By Lisa Janssen
Martin Sharp, who is referred to in various bios as pop artist, songwriter, cartoonist, et. al., was one of those figures who pop up in a few odd places at the right time, and make a bit of history. He paints a famous album cover, and an iconic poster, makes a film starring Tiny Tim, but never becomes a household name.
After hanging in Swinging London with Eric Clapton and David Litvinoff, a gangster who worked as an advisor on PERFORMANCE, Sharp hermit-ed out in his home country of Australia, where he made a really, really weird film called Street of Dreams.
Sharp had a lifelong obsession with Tiny Tim. He designed costumes, produced a record, and became close friends with Tiny. His other fixation was Luna Park, an old amusement park in Sydney. He spent over a decade and all of his money fusing these two muses into the most crazy looking documentary ever: Street of Dreams, release date, in dispute, ca. 1980s.
In 1976, Sharp orchestrated an opportunity for Tiny Tim to break the World Record for Non-Stop Singing at Luna Park (in which he succeeded in two hours and fifteen minutes). The film cuts between Tiny’s performance, the amusement park, and interviews with Tiny in which he espouses his life’s philosophy and unconventional views on women. He will only spell S-E-X in conversation, and avows a compulsion towards cleanliness. In one scene he is filmed drinking in a dumpy hotel room with two working girls, unaware of any contradictions.
Visually, the film is utterly psychedelic, informed by Sharp’s insane use of vivid color and editing. There is beauty and horror in both Tiny and Luna Park; Tiny with his pancake make-up and delirious voice, and a the amusement park in all of its creaky, clowny glory.
The film feels like a fever dream. But for a few it became a nightmare, when reality marched in during filming and turned the story upside-down. In 1979 a fire broke out on the Ghost Train ride, and developers who wanted to get their hands on the waterfront property were suspected. Seven people died.
This, mixed with Tiny’s mad marathon singing, and the creepy carnival scenery, makes for the most personal film I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen a documentary that lives so deeply in the insular world of the artist’s soul. And the strange mind-meld between Tiny Tim and Martin Sharp, whether conscious or not, is truly moving.