Based on a Truly Gay Story 

Forty years ago this summer, two momentous events happened just 100 miles apart, but they might as well have been on different planets. Now the Brokeback Mountain filmmakers have adapted Elliot Tiber’s memoir, Taking Woodstock, and imbued Woodstock with the spirit of Stonewall in a controversial new film -- and it’s a comedy. 

BY David Colman

August 04 2009 11:00 PM ET

KELLI GARNER, DEMETRI MARTIN, PAUL DANO TAKING WOODSTOCK X390 (KEN REGAN) | ADVOCATE.COM
   

Still, for all of
the festival’s good points, and for its coincidental
timing with the Stonewall rebellion, Lee says he’s
aware that the demographics and values of
Woodstock’s attendees had very little overlap
with those of the gay rights movement. Only this year, in
the revival of the 1967 free-love Broadway hit
Hair, has the character of Woof been rewritten
to be clearly gay. And only recently did the
musical’s cocreator James Rado reveal that he
and his writing partner for the show, Gerome Ragni,
were lovers in the 1960s.

Over breakfast in
a posh West Village café the morning after Gay Pride,
Tiber recalls that when the film was completed, Lee and
Schamus organized a screening for him. Schamus and Lee
waited outside the screening room for Tiber, and after
he exited with his face wet with tears, they asked,
“Don’t you like it?” Tiber remembers.
“I said, ‘Are you kidding? It’s so
beautiful and so moving and so touching.’
That’s when they told me that they were
grateful to tell this story of this gay man with all these
problems who not only survived but came out on top and
changed the world.’”

At the end of the
film, Elliot, played with wonderful restraint and
subdued eccentricity by Martin, bids adieu to his parents
and heads off to San Francisco, the land of Harvey
Milk and the future of the gay rights movement. In
real life Tiber bought a Cadillac and moved to Los
Angeles to get a job in the movies. The film’s
rendering of him is certainly less flamboyant than the
true-life man. Sure, the truth is more real -- it
always is. Though the anger of Stonewall and its bricks and
bottles are not in the film, its spirit of liberation is
very much felt. As if answering a call, the anarchic
joy of Woodstock swoops down to bestow a kiss on a
lonely gay frog prince, and it sets him free. However
you slice it, it’s an awfully nice fairy tale.

Tags: film

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