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When Elizabeth Taylor Met Tiny Tim

Thompson on Hollywood By Harry Clein | Thompson on Hollywood March 28, 2011 at 6:15AM

After the death of Elizabeth Taylor, press agent Harry Clein dug up his 1968 interview with Tiny Tim, in which the ukelele-playing actor (who was always a tad strange) recalls his early fan crush on the actress and how he met her when they were both teenagers. In 1968, I was working as a journalist. One of my first interviews was with Tiny Tim. Mr. Tiny, as he liked to be called, was then 36, looked like a genial Halloween witch, and was at the beginning of his “Tiptoe Through the Tulips" fame. He strummed his ukulele to accompany his riffs on his newfound success, his music, Rudy Vallee and Bob Dylan, his growing up in the tenements of New York, s-e-x – he never said the word but spelled it – and his many celebrity crushes.
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Thompson on Hollywood

After the death of Elizabeth Taylor, press agent Harry Clein dug up his 1968 interview with Tiny Tim, in which the ukelele-playing actor (who was always a tad strange) recalls his early fan crush on the actress and how he met her when they were both teenagers.


In 1968, I was working as a journalist. One of my first interviews was with Tiny Tim. Mr. Tiny, as he liked to be called, was then 36, looked like a genial Halloween witch, and was at the beginning of his “Tiptoe Through the Tulips" fame. He strummed his ukulele to accompany his riffs on his newfound success, his music, Rudy Vallee and Bob Dylan, his growing up in the tenements of New York, s-e-x – he never said the word but spelled it – and his many celebrity crushes.

Tiny Tim’s first great “fulfilled” crush was with Elizabeth Taylor, which he recounted to me in detail:

Thompson on Hollywood

“In July 1947 after I saw Miss Elizabeth in ‘Cynthia,’ people said I had to get control. I saw ‘Cynthia’ five times. I went into a dream world. A week after I saw the picture, she was in LIFE magazine. It was like a heavenly message.

“From July to September she was on my mind, heart and soul. I had become like a tape recorder. I kept saying ‘Miss Elizabeth Taylor, she’s so beautiful.’ Over and over and over. This was when she was 15. I love all these beautiful women in their teens.

“In September, when she appeared on the ‘Kiss and Tell’ radio show in New York, I ran down to the ABC studios. My heart was in my mouth. When I got to the studio there was already a crowd there. My heart was beating. Here was a girl I’d been thinking about for two months. She was zoomed inside, and I didn’t get to see her.

“After the show, I missed her again. She’d already gotten into her cab. I said to myself, ‘Are you going to let that cab get away?’ The idea came fast to me. Usually I’m a slow thinker and an even slower runner. But I ran after that cab. I go all out when I like a girl.

“The cab was a block away. But I was blessed. The cab stopped at a light. I was out of breath when I got to the cab, but I pushed the scrapbook inside the window and said, ‘Miss Taylor, you are so beautiful.’ She smiled. I kept saying it. Each time I said it, she smiled. She signed my scrapbook. It was a dream to meet this angel.

“The next day, I called the St. Regis Hotel where she was staying. Her mother answered the phone. I said, ‘Mrs. Taylor, remember me? I’m the scrapbook kid. I wonder if I could have some more pictures signed?’ Mrs. Taylor told me to leave the scrapbook at the desk and Miss Elizabeth would sign them for me. I didn’t want to leave my scrapbook at the desk. I wanted Miss Elizabeth to sign it in front of me.

“The next day, I went to the St. Regis Hotel. My hair was short at the time, and I had a suit that was pretty well pressed. Of course, I never thought I’d get passed the desk, but when I asked what floor Miss Taylor was on, they told me the fifteenth floor. Her door had the sweetest chime when I rang it. But she wasn’t in. There was a chair by her door so I waited two hours for her. Finally the elevator stopped at the floor, and Miss Elizabeth came out with her mother.

“Her eyes were like violet emeralds. When she saw me, her eyes popped out like Eddie Cantor’s. Like she’d just seen a ghost.

“I said, ‘Forgive me, Miss Taylor, but would you sign a few pictures?’ And she did.

“The next day as she came out of the St. Regis Hotel, she saw me. She threw me a kiss with her hands. Then and there I made a vow, ‘I’m going to make the grade to get up to her level.’

“It was a fantastic success spiritually. That was the greatest experience I’ve ever had with a woman, especially in the 40s.”

This article is related to: Genres, Guest Blogger, Classics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.