Serendipitous Celebrity Encounters
Have you had a chance positive encounter with a celebrity? I’ve had so many, I decided to make a list. And it’s long. This series will feature some of these often very odd or funny situations. And I’d like to tell your story here too.
Summer of 1968 I was 11 years old and fresh out of the sixth grade ready for a summer adventure in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Best friend Barry and I worked it out with our parents to get dropped off in nearby downtown Latrobe, armed with lunch counter money for a burger and fries — and enough change leftover to buy a 45 for our home record machines.
Troutman’s Department Store basement had a large selection of the top-selling 45s and we scoured through every single one. I had three older siblings and four younger siblings and it seems everyone was buying 45s. I wanted something unusual.
And there it was.
“Tiptoe Through the Tulips” by Tiny Tim.
On February 5, 1968, I was introduced to Tiny Tim watching Rowan And Martin’s Laugh-In television show. He sang this song and we all laughed because the lyrics were so funny and we thought his voice was funny too.
Tiny Tim, born Herbert Buckingham Khaury on April 12, 1932, in Manhattan, NY, was an American singer, ukulele player, and musical archivist. His album, God Bless Tiny Tim was released in April 1968 and the single 45 followed.
His particular passion was singing in the falsetto voice which he learned while researching recording artists from the 1900s to 1930s as a kid.
Officially, this was the very first 45 I had ever picked out on my own and brought home. I thought I had the purchase of the century, but my older siblings laughed at my choice and said I should never have brought the record home. I did not understand their reaction.
Here is a YouTube recording of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”
Fast forward to November 1981 and I am 24 years old and the Sunday Lifestyles Editor for a regional Pennsylvania daily newspaper with 100,000 Sunday circulation. And guess who’s in town performing at the Sheraton Hotel in Greensburg?
Of course, I made contact for an interview.
I admit I was a bit nervous walking into the hotel lobby and asking for Tiny Tim. His road manager quickly emerged to say hello and then a few minutes later Tiny Tim stepped into the lobby to meet me.
I have to say he seemed very nice at first, but a bit nervous. I asked him where we might sit for a bit to talk so that I could interview him for a story we would publish showcasing his hotel shows later in the week. He was wearing an aging black tuxedo-style suit and led me into a large, empty dining room adjacent to a large, full-of-people dining room.
We took a table and sat down. Someone brought us drinks. I had a Coke. And I soon realized why he was nervous.
Tiny Tim explained that he was traveling the country and getting booked into small venues, but often faced nasty and unkind comments and reviews. He admitted he was afraid of the media. So I looked across the table and asked if I could start by telling him a story.
He smiled — and said, “Yes, please.”
So I told him that 13 years and 5 months earlier, as an 11-year-old kid, I bought my first 45 record — “Tiptoe Through The Tulips.”
I next saw the most genuine smile I had ever seen. “Really?” he asked. “That was your first 45?” And from that moment on, the interview went well and I had a blast hanging out with him.
At one point he was explaining the falsetto style of singing from the early 20th Century and offered to give me an example. Then sitting just a few feet from me, and using his hands to cup the area around his mouth, he belted out a tune so loud and wild that I actually glanced over my right shoulder to see if the restaurant folks in the next dining room were listening in — and of course they were.
My story was published on November 18, 1981. And he thanked me for the kind story as I took a date and caught one of his shows at the hotel. The story was printed in the daily edition and I was not afforded much space. The editor wrote the headline. There is a discrepancy in the story between how I spelled his real last name and what I’m reading on Wikipedia.
Tiny Tim died November 30, 1996, after playing a benefit for the Women’s Club of Minneapolis, and having sung one last time — “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”
Your Celebrity Story
Looking for fun and positive chance encounters with celebrities. No shaming or bashing — just interesting, strange, wild, or outrageously weird encounters. Keep it short — no more than 300 words. I would be rewriting your story, and using your story to quote you. I would identify you by first name and city-state — so like Cheryl from Ottumwa, Iowa. I will pick the best ones and include them in my column here under one of my own stories. Please send it to: email@example.com.