Garden City Park, NY: June is not only LGBTQ+ Pride Month—it’s also the centennial June 10th birthdate anniversary of a woman named Frances Gumm . . . a.k.a., Judy Garland.
Add to these marvelous commemorations the annual trip back to the 1969 Woodstock Festival that so many take each August, and what do you get? The weird and wonderful life story of late great gay rights pioneer and "Woodstock Daddy" himself, Elliot Tiber, as told across his three critically acclaimed memoirs published by Square One and known unofficially as “The Tiber Trilogy.”
Tiber, who passed away at age 81 back in August 2016, was memorialized wonderfully both by the "newspaper of record" New York Times (click here to read) and also The Miami Herald since he had moved from his beloved New York City down to Miami in his last few years (click here for that appreciative piece).
While the first memoir in the “Trilogy" was turned into the acclaimed 2009 feature film Taking Woodstock from two-time Oscar winning director Ang Lee, and the "prequel" Palm Trees on the Hudson won 2020’s IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for "Best Audio - Nonfiction," it seems the best was saved for last with release of Tiber's swan-song masterpiece, After Woodstock.
Gifted with the subtitle The True Story of a Belgian Movie, an Israeli Wedding, and a Manhattan Breakdown (we always had fun when Elliot would send us his Absurdist ideas for subtitles!), After Woodstock is often as poignant as it is hilarious.
We wanted to share a short excerpt from After Woodstock. It is a scene from Chapter 4 (“Oh My Poppa—and the Nine Italian Heroes”), in which Elliot has his last moments with his dying father in an upstate New York hospital. The great Woodstock Festival of the Summer of 1969 did much to bring father and son together as Elliot stepped forward both to save the near-cancelled festival with his legal permit for a concert in Bethel, New York—and to announce himself to the world as a proudly gay man. The scene below takes place a year later in early summer 1970, and Elliot must say good-bye to his dying father . . .
[Excerpted from After Woodstock (c) 2015 by Elliot Tiber. Used by permission of the publisher—us.]
“I stayed at the hospital with Pop all night that Monday, hoping he might wake up again. Early the next morning, as the sun was starting to rise, I woke from a brief nap. I quietly positioned my chair so I was closer to his bed. I sat by his side and talked to him. I tried to awaken him a bit by enclosing his hands in mine. I had never had an opportunity to really hold my father’s hands before, so I cherished the moment. Pop was lying there in front of me, in a hospital bed with all manner of scary-looking equipment and tubes attached to him. The doctor had told us it would be pointless to speak to Pop, since he was now in a permanent coma and could not hear us or make any kind of response. Still, I held his hand and told him everything about myself, as I never had been able to do in the past. I told him that I was gay, that I did not believe in God, and that I could never forgive my mother for all her cruelties throughout the years to him and to me. Then I told him that I hoped he would still be proud to have me as his only son.
As the words came out, I began to choke up. I whispered, “I wish I’d been a better son, Pop. You will always be in my heart. If this is your time, don’t be afraid to let go. I’m here.” Then his seemingly lifeless hand grasped mine. It was not the vise-like grip I had known growing up, but it was a grip nevertheless—an acknowledgment, perhaps, of having heard me.
A moment later, he took a very deep breath, let it out, and stopped breathing. I knew he was finally at peace. No motel to worry about, no debts to pay, and no Momma barking out orders. I kissed his forehead and wept, my face resting against his chest for the first and last time.”
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With this coming August standing as the annual Woodstock Festival anniversary, you may want to give a listen to an interview done a few months back by our own Anthony Pomes along with our trusted "Tiber narrator" Edwin Wald, in which they celebrate Elliot's memory and talk about the upcoming release of After Woodstock in audio (due out this Fall 2021). To hear/see the interview, click here or below:
After Woodstock is now being finalized for audiobook format read by Edwin Wald, and should be out by end of this summer.
So here’s to a good summer for ALL of us, whether we find ourselves over the rainbow—or under it.