A Forgotten Novelty Singer's High-Profile Wedding on The Tonight Show

NBC Television // Getty
NBC Television // Getty / NBC Television // Getty

In the 1960s, the novelty performer Tiny Tim was strangely a huge deal. His falsetto singing voice and ukulele covers of older standards—his most famous being "Tiptoe Through the Tulips"—had landed him a Grammy nomination, appearances on Laugh-In, and the admiration of the Beatles—who were such fans, they asked him to record "Nowhere Man" for their 1968 Christmas album. 

But then, on December 17, 1969, Tiny Tim starred on the most-watched episode of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show (or it was, until Carson's finale) doing something that was wholly new at the time: getting married on live television. Forty years before all manner of celebrity recorded their weddings for public consumption, the 37-year-old Tiny Tim—who was also known for his prudish, romanticized behaviors, which included calling his paramours "Miss"—married 17-year-old Miss Vicki Budinger on a set decorated with 10,000 tulips that had been imported from Holland. After the 6-minute ceremony, the couple sat down for a toast and a chat with Carson.

At the time, it was the highest-ever rating for a talk show, pulling in 45 million viewers. For comparison, Kim Kardashian's highly publicized 2011 wedding to Kris Humphries only drew 4 million viewers, and the American audience who tuned in to watch Prince William marry Kate Middleton was just 23 million. In the 1960s, the relatively low-key, immensely dull Tiny Tim wedding audience was second only to the moon landing.

Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki divorced eight years later, after having a daughter named Tulip and living apart for several years. Looking back, Miss Vicki told the Chicago Tribune she doesn't regret the famous wedding. "I was just a kid, thinking, 'This will be fun,'" she said in 1995. "And it was."