During the summer of ’69, Elliot Tiber (April 15, 1935–August 3, 2016) helped start the gay liberation movement and saved the Woodstock Festival from cancellation. But some of the best and most significant events of Tiber’s life did not happen until After Woodstock.
In this third volume of his memoirs, following the critically acclaimed Palm Trees on the Hudson and his breakout bestseller Taking Woodstock, Tiber chronicles his hilarious, madcap, and often heartbreaking adventures in the entertainment industry. Guided as much by chutzpah as by his creative drive, Tiber travels around the world, always looking to grab the brass ring. And everywhere he goes, from Hollywood to Brussels, Tiber makes his indelible, irreverent, unique mark.
Along the way, Tiber meets the celebrated Belgian playwright and director André Ernotte. Over the course of his decades-long relationship with Ernotte, Tiber realizes his potential as a humorist and writer, and finds a way to cope with his difficult mother, whose second wedding in the hills of Israel gives new meaning to the Wailing Wall. The relationship is tested by the AIDS crisis and a string of professional disappointments, but ultimately endures the test of time. With Ernotte, Tiber finally learns the true meaning of love.
A passionate and joyful evocation of a very different time, After Woodstock reminds us how the search for love and meaning drives us forward.
"Tiber picks up where he left off in Taking Woodstock (2007) . . . this memoir scans Tiber's life progress since that August weekend in 1969 with a fair degree of adrenaline ('I barreled through the Midwest like a man with his pubic hair on fire'), cogency (despite the wild chronicles of all the recreational intoxicants and late-night, leather-bar sex) and straining-at-the-leash humor . . . Tiber writes about [his] life with unvarnished intimacy . . . His political and literary high points are balanced by the low points of breakups and the AIDS epidemic, captured with dazed immediacy. Tiber squeezes life for all it is worth, ringing out the last quarter of the 20th century with the offbeat, at-times twisted humor of a survivor." —Kirkus Reviews
"A hugely entertaining story . . . [After Woodstock] is a very funny memoir that has a deep emotional core; the author, an openly gay man since the 1950s, writes movingly about his relationship with Ernotte, the devastation of AIDS on the gay community, and his own discovery of love. Familiarity with [Tiber's former book] Taking Woodstock isn't necessary to enjoy this well-written, very personal story, but it would add another layer to the experience." —Booklist
"[A] bittersweet memoir . . . Tiber delivers a wonderful account of survival while wrestling with creativity, loss, tragedy, and disconnection from traditional family values. Foreword by noted film director Ang Lee."
“There is something intrinsically appealing about Tiber's storytelling. He is a smart aleck with a zany sense of humor, full of quips and one-liners. A great deal of the focus here is on Tiber's relationship with his lifelong partner, theater director Andre Ernotte . . . [Tiber] is very good at describing the ups and downs of their life together. He also writes touchingly about his complicated and often hostile mother, a woman he never really comes to terms with. His chapter on the early AIDS crisis in the New York City gay community is heart-wrenching -- the sense of loss is palpable . . . this memoir will draw in anyone who picks it up.” —Library Journal
"A remarkably rich series of life encounters that, quite simply, provides a rollicking good read; especially for prior fans of Tiber, who will appreciate even more depth and action in this latest addition to his ongoing life story." —Midwest Book Review
"Tiber writes in an easy, comfortable style which lulls you into hypnotically following his story . . . the story is hilarious . . . If you’re looking for a good read, pick up a copy of After Woodstock. You’ll find it hard to put down." —Out in Jersey
"Elliot Tiber is the Forrest Gump of gay memoirs. Tiber has done it all: organized Woodstock, crossed the Mafia, hobnobbed with celebs, made movies, appeared on TV, the list goes on . . . [Tiber's] got a wicked funny bone and yes, this is an appealing look at gay life from the Stonewall years forward . . . Delightful . . . If, in fact, you like a little madness with your memoir, find After Woodstock and you'll have it all." —The Bookworm Sez (nationally syndicated review columnist)
Elliot Tiber’s spirited and bestselling memoir from 2007, Taking Woodstock, cowritten by Tom Monte, was made into an acclaimed 2009 motion picture by two-time Oscar winning director Ang Lee. Its “prequel” of sorts, Palm Trees on the Hudson, was released to critical acclaim in 2011. Now comes the mammoth, 480-page After Woodstock: The True Story of a Belgian Movie, an Israeli Wedding, and a Manhattan Breakdown. Rapturous in tone and immense in detail, the book spans more than thirty years of its author's life.
Taking Woodstock may have been Tiber’s own version of Citizen Kane: just as Orson Welles was a boy wonder at 25 when he created the film, Tiber was a young 34 when his life was changed forever by the 1969 Woodstock Festival. But this is a powerful second act. It starts after the festival; after the million-plus concertgoers and the sounds of Richie Havens’ “Freedom” finally helped Tiber clip the tight strings of his overbearing tsunami of a mother. It shows an author matured, evidencing a clear grasp of literary form and structure, depicting life as art as he looks to shape the rest of life after Woodstock.
There are shades of Kerouac. The book begins and ends with Tiber driving a car, putting him literally on the road, though with a slightly freer and more discursive prose style than we have seen from Tiber before. And with a clear design that pervades the book, the first sentence (“The early afternoon sun blazed in the September sky, shining like a single spotlight on me.”) is essentially also the last sentence (“The early morning sun blazed in the May sky, shining like a single spotlight focused on the road ahead.”). If ever there was a full-circle story, this is it.
In this new work, Tiber recalls the trajectory of his life with sparkle and pizzazz. He recalls his first week on the West Coast some six weeks after the Woodstock miracle, including a stay with Jerry and Felix, two drugged-out buddies from Brooklyn living in a slightly broken-down Hollywood mansion that belonged either to 1930s actress Marie Dressler, or to the Indian actor and Jungle Book star known only as Sabu. Things are so strange there that Tiber never really knows for sure which one actually owned it.
Later on, Tiber describes a chaotic “one-day-stand” at the 1979 New York Gay Pride Parade, spent with the gorgeous but dumb-as-talcum-powder “Stevie Strong” and his small group of equally young friends. Chapter after chapter, Tiber pulls his reader in so closely that one feels utterly present. From the descriptions to the crisp and often hilarious dialogue, the narrative is a relentlessly-paced witches’ brew of highs and lows; of wit and despair.
And then, there’s André Ernotte. Aside from the continuing mass of anger and recrimination that is Tiber’s mother, Sonia (even her second marriage in Israel to a Russian widower does nothing to quell her frequent bouts of rage) the portrayal of the late Belgian director/playwright Ernotte stands out the most. One of the most unexpected delights of this book is, when all is said and done, it is essentially a warm and beautiful love story between two gay men who chose each other over all else for nearly twenty-eight years. As a couple, they are perfectly suited. Tiber describes himself as a big and sloppy dog, while Ernotte is reserved and cat-like.
With this new love by his side, there is seemingly nothing that Tiber cannot do, from a critically-acclaimed Belgian TV show to a first novel that becomes a bestseller and is turned into a film (under Ernotte’s direction). That film become a semi-finalist for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars in the late '70s. Upon his return with André from Belgium back to New York, Elliot works with André on a series of original plays, off-Broadway and elsewhere regional.
Soon, he finds himself plugged back into his years-ago connection to the Hudson Valley area when he shares his special Woodstock experience with the national press on the legendary festival’s 25th anniversary. In the middle of all this, though, something called “the gay cancer” starts to kill several of Tiber and André’s friends. The onset of the AIDS crisis in the early to mid-‘80s, revisited here by Tiber in the book through what surely must have been tear-blurred eyes, grips Tiber’s life in a way that traumatizes so many. It is only his slow return to the increased sharing of his Woodstock story that restores Tiber, like a life-filled elixir—just as André begins a rage-fueled addiction to alcohol and pills. The story of what happens to these two men, and how Elliot comes more than ever to embrace the love and trust of his younger sister Renee, will very nearly devastate anyone who has ever loved and lost.
Some readers may feel that Taking Woodstock, like the Greek dramatist Sophocles’ first play Oedipus the King, contains the truest and best of Tiber’s written work. However, just as Sophocles created a trilogy of tragedies based around the Oedipus myth with Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus, Tiber’s third memoir, After Woodstock, also brings a trilogy of sorts to an end. And so, as Oedipus at Colonus remains most celebrated for its brilliant use of language and philosophical musings about life (both its tragedy and splendor), Elliot Tiber’s After Woodstock stands proudly as this often erratic but brilliant man’s heart-filled masterpiece.
In the Foreword, director Ang Lee celebrates Tiber’s new work as “a brave, hilarious, mortifying, and heartbreaking story.” Of course one must decide for oneself if one agrees with this assessment: As with all things in our lives, it is the choice to do or not to do that defines and shapes us. Mr. Tiber’s choices, some good and some bad, are all there for you to discover for yourself. Take a stand, make a choice, maybe even change your life—After Woodstock is there, waiting to share itself with you. —Blogcritics.org
"The third volume of Tiber's memoirs . . . [he shares many] pages of anecdotes and adventures, tsuris and hubris, and more than a little desire to be a part of the 'business we call show' . . . [readers can] jump from Taking Woodstock to After Woodstock without skipping a beat . . . [After Woodstock] stands as a tribute to a relationship that endured and deepened up until the moment of [its] last breath . . ." —Vinton Rafe McCabe, The New York Journal of Books
"After Woodstock starts after the  festival, and thoroughly, exuberantly, and exhaustively tracks Tiber through every high, low, and high again of his prodigiously creative life . . . a combination of raucous chutzpah and endearing self-sensitivity . . . this is a mammoth memoir. It's like spending a week with an endlessly fascinating man who is so filled with the meat and adrenaline of his experiences that he can't stop talking . . . [and] you don't want him to . . . Tiber's recollections of the decades spent with his great love [Belgian playwright and director André Ernotte] are also poignant: In the midst of a career high, he's struck by the sight of Ernotte still plagued by creative anxieties, a hint of more tumult to come . . . [After Woodstock is a] picture of the creative union of two restless souls: endlessly pursuing their own ambitions, they made valiant efforts to ease each other's minds . . . Tiber the man loves deeply, lives frenetically, watches intently, and seems to remember every single moment in his life; there's no holding back. Tiber the writer is just as unchecked: there are lots of adrenaline-packed journeys (he's an enthusiastic traveler) and heart palpitations, lots of tears, profound losses as AIDS hits near and dear, strong ties to family that evolve and thankfully deepen. In lieu of singular, representative moments, he creates long, complete scenes: this is a maximalist narrative. But the end result is visceral and pleasurable . . . [and] liberating. An artist and a storyteller all his life, Tiber is nearing the end of a long and fruitful road, and deserves the floor. Read this for the sake of following a life well lived, a reminder that the old Woodstock spirit is alive and well in many forms." —Jana Martin, Chronogram
“Tiber writes in an easy, comfortable style which lulls you into hypnotically following his story . . . hilarious (and sad) . . . [he] expertly leads us along his Candide-like journey which lasted the nearly four decades covered by this book . . . [Tiber’s experiences are] enough to bring tears to the reader’s eyes. If you’re looking for a good read, pick up a copy of After Woodstock. You’ll find it hard to put down.” —Philly Gay Calendar
Elliot Tiber(April 15, 1935–August 3, 2016) was a gay rights pioneer who wrote and produced numerous award-winning plays and musical comedies. As a professor of comedy writing and performance, he taught at the New School and Hunter College in Manhattan. His first novel, Rue Haute, was a bestseller in Europe, and was published in the United States as High Street. The novel was made into a 1976 French-language feature film adapted and directed by coauthor and partner André Ernotte. As a humorist, Mr. Tiber appeared on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, BBC, and CNBC, as well as on television shows in Franch, England, Tokyo, Moscow, Berlin, Belgium, and elsewhere throughout the world.
Mr. Tiber's memoir Taking Woodstock, which he wrote with Tom Monte, was first published in 2007 and was soon after turned into a feature film by director Ang Lee. He is also the author of another memoir that explored his life before Woodstock called Palm Trees on the Hudson: A True Story of the Mob, Judy Garland, and Interior Decorating. In addition to his work as a writer, Tiber was a highly sought-after lecturer who appeared in many international venues. In his final years, Mr. Tiber lived in the Miami Beach section of Florida, where he continued his work as a writer; a painter; and a humorist.
Excerpt from book
"[After Woodstock] is by turns a brave, hilarious, mortifying, and heartbreaking story. In this new book, we get to see Elliot Tiber just as he has always been—a gay man who has been unafraid to stand up for who he is. This is a man who lived through the Stonewall riots, the AIDS crisis, and the slow but steady legalization of gay marriage in the United States. But much of what makes Elliot's story after Woodstock so pure and compelling can be found in the figure of Elliot's longtime lover, the late Belgian actor and director André Ernotte.
"As presented by Elliot in the pages that follow, André stands as a gentle, brilliant, and often flawed counterpoint to Elliot. Without the love and respect that he received from André, Elliot might never have become the unapologetically free and confident man I met all those years later. We watch in this book as life with André helps Elliot become a better writer, a better brother, a better friend, and a better son to a mother whom he never truly understands . . . We witness how perilously close both Elliot and André come to that terribly harmful place within —the dangerous terrain that all artists, gay or straight, must navigate during the creative process. Here, in After Woodstock, I feel that Elliot Tiber has both depicted and transcended that terrain masterfully. I remain proud to have already shared one of Elliot's real-life stories with the world, and I hope that the world will embrace these new stories as well." —from the Foreword by Ang Lee
Table of contents
1. Escape from White Lake 2. Hooray for Hollywood! 3. City of Angels 4. Oh My Poppa—and the Nine Italian Heroes 5. My French Connection 6. A May-September Romance 7. What I Did For Love 8. To TV or Not to TV 9. Getting Higher, Getting Hired, Getting High Street 10. Our Magical Black Leather Breakfast Meeting 11. Super Elli! 12. Summer of Shove 13. Culture Gaps and Assless Chaps 14. An Israeli Wedding and a Manhattan Split 15. Stevie Strong and the Magical Song 16. The Play’s the Thing 17. The Gay Plague 18. Woodstock Daddy vs. Riverdale Momma 19. All the World’s a Stage Epilogue
About the Author
Introduction or preface
The movie Taking Woodstock, based on Elliot Tiber’s first book, came out of a chance encounter at 6 AM in a San Francisco television studio. I had just finished promoting my Chinese-language film Lust, Caution on Jan Wahl’s show on KCBS. (Because of her extravagant headwear, I will always think of Jan as the hat lady, and I am forever grateful to her for giving my film a four out of five hats rating.) On my way out, I bumped into Jan’s next guest. This was Elliot Tiber, then a very vigorous seventy-something, who cornered me and thrust a copy of his new book into my hands. I am rather shy, and Elliot is a nonstop talker, and an extremely funny one, so I had no choice but to mumble something polite and take the book on my way to the airport.
The book was Taking Woodstock, and it really stuck with me—mostly because I was traveling to promote my film, and simply didn’t get a chance to unpack. The book settled near the bottom of my suitcase. A month went by, and somewhere between Bombay and Naples, as luck would have it, a mutual friend of ours, Pat Cupo, urged me to read the book. So I did. The work came across much as Elliot himself had—as a bright, rushing stream of funny stories.
Lust, Caution had been a dark and difficult film for me, so Taking Woodstock came at exactly the right moment. It was full of light, love, and laughs, a memoir about the last days of American innocence. And strangely enough, it also fit in with the movie I had just made: both were coming-of-age stories, a genre that I have continued to explore with Life of Pi and my current project.
I had a great time making Taking Woodstock and getting to know Elliot a little better. And I am very proud of the film, even if it wasn’t always understood by viewers and critics. “Woodstock” makes people think of the concert and the music, but that really was not the point of my film. What Taking Woodstock offers is the experience of actually being at the festival—the wonderfully confusing, messy, and transforming journey (and trip) that took place far from the stage.
The book you now hold in your hands is a continuation of Taking Woodstock. It chronicles the events that brought Elliot from the quiet aftermath of the festival in 1969 to that morning TV show where I first saw him. It is by turns a brave, hilarious, mortifying, and heartbreaking story. In this new book, we get to see Elliot Tiber just as he has always been—a gay man who has been unafraid to stand up for who he is. This is a man who lived through the Stonewall riots, the AIDS crisis, and the slow but steady legalization of gay marriage in the United States. But much of what makes Elliot’s story after Woodstock so pure and compelling can be found in the figure of Elliot’s longtime lover, the late Belgian actor and director André Ernotte.
As presented by Elliot in the pages that follow, André stands as a gentle, brilliant, and often flawed counterpoint to Elliot. Without the love and respect that he received from André, Elliot might never have become the unapologetically free and confident man I met all those years later. We watch in this book as life with André helps Elliot becomes a better writer, a better brother, a better friend, and a better son to a mother whom he never truly understands.
At the same time, we also see through the prism of this decades-long relationship all that can rock and ruin your sense of identify and self-worth, and everything that happens whenever you let the outside world too close to the hidden comfort of your dreams. We witness how perilously close both Elliot and André come to that terribly harmful place within--the dangerous terrain that all artists, gay or straight, must navigate during the creative process. Here, in After Woodstock, I feel that Elliot Tiber has both depicted and transcended that terrain masterfully. I remain proud to have already shared one of Elliot’s real-life stories with the world, and I hope that the world will embrace these new stories as well.