Then John Lennon said, "OK, so flower power didn't work. We'll try something else." Flower-child and novelty performer Tiny Tim tried…but ended up as a nostalgic act spiraling down from top nightclubs to the seedy traveling "Vaudeville Revue" run by shady (and eventually murdered) Roy Radin. Tiny Tim became one of the menagerie of ex-stars who, in the phrase of Tennessee Williams, often lived off the "kindness of strangers." He was a nice guy, and open and friendly to anyone who might get him work or invite him out for a free meal.
I met Tiny Tim socially once, but didn't exchange phone numbers. I didn't think there was anything I could do for the guy, having met more than enough one-hit-wonders and former stars of cult films or a lone TV series. For some reason I wasn't all that interested in spending evenings discussing any mutual fondness for old music with him, maybe because he just seemed as sad as any of the geeks pawing through the 78's at memorabilia shows and record stores. That he was once "a contender," or that he was far more erudite than the average vinyl-hoarding cretin just wasn't enough. I did let him know that I was a fan of his work, and proved it by naming "Bring Back Those Rockabye Baby Days" as my favorite record of his…not "Tulips," and let it go at that.
Over the years, as he scrounged for gigs in small clubs, he tried for another big novelty hit. Too bad for Tiny, radio was slowly narrowing its playlists to exclude such items as "Tiptoe To the Gas Pumps." So when he did manage to get somebody to press a single...it sold only a few hundred copies. Like many a down and out folkie he had lots of unrecorded songs which he might perform, with some wistfulness (if not bitterness) to a half-filled audience or some halfwit hanger-on with a tape recorder. Thus we have: "Santa Claus Got the AIDS This Year," a calamitous meeting of the original Christmas "Tiny Tim" and the heavy set has-been.
Just what the hell Tiny was trying to do here, as he ran through this song in some room somewhere, I have no idea. He seemed to think AIDS was curable, and no worse than the clap: "The nurses all look sad, 'cause Santa's got it bad. 12 months to wait and then, he'll soon be round again." Around the time he came up with this ditty, AIDS was wiping people out very quickly. A few friends of mine perished within months of diagnosis, while a few others trembled and hoped that their ARC (as HIV was known at the time) would not become AIDS, and that if it did, somebody would have a vaccine for it. Today, AIDS is still fatal, but those with HIV can live fairly normal lives for decades thanks to new medications.
Well, as long as Tiny Tim was thinking of AIDS as no worse than the clap, then it's possible to avoid cringing at this song. Besides, the main source of humor here, is in making fun of Santa Claus, and this time of year, most anyone over the age of 12 has a deep disgust for the fat old bastard. We're all tired of TV commercials trading in on St. Nick, and those stupid Coca Cola signs with his jolly face on it asking that we all become obese diabetics. 'Tis the time of year we should pay careful attention to the question Professor Irwin Corey posed about this obnoxious Yuletide creature: "Santa comes but once a year? Down a chimney? In MY sock?"
Tiny Tim sez... Santa Claus Has got The AIDS This Year