STREET OF DREAMS (1988).
Never released on this side of the globe, this Australian, self-titled "musical mirror maze" is one of the more jaw-dropping oddities I've had the pleasure to witness. A feature-length, free-form documentary on singer/pop-icon Tiny Tim, it's an imaginative, altogether joyous portrait of the man who brought "Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips With Me" to the public forefront (and gave me a chance to stay up past my bedtime when he married Miss Vicki on THE TONIGHT SHOW in 1969). Ten years in the making, this cobbles together a fantastic array of footage, much of it revolving around the Sydney amusement area, Luna Park, circa 1978, where Tiny (long past the height of his popularity) tried to set the Professional, Non-Stop Singing Record. Following the film's fragmented route, we watch him tooling around Australia before this marathon song-fest; dressed as a king-size Mickey Mouse; Tiny (and his film crew) lost in a Hall of Mirrors; a seemingly-pissed Tim popping an oil can of fosters, with a topless flat-chested chick on his bed; and even pays a visit to Tiny's ancient mother, who shows off childhood photos. The only tiring moments have Tiny discussing his devotion to Christ and the Bible. Ahh, but that's only the tip of the weirdness, my friends. Back at Luna Park, Tiny (lugging his brown-paper-shopping-bagged ukulele) launchs into a medley of classic tunes ("Pennies From Heaven", "Don't Fence Me In", and even "Stayin' Alive"), which are all given his uniquely-vibrato treatment. In the process, director Martin Sharp (an Aussie artist, who also worked to restore Luna Park) expertly integrates these on-stage songs, with insights into Tiny's past (some of them none too flattering). We get footage from his wedding to Miss Vicki, and while most 45-year-old men would relish a chance to schtupp a teen-bride, Tiny admits that their bliss didn't last due to his belief that birth control was a Satanic invention and that "S-E-X can not be used, except for the glory of God's name and creating life" -- which led to an extremely unsatisfied Vicki. Along the way, Sharp also unveils a more sobering agenda, as we get a history lesson of this beloved amusement park, highlighted by a tragic incident on the Ghost Train ride, which burst into flame and claimed seven lives. Questioning if Mob arson was to blame, this bummer of a sideline only leaves an undoubtedly personal, yet ill-conceived aftertaste... Clocking in at 108 minutes, STREET OF DREAMS is, first and foremost, a Tiny Tim overdose. Although newcomers might be perplexed, it's all so unique and inspired that I couldn't stop smiling, as it captures his humanity, hilarity, and belovedly twisted lifestyle. It's not difficult to imagine that Tiny Tim was an off-stage weirdo, but it's gratifying to see it chronicled for posterity, while realizing he actually exceeded expectations.
© 1999 by Steven Puchalski.