by Elliot Tiber
Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer
ONLY ON THE WEB
Charles Dickens was right. “It was the best of times,” he said, and you can identify. Surely, there was one day in your life that you’ll always think of as the Best Day Ever. Filled with happiness, wishes fulfilled, and everything right, its memories make you smile.
Then there were “the worst of times,” but you’d just as soon not think about that. The Worst Day Ever is best forgotten, quickly and for good.
But what if Best and Worst were on the same day?
Author Elliot Tiber’s was, and in the new book Palm Trees on the Hudson, you’ll find out why.
Elliot Teichberg was eight years old when he first saw Judy. She was singing to him that first time, and he wished he could join her in Oz. He was “spellbound” by her voice and by the “longing and hope she expressed.” He never forgot that afternoon.
Movies were always important to young Elliot while he was growing up in Brooklyn. They were equally important to his mother, who took the free dishes the theater handed out, and re-sold them at her store.
To say that Mrs. Teichberg was thrifty is an understatement. Born in Russia and nearly killed while fleeing Cossack soldiers, she spent her life focused on money. While that bought The American Dream, it didn’t endear her to her only son.
It didn’t help that she repeatedly told Elliot that he was “worthless.”
As soon as he could escape his family, Elliot did that—literally. With meager possessions and big dreams, he left home via the subway to Manhattan, changed his surname to Tiber, and rented a filthy “Artist Studio” in the Village. There, he hoped to find love, acceptance as a gay man, and a career as an artist.
But painting wasn’t Tiber’s only talent: he had an aptitude for display and quickly found work as a window dresser. A natural networker, he maneuvered his way into better jobs with richer clients, opened his own interior-decorating business, and branched out into party planning.
It was at one of those parties—lavish, opulent, over-the-top, and planned for a club-owning, gay-hating Mobster who just happened to know Judy personally—that Tiber had his best/worst situation.
Palm Trees on the Hudson is kind of a hidden gem. It will probably never end up on a fancy display. You’ll never find it on the best-seller list, but you’ll enjoy it as much as if it was.
A prequel to a prior memoir, this book starts with author Elliot Tiber’s childhood and meanders forth to a highlight that I’m sure is funnier now than it was 40-odd years ago. 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 may be a bit of a challenge to find, but it’s very much worth the look. Once you start this book, you’ll have a dickens of a time putting it down.
Palm Trees on the Hudson: A True Story of the Mob, Judy Garland, & Interior Decorating
by Elliot Tiber
2011, Square One Publishers (squareonepublishers.com)
Hardcover, $24.95, 183 pages
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and she lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.