January 6, 2016

FTV: Herbert Khaury

    Anyone remember the the game “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon?”  It essentially follows that any actor one can think of can be connected to actor/musician Kevin Bacon in six or less steps (or degrees, if you will).  It is an adaptation of the old parlour game that says that any two people on Earth are six (or less than six) acquaintance links apart.  I laughed when people started doing this based on Bacon’s movie career because it is a game I have played in my head for years.  In my version, I like to find links with people I have encountered or places I have been.  Little did I realize that it is a concept that some people take quite seriously.

    What does Kevin Bacon think about the whole idea?  “I was horrified by it. I thought it was a giant joke at my expense . . . (but) I appreciate it now. But I was very resistant to it (at first).”  Here is an  example for actor Julie Harris in the Bacon Game:   Julie Harris was in The Split with Duane Grey who was in JFK with Kevin Bacon giving her a Bacon score of 2 degrees.  I am told it rarely takes six degrees to make a connection.  

    When I was a dishwasher at the Huron Mountain Club, I heard a quiet ‘excuse me’ from behind me and turned to find the same Julie Harris standing ten feet away from me in my little Hobart dishwashing machine room.  Apparently she had just arrived for her stay at the club but it was after hours at the club store.   She was in need of a quart of milk, which I proceeded to get for her from the kitchen pantry.  She thanked me and went on her way while I returned to my pile of dishes from the dinner rush.   If her Bacon score is ‘2’, does that make mine a ‘3’?  I should also admit that at that point I did not realize I was dealing with the same woman who starred in the original version of The Haunting, won acclaim for her stage turn as Mary Todd Lincoln, and would eventually play Lilly Mae on TV’s Falcon Crest?   I only knew her as an extremely polite person dressed in a flannel shirt (whom I could barely see over the top of the silverware cart as she was a rather diminutive person) seeking a bottle of milk.  I found out otherwise when I was besieged by the waitress crew who wanted to know “what she was like.”

    So, what exactly does this have to do with Herbert Khaury (born – April 12, 1932 –died –  November 30, 1996)?   It was either Barry the guitar player or Mike the bass player in my band Sledgehammer who came to rehearsal one afternoon and said, “we can get a three night gig in Negaunee if we agree to backup Herbert Khaury on the first night.”  In other words, if we played “backing band” for solo artist Khaury for two sets, we could play the other two sets on Thursday and then also have all of Friday and Saturday to ourselves.  I had played in this particular establishment with my previous band, but we had not been able to get a foot in the door with Sledgehammer.  Two of us were not keen on the idea so we debated the subject for a couple of weeks and finally relented when the lure of a three night gig on an open weekend was just too good to turn down.  We did not really relish the thought of being a “backing band” but we convinced ourselves that it would be much like what Chuck Berry was doing at the time.  Berry would roll into a town with his guitar, plug in with whatever band the promoter had lined up, play his show, collect his dough, and depart.  This would also account for the uneven performances Berry was known for:  not every backing band he worked with was up to the performing standards one would like them to be for an icon like Berry.  We decided, “Hey, we can do this” and had Mike or Barry get in touch with the club owner.

    Our long running debate came to naught when the club owner informed us that the gig had been cancelled.  If it hadn’t, I would have had a Bacon score of ‘1’ with Herbert Khaury.  Did I happen to mention Khaury’s stage name?  You may know him better as “Tiny Tim.”  Yes, we almost got to be the backing band for Tiny Tim.  Yes, the same Tiny Tim who made a career out of warbling Tiptoe Through the Tulips in his unique, falsetto voice while playing a ukulele left handed (but strung right handed) .   

    Khaury discovered his knack for singing with his falsetto voice in 1952, but he didn’t become Tiny Tim until 1962.  The moniker was bestowed upon him by a manager who had booked him into a club that favored entertainers who were short in stature (which the long and lanky Khaury was not).  His career got an added boost when he became a semi-regular punch line via numerous appearances on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.  Johnny Carson was enough of a fan (or knew a ratings grabber when we saw one) to host Tim’s first wedding to Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show in 1969 (with an audience of 40 million tuning in).

    Always the trooper,  made a comeback after a post-perforTimmance heart attack he suffered  in Massachusetts in September of 1996.  He ignored his doctor’s orders to take better care of himself and went back on the road only to suffer a fatal heart attack during a performance at the Women’s Club of Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 30, 1996.  He is interred in a masausoleum in Lakewood Cemetery in that city.

    I can’t say I was real excited about the Tiny Tim gig, and was actually quite relieved when it didn’t happen, but somewhere in the back of my mind I still wonder “what kind of gig would that have been?”  Of course, we didn’t get the three night gig at the club, either, but that is the way it goes sometimes.  Rest in peace, Herbert Khaury.  I wonder what his Kevin Bacon score would have been?

The video says it all . . . I could have been on stage with Herbert Khaury!