Tonsils (real name unrevealed) was a young man who was recruited by the ex-racketeer Dude to become a singer. Tonsils had blond hair which he wore short on the back and sides, and swept up in front. He characterized by a heavy-lidded right eye and wide (almost bulging) left eye that gave him a somewhat manic appearance.
Tonsils and Dude[edit | edit source]
Dude discovered Tonsils while Tonsils was working at a job parking cars, and Dude believed that Tonsils' good looks and energetic style would compensate for his lack of talent. Dude had another one of his associates Irwin write a song for Tonsils ("The Rainbow Turned Muddy"). Tonsils had difficulty with the words and melody, but Dude believed that Tonsils was ready to start performing in public.
Dude took Tonsils to meet Dawson, the manager of the Club Blue restaurant. Dawson also had a criminal past, and Dude demanded that Dawson give Tonsils an audition. Dawson listened to Tonsils sing a few bars, then insisted that the two men leave. Dude shot Dawson, and he and Tonsils fled.
Dawson survived, and it was this incident that first brought Tonsils to the attention of Dick Tracy.
Dude forced Tonsils to rehearse constantly, despite Tonsils' insistence that he wasn't any good and should just go back to parking cars. Dude's next plan was to take Tonsils to a late-night radio station broadcast. He held the disc jockey Joe Noe and the engineer at gunpoint, again demanding that Tonsils be allowed to sing. Tonsils' song went out live over the airwaves, and he and Dude left afterwards.
The radio station was deluged by phone calls who were amused and delighted by Tonsils' bizarre song and singing style. Joe Noe became determined to track down the unusual singer and use him as a novelty act. Dick Tracy and the police were also interested in locating Tonsils and his agent. They recruited the beautiful television personality Dot View (from the TV branch of Noe's broadcasting company) and had her put out a call to Tonsils to come on her program.
At this point, Dude's associates Irwin and Ed had become disillusioned with Tonsils' prospects and decided to go back to their work in the meat-packing industry, which was also a front for the rackets. This left Tonsils and Dude alone, with Dude continuing to force Tonsils to rehearse. Tonsils saw Dot View's broadcast and her request for him to perform, but he could not convince Dude of what he saw. As Dude slept, Tonsils put on a recording of himself "rehearsing" and slipped away to the TV station.
Tonsils and Dot View[edit | edit source]
Tonsils met Dot View and was immediately put on the air, where he sang with his energetic style. His singing had apparently improved enough to be more than a mere novelty, and Dot saw potential in him. She arranged with Tracy and the police for Tonsils not to be taken into custody if Tonsils agreed to cooperate. Tonsils, seeing the chance for advancement, told the police where Dude could be found.
Unbeknownst to Tonsils, Dude had been murdered in his sleep by Irwin who (along with Ed) believed that Dude and Tonsils could cause trouble for them. Tracy and the police found Dude's body, but did not believe Tonsils was responsible.
Tonsils continued to perform with Dot View and the two grew closer. One night as they were leaving the TV station, their car was hijacked by Ed and Irwin, who wanted to eliminate Tonsils. They knocked Tonsils unconscious and left Dot on the side of the road miles outside of town with no shoes. They then took Tonsils to a tire yard, where they sealed him into a large tractor tire, holding it shut with wire so Tonsils could not escape. They believed that Tonsils would be killed when the tire was collected and incinerated.
Tonsils and the Family[edit | edit source]
Tonsils was found by Fifi, the pet dog of a couple that lived in a small home near the tire yard. Tonsils was taken in by the couple, a man named Gus and his wife. Tonsils, believing that he was wanted by both the police and the underworld, hid with the couple for some time. He did chores and odd jobs around the house, and gave them money so they would not reveal his presence.
Gus, who worked as a street photographer, took Tonsils' photo, believing that he had seen the younger man somewhere before. Gus eventually contacted Dot View and took her to his home. Tonsils, upon seeing Dot, became enraged. Tonsils believed that Dot was the source of his bad luck, and he was furious at Gus for bringing her. Tonsils struck Gus over the head with a glass bottle of gasoline, which broke (June 15th, 1952). Some of the gasoline caught fire and the home was soon engulfed in flames. Dot and Mrs. Gus escaped with their lives, but Gus died from Tonsils' assault.
Tonsils fled to a Deshnell's Greenhouse, located on Route 47 outside of town, where he took whatever job they would give him and slept in the engine room. He was again recognized by one of his co-workers, who surreptitiously got word to the police. By the time Tracy arrived to apprehend Tonsils, he had already been taken away.
Tonsils and Mr. Crime[edit | edit source]
Tonsils had been under observation for some time by agents of George Alpha, aka Mr. Crime. One of these agents, Panda, brought Tonsils to Mr. Crime's hideout. Alpha told Tonsils that he wanted Tonsils to kill Dick Tracy. Tonsils was threatened that if he refused or failed, he would be fed to Mr. Crime's pet barracuda. Tonsils, believing he had no other choice, agreed. Tonsils was given a map and a high-powered with a telescopic sight and left to his task.
Tonsils followed Tracy and his family to Gables Resort, a vacation spot in the North Woods. There, Tonsils observed Tracy's daily routine, learning his habits and working up the nerve to do the deed. One morning, as Tracy was taking his daughter Bonnie and Sparkle Plenty on a motorboat ride, Tonsils shot Tracy (July 30th, 1952). The bullet struck Tracy in the back of the neck, knocking him out of the boat. Tonsils believed he had succeeded and returned to the city, hoping that he would released from Mr. Crime's service.
Upon meeting with Mr. Crime, Tonsils was briefly taunted with requests to sing, before being told that he could go. As he was being escorted out by Panda, Tonsils was stripped of his clothes and thrown into the barracuda pool. Tonsils, who could not swim, was eaten by the carnivorous fish, as per Mr. Crime's orders (August 20th, 1952).
Tracy eventually recovered, and Mr. Crime read in the newspaper about Tonsils' failure.
After Newsuit Nan killed the barracuda, Tracy had its body autopsied and discovered traces of Tonsils' remains, including dental bridgework that identified him.
Appearances in Other Media[edit | edit source]
Dick Tracy Meets His Match[edit | edit source]
Tonsils was a character in the original novel Dick Tracy Meets His Match, written by Max Allan Collins. Tonsils' depiction in the novel is similar to how he was portrayed in the strip, in that he was a naive and slightly dim-witted singer who was manipulated by people around him.
Tonsils was a member of local TV star Ted Tellum's talent pool. Tonsils later agreed to let the criminal T.V. Wiggles act as his agent, after Wiggles threatened the singer. When Tonsils accepted a record contract (without seeking Tellum's permission first), Tellum publicly severed ties with the singer. This angered Tonsils, and he became a suspect when Tellum was later found murdered. Tonsils was later cleared of suspicion.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Years later, Panda would reveal that he had affectionately nicknamed the second Mr. Crime's barracuda "Tonsils", after the late singer.
- Tonsils was intended to be a major character in the unproduced original novel Dick Tracy on the Beat, which would have focused on the music industry.
- According to Max Allan Collins' introduction to The Complete Dick Tracy Vol. 14, Tonsils signature song "The Rainbow Turned Muddy When You Turned Me Down" may have been a pastiche of the song "The Little White Cloud that Cried" by Johnnie Ray.