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Tiny Tim; Novelty Singer Gained Fame With ‘Tulips’

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From Associated Press

Tiny Tim, the ukulele-plunking crooner who bemused and amused millions by trilling the whimsical love ditty “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” died after falling ill as he performed his signature song.

Tiny Tim, who had a history of heart trouble, was stricken Saturday night during a benefit for the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis. His wife, Susan Khaury, said he cut short “Tulips” and told her he was not well. She was trying to help him back to their table when he collapsed.

“I don’t think he had time to feel pain,” Khaury said Sunday. “He died singing ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips,’ and the last thing he heard was the applause, and the last thing he saw was me.”

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Tiny Tim died at a Minneapolis hospital late Saturday. A hospital spokeswoman said the cause apparently was cardiac arrest, but a final determination would be made later.

Tiny Tim said a few weeks ago that he was born April 12, 1932, making him 64, although hospital officials said he was 66. Over the years, he sometimes fibbed or hedged about his age.

Born Herbert Khaury, Tiny Tim built his career on his single hit song in 1968, his stratospheric falsetto, an asexual and childlike stage persona and a flair for self-promotion.

The 6-foot-1 entertainer with long, frizzy hair was given his stage name in 1960 by an agent who had been working with midget acts. He made his first national television appearance on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.”

His 1969 marriage to Vicki Budinger on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” attracted an audience of 40 million viewers. They had a daughter, Tulip Victoria, before they divorced.

In recent years, he found an audience with the retro-music crowd and an enthusiastic welcome from broadcast hosts, including Howard Stern and Conan O’Brien. He moved to Minneapolis in 1995 after marrying his third wife.

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Tiny Tim had suffered from congestive heart failure, diabetes and other problems. He fell off a stage on Sept. 28 after suffering a heart attack during a ukulele festival in Massachusetts and was hospitalized for 11 days.

His doctors warned him he might live only another year or two.

“I am ready for anything that happens,” he said. “Death is never polite, even when we expect it. The only thing I pray for is the strength to go out without complaining.”

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