding to Miss Vicki on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show

A larger question demands an answer, though. Who was Tiny Tim, who passed away in 1996 from a bad heart? Was he as peculiar off-screen as well as on? How deep was his talent pool? And what about his parade of girlfriends and creepy seductions?

“King for a Day” flirts with all of the above but doesn’t fully answer them. Even the diary snippets, read with alarming sobriety by “Weird Al” Yankovic, doesn’t provide enough answers.

What’s missing in “King for a Day?” The sense of the singer’s musical knowledge, for starters. We’re given a thumbnail sketch of his sexual fetishes, but nothing more. Clunky animation tries to plug the visual gaps left by Tiny Tim’s early years, a time with little footage to visualize the story.

It all feels respectful, amusing and incomplete, clocking in at well under 90 minutes.

Heck, Tiny Tim’s appearances on “The Howard Stern Show” during the 1990s, where the entertainer revealed his cleaning obsessions and other rituals, proved more forthcoming.

Tiny Tim Talks His Favorite Beauty Products (1995)

The documentary captures his curious talents, easily dismissed at first blush but stubborn in the way that ear worm songs burrow into one’s brain. You can’t “un-listen” to a Tiny Tim track, nor do you want to do anything of the sort.

Was Tiny Tim an act, much like Paul Reubens and his alter ego, Pee Wee Herman? We’re given glimpses of his upbringing and ties to his older parents, but the answers remain off screen. What about his deep sense of faith, a recurring element of his life that contrasted with his self-described sins?

“Tiny Tim: King for a Day” isn’t dull, though, and through its protagonist’s gonzo charisma it’s always engaging. Director Johan Von Sydow assembles most of the necessary voices here, including the singer’s cousins, widow (guarded but adoring) and even Tiny Tim’s daughter. The latter figures briefly in the film, and it’s impossible not to want to hear more, much more, about her reflections on Daddy.

A quick web search on “Tiny Tim” reveals helpful articles that explain the singer’s surreal rise and impact on music. You’ll need that search after being wooed by “King for a Day,” an abrupt look at a one-of-a-kind star.

HiT or Miss: “Tiny Tim: King for a Day” is a fine primer for those uninitiated with the mercurial singer. Others will hunger for a richer portrait.

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