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Memories of Tiny from my Continental Hotel, Las Vegas, stay

Perhaps 8 to 10 years ago, I was staying at the Continental Hotel in Las Vegas, where I had a chance to hear many of Tiny's performances in the lounge. I wish I had recorded them.

Most of the songs were not to my taste, but sometimes he hit an incredible streak with medleys of several songs from the 20's and 30's with an enormous natural and overpowering style that swept me to another time and place. It was truly phenomenal, bringing tears to my eyes it was so great.

If I hadn't been at the hotel, I would not have been able to hear those remarkable performances - no two alike, and in the medleys he would combine different songs in different ways each time.

It is in the medleys in a live venue that I see his genius, and I suspect that his studio performances only show hints of that genius.

Prior to seeing him at the Continental Hotel at Paradise and Flamingo in Las Vegas, I had previously heard only Tiny's TIP TOE; although it was unique, I had no idea the performer was capable of the more in-depth, dynamic, soul-searching performances I now heard in some of his Continental Hotel medleys.

I made it a point to see his Continental show simply because he was so famous, and I thought I should give him the benefit of hearing his live performance.

At first I was stunned by his eccentric appearance, and just watching him was entertaining. I then concentrated on the singing. Some of it seemed off-key and amateurish, and since I like only a small amount of rock, I was about to leave.

But then he started on some of those incredible medleys of 20's and 30's songs, many of which I had never before heard, and my jaw dropped!

Here he was on-key and beyond professional. The style, the depth of emotions - well, the extraordinary magic - simply took me to another time and place.

The lounge was not often crowded, and I sat through as many performances (perhaps 10) over several days that I could.

But he never repeated quite the same combination or versions of the songs in these medleys. One or two songs with long versions in these medleys, that I particularly waited to hear repeated, were often truncated in later medleys.

The band was mediocre but Tiny shined through.

It is really the fault of marketing that much of the public thinks he is a one-song gimmick, when his genius is the authentic, no-holds-barred, unstructured, unabashedly natural, romantic style. (Most performers, perhaps, are afraid of letting loose these kinds of emotions.)

In these medleys, a few of the songs which I did recognize were performed by Tiny in a way that rendered them great, whereas in the past I had considered them mediocre as performed by others. Maybe it was a combination of Tiny's pace, timing, and ability to feel the true meaning.

Five or six of his performances of songs -- within medleys -- I found absolutely stupendous. I sometimes waited throughout whole shows for them to be repeated, but they represented usually only a small part of each show -- well worth the wait.

Sometimes, going down the stairs from my room, I would hear him on the loudspeakers doing those great medleys, and since I resolved to later get recordings of them, I rushed with my pen to notate some of the lyrics, since I had no idea what the names of the tunes were. And sometimes when I had no pen, I would try to remember the tune just by remembering and later notating the cadence -- like da, da da, da -- a desperate effort to recall the melody and remind me of the greatness I had heard.

In the lounge one time, after hearing some of those medleys and being driven to tears, I finally got the courage to introduce myself to Tiny. The lounge had only a few people. He was most generous and kind, and I was saddened when I heard of his death not long afterward.

He was so gracious, in fact, that in introducing himself at the start of his act -- even though the Continental had obviously seen better days although not quite rundown -- with great sincerity Tiny announced, "I'm so honored to be here with you at the beautiful Continental Hotel." I will never forget the sincere compassion with which he said that.

He spoke also of the nice pool out back and the numerous trees around the hotel. Here was a truly great man for seeing the good side of things.

Despite there being usually only a few people occupying the 30-plus seats around the lounge stage, the loudspeakers carried Tiny's voice to the slot machines, the poker room, and the blackjack and craps tables.

Yet the gamblers seemed oblivious of this great entertainer. Tiny was casting his pearls before swine. Because Tiny was marketed as a gimmick, couldn't people think for themselves and realize they were beholding one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived. Were they embarrassed to admit they enjoyed his performance?

I felt like shouting, "Don't you morons realize you're hearing the great Tiny Tim LIVE?!"

But I did notice a few real fans who were engaged in long, happy conversations with Tiny between his acts. Tiny seemed to treat them as old friends even though they probably met him there for the first time.

Thanks again.
Robert B. Klinn


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