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The Gay Man Who Saved Woodstock—A Life in Three Memoirs, and the Woodstock History You Never Knew

The Gay Man Who Saved Woodstock—A Life in Three Memoirs, and the Woodstock History You Never Knew

Posted: 2019/06/20

"Elliot was part of the magic of Woodstock. Without his phone call bringing me to Bethel, Woodstock might never have happened, and for that I am eternally grateful." —Michael Lang, Woodstock Ventures co-founder as quoted in The New York Times'  obituary of Elliot Tiber (1935–2016)

Garden City Park, NY: June is LGBT Pride Month, and with the fate of the Woodstock 50 festival still undecided and the world on the brink of total cosmic chaos, we all could do with a little laughter and happiness. Well, another word for "happy" is "gay," and a lot of laughter can be found in the life—and books—of Elliot Tiber, the late great gay man who saved Woodstock from cancellation fifty years ago in the sleepy town of Bethel, New York.

Before he passed away at age 81 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida due to stroke-related complications back in August 2016, Elliot Tiber had done a great many things in his varied and often quixotic life. During much of the 1960s, he was a successful New York City interior designer. He has also been, both in the US and Europe, a filmmaker; a playwright; a humorist; a college professor; a best-selling author; and, as a proudly gay man, an activist for LGBTQ rights throughout the world.

In the summer of 1969, his life intersected dramatically with the Stonewall Inn riots in New York’s Greenwich Village (where he took part in what became known as the Gay Liberation Movement) and the legendary Woodstock Arts & Music Festival. The iconic concert might never have taken place at famed Yasgur’s Farm up in Bethel, New York if Mr. Tiber had not offered festival producer Michael Lang the crucial legal permit that allowed him to stage the event. These two pivotal moments in Tiber’s life were the focus of his first book, Taking Woodstock, which was also made into the acclaimed same-name film by two-time Oscar winning director Ang Lee released ten summers ago.

The "Tiber Trilogy," as the books are known unofficially amongst the "squares" at Square One—and of which Taking Woodstock is the middle titleis also comprised of both a "prequel" memoir, Palm Trees on the Hudson, and a "sequel" memoir titled After Woodstock (with a richly appreciative Foreword by Ang Lee).

Both Palm Trees on the Hudson and After Woodstock will be released this summer in first-time audio productions narrated by Chicago, Illinois-based veteran actor/director and voiceover artist Edwin Wald. (Tiber was portrayed in Ang Lee's 2009 film by multi-faceted comedian Demetri Martin.)

If the new PBS Woodstock doc is any indication, it would seem that Elliot's vital and life-loving part in what made the 1969 Woodstock Music & Arts Festival so special and so fun has been swept under the proverbial rug. By recalling him and his unique role in world history as "the gay man who saved Woodstock," we hope that folks both gay and STR8 will want to take a good look at his hilarious books and remarkable life.