In memory of the life, love and wit of Carol Versandi
But Madame...I Don't Like Children
February 22, 2014
The first real concert I ever saw was Tiny Tim.
I was maybe 5 or 6 - old enough to remember, but too young to care.
This was probably 1978 or 1979.
Tiny Tim was well past his prime...if an out of shape falsetto singing
ukulele player could ever really have a "prime".
Let's just say, at this stage of the game, he wasn't appearing on the Tonight Show.
In fact, the concert was a free show given at a local park.
Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve in Commack.
Which looks a lot like this:
Don't get me wrong.
I love Tiny Tim now.
But in a more ironic and enjoy-from-a-distance sense.
But my mom was actually a fan.
She had a lot of his records and played them fairly often.
( I made that a link for you kids out there that don't know what a record is )
As a kid, I was endlessly fascinated by this creepy guy with the big nose, the long straggly hair and toothy sinister smile. I'm sure it had something to do with my love of horror movies. I mean, this guy was nothing short of nightmarish.
My favorite record was "With Love and Kisses from Tiny Tim. The Concert in Fairyland.
I used to sit with a paper and pencil and draw and redraw that image for hours.
I knew every line. Every curve. Every color.
Anyway, the point is, my mom was a fan and took me
and my brother to see him perform at a local park.
Since it was just a park and there wasn't really a stage in any traditional sense - and certainly no backstage area - as it was more of just a covered bandshell - after the concert was over Tiny Tim said "Thank You" and meandered off into the crowd, preseumably to find a ride home.
As he's making his way through the now thinning crowd, my mother
marches right up to him and starts a conversation.
"I'm a big fan....I love your music....I used to watch you on the Johnny Carson Show...Is that your real nose?.....No, really, is it?"...so on and so on..
And then she grabs me, turns to one of her friends who was
with us at the time and says "Take a picture".
Now my guess is that Tiny Tim thought he was going to be posing for a picture with my mother, but that is not what happened. To everyone's horror....especially Tiny's, my mother picked me up (keep in mind, I was 5 maybe 6 years old ) and shoved me into Tiny Tim's arms.
She did not gently place.
She did not softly put.
She shoved me into his arms.
I think I screamed.
I know Tiny Tim screamed.
To briefly reiterate one of my earlier points...Tiny Tim was past his prime and not in the best shape. This was a man who clearly did not exercise. Ever.
His ukulele was probably the heaviest thing he had lifted in the past 30 years.
And now suddenly, this crazy Long Island mother had just hustled a 50 pound sack of wiggling confusion into his arms...you can see why this might be a problem...and possibly a lawsuit.
So let me set the scene for you.
Here is Tiny Tim, holding me in outstretched arms, the way someone would hold a carton of dirty diapers. Me, who has gone from squirming and baffled to frozen with fear. And my mom saying to her friend, "Take the pitcha, take the pitcha".
Tiny Tim tries to hand me back to my mom and says, somewhat politely,
"But Madame...I Don't Like Children".
To which she replies, "Knock it off".
That's a wrap people. We got the shot. See you at the cast party.
This red haired woman with this terrified child just told this eccentric vaudeville-esque performer to "Knock it off."
And then there was a camera flash.
As if to somehow metaphorically put an exclamation point on the insanity of it all.
Now, I have seen this picture and I assure you the look on Tiny Tim's face defies description. It is nothing short of transcendent.
It's a mixture of shock and horror and anger and fear and respect.
Painted in broad multi-colored strokes against this chubby skeletons face.
It's a masterpiece.
I'm still going through my mom's stuff, but trust me, the second I find that photo,
I will post it here.
..."knock it off"......she actually told Tiny Tim to "knock it off"....oh man, that's good stuff....