Taking Woodstock: Then and Now

FilmInFocus' Nick Dawson delves into what happened to the real life characters behind the Woodstock after the festival ended.

Elliot Teichberg

THEN: Elliot Teichberg was the manager of the El Monaco Motel and President of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce. He pitched Michael Lang the idea of bringing the Woodstock Festival to Bethel, and housed many of the festival staff at the El Monaco.

NOW: After Woodstock, Elliot Tiber (as he is now known), moved to Paris. There he wrote the novel Rue Haute. The book was made into a movie in 1976 by Tiber's partner, Andr'e Ernotte, also called Rue Haute, which was selected as France's official entry for the Academy Awards. Since moving back to the US, Tiber has taught creative writing at the New School, and art and design at Hunter College and the New York Institute of Fashion and Techology. He has written about his Woodstock experiences in Knock on Woodstock: The Uproarious, Uncensored Story of the Woodstock Festival, the Gay Man Who Made It Happen, and How He Earned His Ticket to Freedom (1997) and 2007's Taking Woodstock (written with Tom Monte).

Michael Lang

THEN: Lang, then just 24, was the co-producer and organizer of the Woodstock Festival who coordinated with Tiber to bring the event to Bethel.

NOW: Lang, who had previously organized the 1967 Miami Pop Festival and managed the band Train, remained in the music industry following Woodstock. He managed the artists Joe Cocker and Rickie Lee Jones, and also founded the label Sunshine Records, who released records by such diverse performers as Betty Davis, Billy Joel and Mississippi Fred McDowell. Lang was the force behind the anniversary concerts Woodstock 94 (which he produced with original Woodstockers John Roberts and Joel Rosenman) and Woodstock 99. He was also the associate producer on Wes Anderson's debut movie, Bottle Rocket (1996). A resident of Woodstock, Lang currently runs the Michael Lang Organization, a company that creates shows and movies, as well as managing artists. Among the many projects in the pipeline for MLO is a Broadway musical based on the events surrounding the original Woodstock Festival. Lang's memoir, The Road to Woodstock, was released by Ecco earlier this summer.

Artie Kornfeld

THEN: Kornfield was the co-producer and organizer of the Woodstock Festival. He and his friend and business partner Michael Lang had shortly before joined forces with Joel Rosenman and John Roberts to form Woodstock Ventures, Inc., the company that conceived and bankrolled the festival.

NOW: In the wake of the festival, Artie Kornfield was known as "The Father of Woodstock," however he was already a legendary figure who was remarkably president of Capitol Records at the age of 21 and by the age of 24 had written more than 75 Billboard hit songs. When Max Yasgur's farm was sold in 1973, Kornfeld helped stop it from being built on. For the past 40 years, he has spoken tirelessly about the festival in an attempt to keep it and its spirit in the public consciousness. Kornfeld hosts a weekly radio show entitled Spirit of Woodstock Nation, and his autobiography, The Pied Piper of Woodstock, will be published later this year. Kornfeld's official home on the web is http://www.artiekornfeld-woodstock.com/.

John Roberts Co-producer, Woodstock Ventures

THEN: The co-producer of Woodstock Ventures, John Roberts bankrolled the Woodstock Festival along with his business partner Joel Rosenman.

NOW: The hope of all of the Woodstock Ventures partners was to use the profits from the festival to set-up a recording studio in Woodstock, which was then the epicenter of the folk music scene and counted Bob Dylan, The Band and Jimi Hendrix as local residents. However, the festival's cost ballooned and Roberts, the heir to the Block Drug fortune, had to bail the festival out personally. "It was a nightmare--I wrote a lot of bad paper that weekend," he said in the aftermath of Woodstock. Roberts' family ultimately came up with the money he'd spent on that one legendary weekend. After Woodstock, Roberts and Rosenman remained partners, but stayed well away from anything with music or festivals for a long time, instead making their crust buying out struggling companies. Roberts, also a world-class bridge player, died of cancer in 2001, aged 56.

Max Yasgur

THEN: Yasgur was the accommodating farmer friend of Elliot Tiber's who allowed the festival to be held in his fields.

NOW: The combination of the inclement weather that hit the festival and the tramping of 200,000 music fans did considerable damage to Yasgur's farm, and in 1970 he received a $50,000 settlement. In 1972, when he sold the farm, he was a cult personality, a symbolic figure who showed that anybody could embrace the hippie ethos regardless of age or background. Yasgur appears in Michael Wadleigh's Woodstock documentary (when he warmly addresses the crowd during Joe Cocker's set), and "Yasgur's farm" was namechecked in a number of songs, including Joni Mitchell "Woodstock." He died aged 53 in Marathon, Florida, in 1973, after suffering heart problems, and remains the only farmer to ever get a (full-page) obituary in Rolling Stone magazine.

Wes Pomeroy

THEN: Pomeroy was the ex-WWII Marine, ex-cop and former Assistant Attorney General in Lyndon B. Johnson's administration who was head of security for the Woodstock Festival.

NOW: In the wake of Woodstock - where there were only two (accidental) deaths among the 200,000 attendees - Pomeroy said, "I think I would discourage anyone thinking about putting on another one. When you get that many people together who want to use drugs and take off their clothes, it is impossible to enforce the laws against those things." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wesley_Pomeroy] Nevertheless, he subsequently did more music-related work, acting as security chief on the U.S. tours of bands like Led Zepplin, before becoming the chief of police of Berkeley, CA. In 1977, he was appointed to the Drug Abuse Council by President Jimmy Carter, and after Carter left office became the deputy director of the Michigan Department of Mental Health. Pomeroy died from heart problems at the age of 78 in Miami Beach Florida. On his death, Ramsey Clark, the ex-Attorney General and Pomeroy's former boss, described him as "a loving and gentle person who worked hard, over the years, to heal the violence in our society" and "one of the few people in law enforcement whose interest and commitment was humanitarian and who understood that security depends finally on love not force."

Chip Monck

THEN: Edward Herbert Beresford "Chip" Monck was a well-established music industry figure who was the stage lighting and technical director as well as, most memorably, the Master of Ceremonies at Woodstock.

NOW: Monck, one of the most colorful and cheerful figures in the music biz, went on to work at the ill-fated Rolling Stones at Altamont, where he lost teeth in a fight with a Hell's Angel who was trying to steal the stage carpet which Monck had co-designed. (Monck stayed with the Stones, working on some of the U.S tours in the 1970s.) Other landmark events Monck was involved with include the Ali-Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" fight, the first run of The Rocky Horror Show (for which he was Tony nominated), the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and Pope John Paul's mass at Dodger Stadium. Monck, who has an official website at http://chipmonck.com/, currently lives in Australia and is still working.

Mel Lawrence

THEN: Lawrence was Director of Operations for Woodstock Ventures, and was in charge of the festival site as a whole.

NOW: New York resident Lawrence, who had previously worked on the Miami Pop Festival with Michael Lang in 1967, segued from music to film, becoming a movie producer specializing in ethnographic documentaries. He produced Godfrey Reggio's seminal Koyaanisqatsi in 1982, and subsequently produced two more of Reggio's projects, Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002). As a director, Lawrence made PahaSapa... The Struggle for the Black Hills (1994), a documentary about the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Indians' quest to regain sacred land in South Dakota from the U.S. government, and The Amazon Warrior (1996), about a Kayapo Indian trying to salvage his native rainforests.

Penny Stallings

THEN: Stallings was Mel Lawrence's administrative assistant at Woodstock, whose tasks included managing the checkbook.

NOW: Stallings moved sideways from an administrative role on the sidelines of popular culture to entertainment critic and historian. In the late 80s, she spent a period of time as a correspondent on PBS' MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, and has made a name for herself with a number of books on popular culture. Her gossip-heavy tomes include Rock 'n' Roll Confidential (1985), Forbidden Channels: The Truth They Hide from TV Guide (1991), and Flesh and Fantasy (1989), a behind the scenes book on Hollywood co-authored with Howard Mandelbaum. More recently, she has written The Very Best of "Friends" (2002), a book on the popular TV sitcom, and Cowboys, Killers, and Cotton Candy Blondes: Celebrated Screwballs, Eccentrics, Loonies, Political Extremists and Demagogues of Texas (2004).