Crate-digging with John Cusack: Tiny Tim at The Hunt Club

tinytim.jpg BoingBoing pal and fellow happy mutant John Cusack visited the Boing Boing Video studio this week for an internet video crate-digging session, and shared the 10-minute clip above. This find is ample proof that Cusack possesses a doctorate degree with honors in the Studies of High Weirdness. The video is titled "Tiny Tim at The Hunt Club (The Festival Green Room)," and neither of us could figure out much about its origins. Which Hunt Club? What city, what year? What were the circumstances, an afterparty in a "green room," after some festival? There are some clues (the blip-flash between songs to sync light and sound suggests a certain era), but no answers.

What is evident in the video is what a delightful freak Tiny Tim is. Cusack points out that the video is different from all the other clips you can find of Tim on YouTube, mostly television appearances in which his character is louder and over-the-top. But this one seems more vulnerable, more personal. Tim meanders in and out of modified Vaudeville classics, dips into an Al Jolson impression somewhere, all the while strumming his uke.

"There's something about him that reminds me of Joey Ramone," Cusack observes—Tiny Tim was anything but classically handsome, just like Joey, and he had a certain talent and force of personality that the "normal" world had no use for. Until that talent burst forth, and the world came to appreciate it, weird punk freak that he was. Cusack also got a kick out of the "thank you/goodbye-kissies" hand-gesture Tim uses in this video, and compared it to Noh theatre. There's no kiss, really: he's just tapping his chin, a sort of oblique blessing-greeting. I'm tempted to use that one myself now, at tea parties.

Here's to high weirdness. I've asked Cusack if he might join us on Boing Boing as a guestblogger, and he's thinking about it. If you have some thoughts to share with him on that matter, why don't you tell him yourself, in the comments? Incidentally, Cusack has a movie coming to theaters on March 26 that you should go see: Hot Tub Time Machine. It's not on YouTube, but it might show up on YouTub.

Update: Thanks to the multiple Boing Boing commenters who identified the clip! The "Hunt Club" was the green room for VIPs at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and this video footage can be found on this Criterion DVD (Amazon). It's in the "additional material" section of the DVD. More about the what the disc contains here (criterionforum.org).

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  1. If Cusak shares more awesome videos like this, then I’ll be sure to read every post if he guests.

    And, I’ll probably read them anyway just because he’s cool…and from Chicago…like me…the Chicago part…not the cool part…

    pJ

  2. Mr. Cusack, please come visit us here. Don’t make us stand outside your window holding jam-boxes…

  3. I had the pleasure and dubious honor of working at a record store with the president of the Tiny Tim Fan Club, James “Big Bucks” Burnett in the ’90s. He told me many delightful and many more not-so-delightful stories about Tim. From what I was told, Cusak’s observation here is spot on. The “real” Tim was (as is the case with most performers) different than the Tiny Tim persona we all know and…um…love?

    As a side note, Bucks Burnett is one of the kindest and funniest people you could ever hope to meet. If you should find yourself in the hellhole that is Dallas, TX, seek him out. He was also the president of the Mr. Ed Fan Club and had a store that specialized in 8 track tapes. I hear tell if you need a copy of The Rutles on 8 track, he’s got a few sealed copies left. I miss you, Bucks.

  4. I met Tiny Tim when I was in High School ( I think it was 1998), he was visiting one of my friend’s neighbors. It was truly one of the more bizarre experiences of my life.

    I saw him get out of a car while I was playing basketball, and I said to my friends “I think that was Tiny Tim”. None of them knew who he was. I was familiar with him from seeing clips of him from Johnny Carson, and hearing him on Howard Stern. I explained to my friends that he got married on Johnny Carson’s show, and other than the moon landing, it was the most watched show in TV history. A short while later, a girl I knew who lived in the house, came outside. I asked her if that was Tiny Tim, and she said that Tiny was a friend of the family(they all called him Tiny), and asked if I wanted to meet him. I said “Sure!”. I went inside, and he was sitting on the couch, his ukulele in a paper bag by his side. He shook my hand, with the limpest handshake I ever received. He smelled of womens perfume, and his makeup made him look like he was done up by a funeral parlor.
    He was very polite, and asked if I wanted to hear a song. How could I say no to that? The whold family gathered around, and they were all excited that Tiny was going to play. He took his ukelele out of the bag, and I saw that it was covered in childrens stickers. He sang several songs going into his falsetto, and then doing a real deep voiced thing. The man was an encyclopedia of music knowledge. He would always say where the song was from, who wrote it, what year it came out etc.
    It was a surreal experience, but I will never forget it. That man was unique, and special, and a million times more interesting than anything on any reality show we have today.

    1. Suburbancowboy – couldn’t have been 1998 as TT died in 1996. I saw him that year at Bumbershoot when he toured with Brave Combo as his backing band. They recorded a CD with him and Carl Finch has told me many interesting stories about that experience. Carl could probably help with the provenance of that tape. http://brave.com/bo

  5. I very much enjoyed Hot Tub Time Machine when I travelled in my TARDIS to April in order to make a cam version to upload tomorrow. You’ll never catch me, because I’ll never be there.

    Seriously, I saw it at a preview last week, and it was good fun. I was wondering where Rob Corddry was keeping himself.

    (Second-wave feminist disclaimer!:) Must state I had to put up with the boy’s club Hollywood spec script sexism… but that comes with the territory of the midlife-crisis do-life-over buddy movie genre; I expected it and it was otherwise a fairly sapient take on the genre tropes.

    Laughs were had. And not just from other members of the audience, but from myself as well.

    Good characterization on the three + one buddies, nice play on the order vs. chaos philosophy of travelling time, would watch again, especially if one John Cusack were to… say… guest blog?

  6. As I said last November, when Mark posted a link to another Tiny Tim video:

    http://boingboing.net/2009/11/20/video-of-tiny-tim-pe.html

    – – –
    JIMWICh • #15 • 21:03 on Fri, Nov.20 • Reply

    I remember seeing Tiny Tim, backed up by Brave Combo at Club Dada in Dallas back in 1988. He absolutely blew the front and back doors off the place. Unbelievable performance.

    The man was a performing encyclopedia of early 20th century music and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
    – – –

    Anyone that was fortunate enought to have seen Tiny Tim perform live knew what a national treasure he was. I’m glad that others are now continuing to discover that.

    And yes John, come be a guest contributor!

  7. John, it would be fun for you to be a guest blogger. As trite as it sounds, I’m a fan. BUT…. 2012? They must have delivered a BOATLOAD of cash up to your door.

  8. I would LOVE to see John Cusack do some guestblogging on BoingBoing. I went on an absolute Cusack jag a few years ago and he’s one of the few actors that are always worthwhile watching and I’m so excited to find out he’s got such good taste as well – Tiny Tim, whodathunkit?

    More like this please!

  9. This is the green room for the Monterey Pop Festival. Tim was the official entertainer. You can find this on the additional material for the Criterion release “The Complete Monterey Pop Festival”.

    I love his take on “King for a Day” – his gay laugh and flip of the wrist: “Ha Ha!”

  10. I have always been fascinated by “outsider” artists – people who seem almost completely divorced from the aspect of artistic expression which shackles itself to the audience’s expectations. I know that the dichotomy between the artistic vision and the desire for appreciation is nothing new or profound. But I know as an artist, my desire for appreciation has usually been more of a hindrance than anything else. The value of whatever I produce – acting, music, writing, or whatever else – have always been my primary consideration. And the fact that I always fall short in my own judgment is what has kept me from producing. My own fault, I know.

    And then you take someone like Henry Darger, a solitary man who created a 15 volume epic about a war between a family of transgendered girls and the evil adults who deal in child slavery. He kept this work secret up to the point of its discovery right before his death. It was obviously an immense labor – very detailed watercolor illustrations, many thousand hand-written pages. Was this a pure artistic urge? Was it madness? Is there a difference?

    I don’t know why John’s comments about Tiny Tim prompted this observation, except that perhaps because Tiny Tim, and to a certain extent The Ramones, circle the fringes of commercial art. They so poignantly illustrate that battle that most artists face all the time. I have only recently come to the conclusion that I need to create just for the sake of creation, and forget about whether anyone else appreciates it. Anyway, thanks John for sharing this clip, and I hope you consider the guest-blogger gig. I’m a fan of your work, and I hope to see more of you on here.

  11. Thank you John for this beautiful find! I too am a youtube explorer, searching the depths of the ones and zeros to find our earliest examples of American music. Keep it up! I look forward to your guest blog, hopefully.

  12. Would love to see what John would contribute as a guest blogger! I know it would be interesting and cool….just like him!

  13. Ok. Sorry. It must have fans…. but John has such an amazing presence and is such a good actor…. I just didn’t think it was a useful tool to showcase that.

  14. John — please, please, PLEASE guestblog. I’ve been an enormous fan since the Steve Holland days, and my respect for(and okay, yeah, adoration of) have continued to grow.

    I’d really love a chance to read your writings for a couple of weeks.

  15. For some ungodly reason, Tape Heads was on cable last weekend. What the hell was up with that mustache you were sporting, Mr. Cusack?

    Also, and unrelated, when you met John Billingsly for the first time did you have to fight the urge to address him as Dr. Flox?

  16. My wife and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Tiny in 1997 not long before he died, backstage at the Mason Jar in Phoenix, where he did an awesome break-dance considering he was then pushing 70. In meeting him I claimed that I had been at his wedding with Miss Vicki, as millions of others had who were watching Carson on that historic night. He was unamused but cordial and referred to us both as Mister and Miss as was his characteristically polite manner. I told him I respected his place in history and his knowledge of it, as he was an expert on WWI popular music, Tiptoe thought the Tulips, for instance. After later reading Dylan’s Chronicles I was impressed to find that Tiny was one of Dylan’s first associations when arrived in New York from the Midwest in the early 60’s. It seemed right___two champions of American fold music together in their formative years braving the dirty city for poetic redemption. Tiny was shorter than he looked on TV but his white suit covered with black musical notes and matching tie was dingy and wrinkled as if it had seen more than one break spin upon the floor or stage. It was a humbling experience even though I could not drive out my memory of Margaret Hamilton as the wicked witch of the west, which was unfair…Tiny’s demeanor was actually very, very good even knee deep in flowers everywhere, like Dorothy, or her friends.

    1. I was also at that Mason Jar show. Tiny’s pick up band could not keep up with him. They just stood there slack jawed like the rest of us, overwhelmed by his energy & showmanship. He signed my copy of “God Bless Tiny Tim”. It’s still one of my most prized possession.

  17. So me and my buddies, musta been in 1976, 77 popped into Humpin Hannahs in Milwaukee for Drink & Sink (25c mixed drinks, 10c beers, no cover) and the place was curiously empty, but then it was only maybe 6 or 6:30. We pound ’em for a while (and had been suitably enlightened before walking in) and whipped up quite a conversation for maybe an hour when this huge guy comes out on the floor level stage and we instantly recognized it as Mr. Tim. He looked way heavier in person -I mean obese to the extreme, but as none of us had seen him on TV for years we figured OK, he’s fat now. We bust out laughing (in a good way) at our good fortune and figured it was just one of those truly unique experiences that only seemed to happen when you were in an altered state.

    Tiny wasn’t fat however; he must have had on easily six entire suits and a whole bunch of sweaters and an almost endless number of shirts, all of which he proceeded to remove over the course of his show. Now we knew Andy Kaufman was an act but Tiny we had been unsure of: this show proved he was exactly what he appeared to be -no more an no less. Truth be told the guy was a showman to the bone. Superb entertainment. Weird, but superb.

    And all for maybe 6 bucks -for the four of us!

  18. id like to see john cusack on the here because the things he says are always well thought of and very interesting

  19. “Never a bad film with John Cusack in.” Mark Kermode sometime in the 90s.
    Well it was true once, which is a rarity in itself and whilst less true now even in bad films he is always watchable. It’s a little known fact* that I tell people his character in “Pushing Tin” is based, very loosly, on me!
    *Well it’s a fact** that I tell people that. It’s not, in itself, a fact.
    **I actually tell people that whole exchange, although without the asterisks – which are hard to get across in conversation.

  20. Tiny Tim has always been disturbing to me, yet I can’t seem to take my eyes away! Thank you Mr. Cusack for sharing!

  21. Don’t know who this Cusack guy is, but if he can appreciate the great odd wonderfulness of Tiny Tim, he’s alright by me!

  22. hey, mr. cusack: you seem to be arch and witty. join boing boing and proffer more weird videos, please.

  23. Great vid and please, John, if you can spare the time… we’d love to read your stuff. Anyone else happen to have the Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou video playing at the same time this one was? The keys of the music are the same and makes for a fun (unless you are shor of patience) listen if you adjust the levels.

  24. Mr. Cusack is always at his best with the little peeks he has given at worlds out-of-kilter with the mundane; Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity are pretty flawless. I’ve heard he’s a curator of the unusual before. I would dig seeing what he’s got to share. C’mon John. Step out a bit. Where better than BoingBoing to reveal some of the dusky old pearls secreted away in your noggin?

  25. My favorite quote from John Cusack (not playing a character) came when he was asked why he’s not married yet. He responded immediately with “Because I don’t have to do what society tells me to do.”

    I’d love to see him become a contributor.

  26. Just do it, John, we welcome your insights and weirdness!

    For the record, I once interviewed Tiny. Unfortunately I don’t have a tape of it. Tiny was an amazing encyclopedia of American music. He mentioned Mildred Bailey, Lee Wiley, Red MacKenzie, Gene Austin, Irving Kaufman and Sophie Tucker to me. At the time, Sophie was the only one I’d heard of. I know all of them know and have collections of their music (amongst many others.)

  27. I came here to encourage a Cusack guest blog, largely because I have about a billion questions about Tapeheads alone. I was pleased to see so many comments referencing it. and props to the guy who ref’d Better Off Dead.

    So, this is kismet. Mr. Cusack, can you please do a thing about Tapeheads for BB? How did you get all those cameos? Did Fishbone appear/do the score because Lloyd rocked the Truth and Soul shirt in Say Anything? Or do both stem from a prior personal relationship? Can we get a tutorial on Josh and Ivan’s “secret handshake” thing? How awesome was Don Cornelius? Just anything and everything about Tapeheads. I’m all ears, and this thread proves I’m not alone. How bout it, pal?

  28. Apparently I stepped on the third rail by mentioning 2012 (at length, and not in a positive way). My comments have been deleted.

  29. Tiny Tim sang my song THE MISSING THINGS to Miss Vickie the week before the wedding live on Johnny Carson show Dec12th 1969.If anyone has a copy let me know.
    He bothered to ring me after the live show to England to let me know how it went(well!)
    Having spent several hours with him in private I can say that he was normal,and right handed but onstage played the uke lefthanded to appear awkward.
    He was a kind man who cared about others,and he found a niche for his unique talents and knew how to get the most from it while it lasted
    geoffmenzer@googlemail.com

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