Palm Trees on the Hudson: A True Story of the Mob, Judy Garland & Interior Decoratingby Elliot Tiber
Palm Trees on the Hudson is the hilarious prequel to Elliot Tiber’s bestseller Taking Woodstock. Before Elliot found financial success by bringing Woodstock Ventures to his upstate motel, he was one of Manhattan’s leading interior designers. Then Elliot’s career came to a halt due to a floating society party, Judy Garland, and the/i>/i>
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Palm Trees on the Hudson is the hilarious prequel to Elliot Tiber’s bestseller Taking Woodstock. Before Elliot found financial success by bringing Woodstock Ventures to his upstate motel, he was one of Manhattan’s leading interior designers. Then Elliot’s career came to a halt due to a floating society party, Judy Garland, and the Mob.
In April 1968, Elliot was hired to throw an elegant dinner party aboard a luxury yacht on the Hudson River. Included on the guest list were New York’s rich and famous—politicians, financiers, and even Elliot’s icon, Judy Garland. The big night arrived. But when a fight broke out, resulting in the destruction of everything including rented palms, Elliot’s event turned into financial disaster. Things couldn’t get any worse—or so it seemed until the Mob paid a visit.
By turns comic and tragic, Palm Trees on the Hudson is the take-no-prisoners memoir that gives readers a more intimate look at the man who went on to fight back at Stonewall and who helped give birth to the Woodstock Nation.
"Palm Trees on the Hudson flows so lyrically it should come as no surprise to learn that Elliot Tiber has also written and produced musical comedies . . . This is a story that talks about the alienation gay people experience in youth, adn the issues many of us go through with our families in terms of acceptance."
"Exceptionally well-written . . . [a] rags-to-riches-and-back-again riveter."
"Thought-provoking, fun, meaningful, educational, and historical . . . supremely fantastic writing."
"[Carries] the weight of social history. Among a dwindling number of first-person accounts recalling urban-American life before the great liberation movements found their voice. Tiber has a way with a tale . . . a surprising read for all."
"[A] whopper of an anecdoteone that most surely has earned [Tiber] rapt attention, shocked laughter, and thunderous applause at many a dinner party table during these last 30 years. That Tiber is himself quite a character is a given. He is the genuine item, the real deal."
"[A] hidden gem . . . Tiber, who once dabbled in stand-up comedy, tells a good story, and his recollections of Manhattan society and being gay in the 1960s are priceless . . . [Palm Trees on the Hudson is] very much worth the look. Once you start this book, you'll have a dickens of a time putting it down."
A young man's coming-of-age amid the glitzy backdrop of mid-20th-century New York.
Mesmerized by Judy Garland's performance inThe Wizard of Oz, a young Tiber (Taking Woodstock, 2009, etc.) became enthralled with the actress, as well as the possibility of discovering an Oz-like wonderland beyond the silver screen. Unfortunately, the author's brooding father and overbearing mother created an atmosphere void of yellow brick roads. Despite his troubled childhood, Tiber endured, navigating through an array of failed entrepreneurial misadventures before finding his talent as an artist. At 18, he left home and discovered Oz amid the gay community in Greenwich Village. He underwent a drug-addled sexual awakening, at one point confusing a bowl of pills for "some kind of Hawaiian M&M[s]" and marijuana cigarettes for those "made of tobacco." Tiber landed a flurry of commercial art jobs before agreeing to teach art history at his alma mater, Hunter College, placating his mother in the process: "If her fat, ugly son couldn't be a rabbi, a doctor, or even a dentist, at least he could be an art professor. That she understood!" The author continued his ascent up the professional ladder, trading his teaching job to become the interior decorator for New York's elite. A mutual acquaintance led him to Charley Gross, the proprietor of the Crystal Room nightclub who, in desperate need of a party planner, turned to Tiber for help. The party—a raucous, violent and generally disastrous boat cruise along the Hudson River—drew A-list celebrities, including the author's hero, Judy Garland, who reminded the transient Tiber that "Home is whatever's in your suitcase and wherever you hang your hat. Contrary to the movie, it ain't in Kansas." Her advice resonated, particularly as the author's life abruptly changed when Gross and his mob associates refused to foot the $17,000 party tab as promised. A humbled Tiber was forced to choose between selling his prized possessions or facing mob retribution, a choice far more difficult than readers may imagine.
A humorous tale of one man's quick rise to fame and even faster fall.
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Palm Trees on The HudsonA True Story of the Mob, Judy Garland & Interior Decorating
By Elliot Tiber
Square One PublishersCopyright © 2011 Elliot Tiber
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJudy and the Free Dish
The movie house went dark, and I found myself watching a girl who seemed not much older than I was. Within minutes, her tiny dog was taken away from her, a storm separated her from her family, and her weathered farmhouse was ripped from the earth and spun around like a top. The events in this girl's stark black-and-white world were happening so quickly and were so alarming that I felt tearful and afraid. But then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the screen lit up in dazzling Technicolor, soft music played in the background, and the girl's world became one of enchantment. Dorothy Gale was in a beautiful sunlit land far away from her home in Kansas—and far away from mine in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, too. She was in the Land of Oz.
Dorothy sang and danced her way through her magical new world, caught between a desire for adventure and a hunger for her safe and loving home. I was totally absorbed in the movie, hypnotized by the story and all the strange and exotic characters. No one in this film looked like the people who trudged down the crowded, dreary streets of Brooklyn. Instead, Dorothy—clad in a gingham dress and gleaming ruby slippers—skipped down a shining yellow brick road accompanied by her faithful dog, Toto; a talking scarecrow; a lovable tin man; and a cowardly lion. I wanted so much to follow her, to be one of her new friends, to share in her journey.
The Wizard of Oz captivated me as no film had before. Like every child, I was entranced by the songs, the colorful costumes, and Dorothy's thrilling adventures. But the movie also spoke to me in a very personal way. When Dorothy sang "Over the Rainbow," I was spellbound not only by her beautiful voice, but also by the longing and hope she expressed. Like me, Dorothy felt out of step with her everyday world and dreamed of a trouble-free home where she would be loved, accepted, and happy. Could it be that the longed-for world actually existed for me as well, far away from my real-life existence of screaming parents and family arguments?
To say that the movie had a profound effect on me would be an understatement. For the first time in my eight years of life, I felt a connection to another person. Maybe it was a childish crush, or perhaps it was simply the fact that this girl dreamed of a better place and actually found it. Whatever it was, the few hours I spent in the theater couldn't have been a more enjoyable experience—except for the woman sitting next to me, nudging me with her elbow throughout the movie, saying "Elli, stop shuckling around in your seat, you're gonna drop the plate." The woman was my mother. For me, Elliot Teichberg, going to the movies every week was an escape from the lunacy I called home. For Momma, however, it was all business.
With the war raging in Europe, movie theaters were hard-pressed to pull in paying customers during the week. In an effort to attract more patrons, especially women, they began to offer a free dish on certain evenings. When the old Metro theater, a rundown former vaudeville playhouse, began its Plate Night promotion every Tuesday, the giveaway was not lost on my mother. Each week, a different dish was handed out. Sometimes it was a soup bowl; other times, a dinner plate. Every once in a while, the hard-to-come-by gravy boat was offered. Hundreds of different pieces were given away, one piece at a time, enabling frequent moviegoers to acquire a massive set of dishes.
For Momma, this was an opportunity to cash in. She didn't care very much about what was playing at the theater. For her, it was a simple business transaction. On Tuesday nights, she took me to the Metro, and on Thursdays, she took my youngest sister Renee to another local theater that had its own Plate Night. Children under ten got in for free, so for the price of just one ticket, mother got two dishes. What did she do with them? That was the beauty of it. She arranged them in the front window of her housewares store, where she would sell them to women who were hoping to complete their own partial sets or to those ladies who didn't know you could get the dishes for the price of a movie ticket.
For me, it was a perfect arrangement. Momma got what she wanted, and I enjoyed a temporary escape—a place where I could lose myself for a couple of hours. Of course, I quickly learned how to hold onto a dish without dropping it, but that was a small price to pay. I wasn't about to give up my Tuesdays at the movies because of a broken plate.
I knew that Momma couldn't care less about what I was feeling. As soon as a movie ended, she would pull me out of my seat, abruptly breaking the spell cast by the story. But tonight, not even Momma could drag me out of Oz. The sights and sounds of this movie filled my head. Sure, I had a box of magic tricks at home and a magic wand that I had made from a twig I found in our garden. But not even with the sparkling glitter I'd glued on did it compare to the magic I saw in the movie. My box of tricks didn't sing and dance; it didn't transport me to an enchanted world. After seeing The Wizard of Oz, I could never enjoy that box of nothing again.
In 1943, I knew practically nothing about Judy Garland other than how she moved me as the character of Dorothy, but I was instantly smitten and hopelessly hooked. I knew I would always have a special place in my heart for her. What I couldn't have predicted was how she would become an icon for the gay community, which had yet to loudly and proudly announce itself to the world. Nor could I have guessed the impact she would have on my own life as a gay man and artist. But we'll get to that later. For now, let me start my story by introducing the Teichbergs of Brooklyn—a family not so much over the rainbow as over the cuckoo's nest.
Chapter TwoMeet the Teichbergs
My parents were among the millions of Jewish immigrants who fled Eastern Europe in hopes of a better life in America. Momma and her large family of fifteen brothers and sisters managed to escape extermination by precious seconds as Cossack soldiers burned their tiny village in Russia. They stuffed potatoes in their pockets and fled through the heavy snowdrifts by foot, finally reaching the seaport. Sadly, only Momma and three of her brothers could find room on the ship that transported them away from their homeland. The rest of the family would perish in the cholera epidemic of 1910.
Pop and his family of eight left Austria right before the beginning of World War One and also headed to America, land of dreams. They would settle in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, a largely Jewish community of immigrants who spoke Russian, German, and Yiddish—often at the same time. My dad's father, Yunnel, was a roofer, and that skill came in handy whenever the old thatched roofs in the neighborhood needed work. The Teichbergs had brought some money from their homeland and purchased a three-story brownstone from which Grandpa Yunnel could run his roofing business on the ground floor, while the family made its home on the two upper floors.
My dad, the oldest of six children, worked alongside his father and learned the roofing business. The money that he and his father made went to send his sisters and brothers to college. They all became professionals—two lawyers, a dentist, an architect, and a pharmacist. My father's siblings looked down on him because he was a laborer. As a result, he almost never spoke to any of them.
My parents met in Brooklyn at a social function held by a local community group. Since there were so many Jewish immigrants in Borough Park and the surrounding neighborhoods, social events were held so that everyone could meet, socialize, and speak Yiddish—all in an attempt to marry off their children. Such was the case with my parents. Old photos showed that Momma was once stunning, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the 1920s "It" Girl, Clara Bow. Pop, to my eyes, was as handsome as Errol Flynn. They were married in 1919, despite my father's parents' strong and repeated objections to their son's choice of a mate. Looking back now at the matrimonial example my parents set, I find myself ever more in favor of arranged marriages.
Dad's proven trade skill, developed at a young age, was beneficial since he was able to start his own roofing business immediately after the wedding. Momma, meanwhile, worked as a seamstress in the garment district of lower Manhattan. At home, she quickly assumed the role of money manager for the family based upon two simple economic principles: Spend as little as possible, and if you ever have to spend, always pay below cost. Fortunately for my parents, they were able to keep working even as the Great Depression took its toll on most Americans. As a result, Momma saved up about three thousand dollars—a good deal of money in those days, and enough to buy a large private house in Bensonhurst, where I was born. The previous owner had apparently committed suicide somewhere in the house, so when the bank foreclosed on the property, there were few potential buyers interested in a "bad luck" house. With or without luck, Momma purchased the place at a third of its value.
It would be easy to call the Teichberg house a "nondescript" stucco one-family structure. However, it was descript—it was really ugly. The house had a main floor with a living room, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom. Upstairs were three bedrooms, and above that, an attic. There was no sense of style inside or out. But whatever the interior lacked in design was obscured by the mishmash of furnishings. Rhyme, reason, color, and fashion had no bearing on Momma's arrangement of furniture. If it was free—or, at least, didn't cost very much—and if my father could fix it, it soon found a place in the house. If I had to come up with a style, I would say "Early Salvation Army Rejects."
The house came with a large finished basement, which Momma rented out to a lovely black couple. The man worked as a bookkeeper, while the woman cleaned homes. They were kind, friendly, well-dressed, and knew how to fix up an apartment. In other words, they had all the qualities my parents seemed to lack. While my parents were always cordial to them, during the ten years they spent living in our home, I overheard Momma telling my dad that she was worried they might steal from us. "Steal what?" I thought. There was nothing in that house that anyone would want to take!
* * *
It was in the giant stucco house that my parents started their family. First came my sister Goldie. Four years later, my sister Rachelle arrived. I was born nine years later; and two years after that, my baby sister Renee joined the party. Yes, there were now six of us living in the middle of Brooklyn, a borough best known at the time for Coney Island, Nathan's hot dogs, and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Our neighborhood, Bensonhurst, was made up of a crowded mass of brick-and-stone buildings and houses that formed a city within a city. Unlike the more elegant avenues that lined Manhattan, there was a hodgepodge of two-story buildings, each of which had a store on the ground floor and dreary apartments on the second level. An expansive mix of private houses were also strewn about every which way, wherever the rows of stores ended. Immigrant Jewish families that had settled in New York made up most of the local population. Many of these families had earned enough money to escape the poverty of Manhattan's Lower East Side, where most of the immigrants had gathered in the early years of the twentieth century.
In the middle of this busy enclave, Momma found an investment opportunity. On the corner of Seventieth Street and Twentieth Avenue, there sat a two-story house with two rental apartments and a storefront. The price was right. The rentals would pay for the upkeep of the building, and Momma could then start a business. The store was located on a corner with display windows on either side. It sat catty-cornered between a grocery store and a candy store, and was a short walk from our house. My dad built shelves along the walls, and near the front door was Momma's Holy Grail—the cash register. It was ancient, but it held the money. The store would be Momma's own hardware and housewares store where she would sell anything even remotely related to the home.
So when I was born, this store was apparently to be my birthright, or at least my home away from home. When I was little, Momma would drag me there and leave me to my own devices. So with fanciful abandon, I would rummage through the merchandise. In the basement of the store were floor-to-ceiling boxes filled with all sorts of things—pots, pans, dishes, paints, and all manner of knickknacks. It provided a lot of possibilities for a young child. In the store, I liked to throw down can openers, pots, screwdrivers, potholders, and especially light bulbs. The bulbs would make this loud pop! sound as they hit the store floor, and this sound resonated with me enormously. Momma and Pop, on the other hand, were not pleased. To Momma, those breaking bulbs sounded like precious coins being flushed down a toilet, and to Pop, they were a prelude to Momma's braying scream. This would be followed by the thwack! of his trouser belt slapping my toddler bottom.
Sometimes, when the store was busy, Momma dumped me onto a keg of nails as she rushed to make a sale. I turned that into another game that I enjoyed immensely. Basically, I would toss fistfuls of hardware across the floor until some busybody customer hustled over and told me, "Do not throw the nails on the floor, little boy!" The well-meaning buttinsky would then inform Momma that her cute little boy was throwing nails all over the floor. Momma's response? "Lady? You want to buy nails? If you ain't buying nails, get away from my son!" Suffice it to say that she did not possess good customer relation skills.
As I got older, I progressed from playing in the store to working there. Even before I was tall enough to reach the cash register, Momma felt that I should busy myself by putting nails in a bag or placing merchandise on some of the lower shelves. While this provided more of a purpose to my activities, it did not provide me with any reward because Momma didn't pay me for my labor—not even an allowance. Although business was brisk, Momma's desire to make money (and keep it) far outweighed any wish to make her son feel appreciated. She was the epitome of frugality and practicality, and to her, it was not practical to pay her son when he would work for nothing!
Momma's store was run seemingly without rules and without any discernible sense of organization. No items were marked with prices. Whenever a customer showed an interest in something, Momma dreamed up a price on the spot. When my father and I unpacked stock, we just shoved it onto the shelves. Sometimes Pop simply cut off the box top and placed the carton outside on the sidewalk. Strangely, few things were ever stolen. Perhaps the neighborhood criminals were scared of Momma. I know I was.
Hanging around the store didn't bother me, since I was not inclined to spend much time playing with the other kids. Unathletic and socially awkward, I had few friends, and filled most of my hours by spinning about in Momma's store or, on weekends, helping Pop with the roofing business. Growing up, I just assumed every kid had an after-school job that spilled over into the weekend.
Momma managed to squirrel away the money from her store, from Poppa's roofing business, and from their property rentals. Any gifts we received, any household items that neighbors left on the sidewalk, and anything that the rest of us found on the street immediately became salable merchandise for her shop. Momma was ready to sell almost anything, and I sometimes feared that our dog, Sandy, would literally become the doggie in the window. Sure, Momma had her tender and understanding side. For instance, she would let me keep any string I found around the store so I could make a ball from my findings. More often than not, though, Momma claimed we had no money for such luxuries as comic books, games, chewing gum, birthday presents—even new clothes. She had no problem asking neighbors and relatives if they had hand-me-down clothes for her children to wear. We led a meager lifestyle, but somewhere, Momma had piles of cash. And of course, I had a sixty-pound ball of string!
Excerpted from Palm Trees on The Hudson by Elliot Tiber Copyright © 2011 by Elliot Tiber. Excerpted by permission of Square One Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Elliot Tiber is a gay rights pioneer who has written and produced numerous award-winning plays and musical comedies. As a professor of comedy writing and performance, he has 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 has 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 is a highly sought-after lecturer who has appeared in many international venues. Mr. Tiber lives in the Miami Beach section of Florida, where he continues his work as a writer; a painter; and a humorist.
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Palm Trees on the Hudson is Elliot Tiber's beautifully crafted story about how he came to himself in the most interesting of times. A young, very talented gay man growing up with an overbearing over typical Jewish Mother one can't help but laugh and cry at the same time. Watching him come to grips with a strong talent and fantastic humor and dealing with the ups and downs of trying to make a life for himself with the deck stacked against him. Just when everything seems to be going well, Momma takes on a new project which promises to drain him of his new found independence. As he struggles to overcome this, his ongoing successes suddenly come to a screeching halt when the dream party he throws brings him first face to face with his idol, Judy Garland, and then complete disaster when the mob sticks him with their bills! In this wonderful prequel to Taking Woodstock, Elliot Tibor outdoes himself with a simply great period piece that anyone gay or straight who lived in those years, or knows anyone who did will not stop until the book is finished. A quality read and fun all the way through!
Elliot Tiber tells of his life growing up in Brooklyn with a domineering mother and a submissive father in this quirky memoir. It also explains how he survived his upbringing to escape to the go to college and become a decorator and also a motel owner. The funny (not laugh out loud) vignettes of life in Manhattan, the people he meets, especially Judy Garland and situations he gets himself into makes this a entertaining book. Its quick read into the eccentric mind of this author.
Elliot Tiber (AKA Eliahu Teichberg) has the gift! He can take a story about his life, embroider it with many truths and then provide scatological filigree on riffs that include social mores, New York lifestyles, Judy Garland etc and come up with a novel (AKA memoir, because it is almost all true) that rivals some of the famous authors of this ilk - Armistead Maupin, for example. He had us at 'Taking Woodstock' so where does he go from that smashingly successful book? Well, back to the earlier episodes of his life - from birth to age 35 just as his Woodstock escapade was about to happen. We learn about Tiber's childhood, under the influence of his dominating mother, was filled with terrific little asides about sibling rivalry, the family business, his utter infatuation with Judy Garland in THE WIZARD OF OZ, and his leaving home for school. He journeys into Greenwich Village and begins a career in 'the arts' of interior decorating - a haven for a lad who finds fellow gay friends and is able to start a career of significance. The main story in this collection of tales is the party he stages on the Hudson River attended by his idol Judy Garland (ah!) and paid for by a mob boss - who reneges on payment in a very Humphrey Bogart setting, leaving our hero forced to live in the family motel - and then some. Elliot Tiber writes so well that once a reader begins this little outing it stays in the hands and mind until the final cover closes. It is a bright little book with many aspects of desire, the need for human kindness, and a big dollop of fantasy. Grady Harp
"'Baby, let me tell you about home,'" quips Judy Garland, Elliot's spiritual mentor and a long-standing icon of the gay rights movement in America. "'Home is whatever's in your suitcase and wherever you hang your hat. Contrary to the movie [i.e. The Wizard of Oz], it ain't in Kansas. Home is wherever you want it to be." Only later does the true meaning of these words come home to Elliot, whose exceptionally well-written memoir, Palm Trees on the Hudson, tells of the lead-up to, and the crash back down after, a birthday bash for a member of the Mob that he arranges on board a dayliner on the Hudson, at which Judy is the chief draw card. In this rags-to-riches-and-back-again riveter, Elliot tells of his triumph over the endless carping and discouragement of his mother, by means of his working his way up from the position of what was little more than a window-dresser to being one of the leading interior decorators and designers in New York City. The emotional upheavals of his life take the backstage to a focus on the development of his career from working as a relatively low-paid employee for a city store to where he owns his own highly successful business, only to have that come toppling down when his main client pulls out from paying him a dime for what he regarded as the crowning point of his career. Back at home base, he is forced to rethink the reasons behind the demise of his going concern, and, despite, or perhaps because of, the negative impact of his mother's ongoing criticism, he at last is able to appreciate the full meaning of Garland's words. Elliot's constant longing for a soul mate is still left unfulfilled at the end of this work, only to be realized in his later work, but the pivotal relationships of his early life and burgeoning career are fully explored. The importance of friendship and family are fully expressed in the closeness that he feels to his younger sister and the gratitude that he shows to supportive clients. The humor that prevails throughout Palm Trees on the Hudson makes this both an entertaining and an enlightening text. The soul-searching to which Elliot subjects himself makes this a particularly worthwhile text for all of those interested in, and affected by, the gay lifestyle. Elliot Tiber has both written and produced numerous award-winning plays, musical comedies, television shows, and films. As a professor of comedy writing and performance, he has taught at the New School University and Hunter College in Manhattan. Palm Trees on the Hudson: A True Story of The Mob, Judy Garland & Interior Decorating is the exceptionally entertaining prequel to his bestselling memoir Taking Woodstock, which is now an acclaimed motion picture from director Ang Lee.
Elliot Tiber has done it again! It took me two days to finish "Taking Woodstock" and the same two days for "Palm Trees on the Hudson." Mr. Tiber has a knack for drawing you into his life, and making you feel good that you didn't have his mother! You travel the journey of Mr.Tiber's ups and downs as he travels through life in a time when it wasn't so easy to be gay, but then again is it ever? As the world is being tormented by hate crimes, this book underscores the fact that being different isn't always accepted, not even by one's parents. Mr. Tiber pays tribute to the talent of Judy Garland, yet reminds us that even celebrity doesn't make you happy. You travel a well written journey in which Mr. Tiber tries to find his Emerald City and sometimes he questions if there is no place like home. You are treated to the night that people only dream of, meeting their idol, in this case Judy Garland. Mr. Tiber has you rooting for him from start to finish. This is a perfect book to forget your troubles with, because he has enough for you! I am an avid reader and really enjoyed this easy read.
It's very rare after reading a book that a reviewer would like to write a review that's just as many pages as the book, itself. This is one of those very few cases when the book was so thought-provoking, fun, meaningful, educational, and historical, that I want to put everything into this review so that readers won't miss one word of the supremely fantastic writing that was done here. Of course, then I have to remind myself that there are wonderful places like Amazon out there for readers to "dial up" immediately and acquire every unforgettable word for themselves. And, trust me, that is exactly what you should do for this wonderful title. Mr. Tiber is a bestselling author already with his fantastic memoir, Taking Woodstock, which was turned into a motion picture by the incomparable Ang Lee. With this memoir, Elliot Tiber takes us back to his childhood in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. When he was eight-years-old, Elliot remembers sitting in the local theatre on "Plate Night" and staring up at the screen listening to the remarkable Judy Garland preach to him about going "Over the Rainbow." This was the first time in Elliot's life that he believed there was a "somewhere" out there in the world for him and, with enough work and belief, he could eventually find his very own Oz. One of the more difficult things he ran up against was his family; his mother was an immigrant from Russia who fled to America for a better life; his father raced from Austria before WWI, for the same. When Mom and Dad met in Brooklyn, they began to live that American dream - purchasing a home and running a housewares business. Unfortunately, their arguments were extremely difficult on Elliot and his sisters. The one upside for Elliott that, perhaps, was the first step in his creative career, was when he "lost" himself one day and painted a mural on his mother's nice, clean walls. She was beyond upset, but when her lady friends came over and raved about the beautiful painting and wanted to pay Elliot to do the same in their houses, Mom turned the other cheek and was very proud that her son could bring some money into the household. Soon Elliot turned eighteen and ran like heck to Manhattan, leaving his angry family behind, calling it Operation Run Like Hell. Readers are then taken into the world of Greenwich Village in the 1950's where Elliott is surrounded by names such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Washington Square Park is close by where art shows are numerous, and it feels to Elliot as if he's found his own Emerald City.almost. Through the years, romances, friendships, jobs, parties - everything grows larger and larger as Elliot takes one bite out of life after another. From his first job in a department store, where he holds the new invention called a staple gun and decorates all he can, to a lavish birthday party aboard a Hudson River dayliner that he was hired, where he once again heard the fantastic voice of Judy Garland, but this time real and in person, every chapter is filled with amazing places and truly unforgettable people. Quill says: The details that are offered in this book make the scenes literally come alive inside the reader's mind. The power that Judy Garland had over his life is incredible, and it's not a reach to say that this man's "voice" has a power all its' own. His words most definitely can reach out to others who need a friend to convince them that they, too, have an Emerald City to shoot for.