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'Taking Woodstock' fascinating memoir of man behind the festival

Saturday, September 14, 2013 - 12:01 am

Editor's note: This week's Page Turner reader interview is with Terry McCaffrey, executive director of the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana.

“I have been reading 'Taking Woodstock,' by Elliot Tiber. It is a fascinating memoir, and it was directed as a movie by Ang Lee. The author is well-known.

“This is the story of a man, the son of Russian immigrants, who owned a resort in the Catskill area, which was really rundown, and he tried to save his parents from disaster. The resort was near Bethel, in upstate New York. He was introduced to a man with beautiful pastureland. He needed to get a permit from the Chamber of Commerce – for a mid-August concert.

“The townspeople tried to stop it, but there would be a need for far more rooms than the hotels had and the farmers could be making money renting space. People lined up for the concert; about 500,000 people were there in upstate New York for three days and in dreadful weather.

“People wouldn't leave. They were running out of food and water – but not drugs! Janis Joplin, Richie Havens – those are just two of the many stars who performed. The crowd went crazy. Many people couldn't get close, but they could hear the music. The promoters stayed and cleaned up when Woodstock ended – and it was a very good thing for the townspeople. I saw the book on a bookshelf and decided to try it. I am so glad I did. I was just 13 at the time but had always heard about it.

“Before that I read 'Strange Bedfellows,' which was like something clumsy written for television. It takes place in Washington, D.C., and is about people trying to break into offices, climbing through transoms, having to shed clothing – and stuff like that. Not a great book

“About favorites: I remember loving (J.D.) Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye.' It was so right at the age when I read it and had teenage angst. It made sense. (George Orwell's) 'Animal Farm' is another favorite with its social commentary. I never liked reading Shakespeare, but I liked seeing it performed. You could hear the rhythms, the language. I never acted in any of his plays, but I was in 'The Rivals,' by (Richard Brinsley) Sheridan. That had Mrs. Malaprop and crazy use of the language. It was hard to memorize, but then became more than just words. And I must mention 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' by Harper Lee. I read it in the '60s, and the stuff was so raw – and fresh in the news. And the protagonist stood up for what he believed right.”