Think Woodstock was all peace and love? Sure, but it also involved lawyers, mobsters and a few assorted pieces of B&D gear.
Tiber, né Eliyahu Teichberg, lived two lives in the ’60s: Although he was a well-regarded mural artist whose “paintings were also displayed in galleries and sold,” by day, he helped his parents run a fleabag motel in the Catskills, and by night he haunted the gay bars of Greenwich Village, falling into the arms of the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe and other rough men. “People with whom I had sex always pretended that they didn’t know me when they saw me in the light of day,” Tiber sighs in a characteristically self-doubtful moment. To trust his account, he was on the scene when, faced with yet another police raid, a barroom full of gay men and women decided to fight back. Regrettably, Tiber’s account of the famed Stonewall Riot is less than glancing. Just so, his reminiscences concerning the detour the Woodstock Festival of 1969 made from Woodstock proper to Max Yasgur’s farm outside Bethel—the site of that fleabag hotel, coincidentally—are disjointed and sometimes incoherent. The storyline, though, is of great interest to collectors of rock trivia and history, and it speaks less to the power of flowers than to that of greenbacks: Yasgur’s escalating demands for cash; festival organizer Mike Lang’s beatific grooviness amid trips to the bank with satchels full of cash; and the arrival on the scene of shady characters with drugs to sell, among other parasites. Clearly, though, Tiber had a good time amid the logistical headaches of hosting a million-plus visitors, even if his momma caught him kissing boys (“I am ashamed of you and Woodstock,” she says toward the end of her life, to which he rejoins, “Some things never change.”) and his neighbors threatened to kill him for ruining their bucolic and apparently inbred retreat.
Indifferently written, but a tale worth hearing.