Clifford M. Lavin

View Original Notice ? Clifford M. Lavin

wanted to tell his own story…from the heart!

upon a time, at Michael Reese Hospital, on the near North side of Chicago a
baby was born. Cliff Lavin…me!

(From a surname which was originally from a place name meaning “ford by a cliff”
in Old English) was born on May 15, 1947 to Lorraine Klasky Greenwald, a high
school dropout, part time artist and at one point, a professional dancer in
nightclubs and even in a modern dance troop that toured South America on a
state department culture exchange before World War II. My biological father was
Arthur Greenwald, a solder in the war and later a college poetry professor at
the University of Chicago for his entire career. They were divorced when I was
six months old. I saw him at weekend visitations until I was six and then he
disappeared out of my life until I hired a detective to find him some 40 years
later. But that is another story! 

early years were spent in Chicago. My first memories of life were at about
3.  I recall the beach, our street
(Sheridan Road) and the studio apartment in a very old brownstone tenement
building where my mother lived close to her parent’s one bedroom apartment next
door. I would like to say their choice was due to the housing shortage after
the war, but that was not the case. They were a very poor family and I recall
there were three or four similar families living on the floor with a single
bathroom at the end of the hall. My mother later recalled the building would
not even qualify as a welfare level housing today.

When I
was five, my life changed forever. She remarried in 1952. His name was Ira L. Lavin,
from a very successful family (his father, George Lavin, was the Assistant
Attorney General for Illinois) and he was a partner in an advertising agency in
Chicago at the time. We moved from a tenement on Sheridan Road to a
four-bedroom apartment with a doorman on the gold coast of Chicago overlooking
Lake Michigan. Talk about a culture shock; that was quite a week! 

1959, while living in the frigid climate of the upper mid-west, my mom became
ill and the doctor said living in Michigan was killing her and if she did not
move to the desert, she would be dead in a year. I recall really liked living
in the desert.  I got to ride horses,
shoot guns and enjoy the pool…what was not to like! The weather was hot in the
summer and delightful in the winter. Ira adopted me when I was about 16.

high school, I decided to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson because
most of my friends were going there. Working my plan, I attended and graduated
in four years, May of 1969. Then world events caught up with me!

Viet Nam war was raging and I was declared IA upon graduation and sent for a
draft physical.  At the physical I was
determined to be 4-A (the new version of 4-F) since a few years earlier I had
broken a bone in my right foot by dropping a metal beam on it while sailing in
Newport Beach with a friend’s parents. Not realizing it was broken, I never had
medical treatment and that caused the break to poorly heal. In fact, it causes
me problems to this day!  I know the
exact day of my physical July 20, 1969 because it was the day of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first landed on the Moon.
I remember walking out of the draft board processing building and looking up at
the full moon and thinking that someone was looking back for the first time in
history. Very cool!

that rather major and potentially life altering issue out of the way, I proceeded
to get married on August 30, 1969 to a girl I had met my sophomore year of
college, Marilyn Jean Shafer from Tustin California. Life is filled with
moments where paths diverge.  We go left
or right and life changes forever.  As I
get older I often wonder if those moments are planned by some unknown power or
fate or just random after all.  I guess
we will never know!

lived in Tucson for a year following graduation and worked as a bank
trainee.  I was very unhappy in Tucson and
with my job. I researched schools and discovered the American Graduate School
of International Management was in my own backyard. I applied and was accepted
for the fall 1970 class. I quit my job and Marilyn and I packed a U-Haul and
headed to Glendale.

loved Thunderbird as it was called for short. 50% of the students were from
overseas in an era where Arab Sheiks and sons of South American dictators were
the myths of movies and not classmates who you shared lunch with! I was living
my dream. I stayed two years and earned an advanced degree.  Following graduation, I started working with
my father at the family business that he owned with Dick Van Dyke (the movie
star), the local NBC affiliate KXIV radio.

the four years at KXIV, I was recruited away to become an account executive at
the new Phoenix office of Foote, Cone and Belding, the second largest global
advertising agency.

time in my 20’s and early 30’s was an era of discovery. I discovered I had gotten
married too early. Divorce was in the wind, but not without having a child
first.  Michael James Lavin was born in
1976 to Marilyn and I. I really liked the parental role of dad. By 1980 when I
was 33 years of age, I had moved to a one-bedroom apartment at the local
Oakwood in Phoenix, filed for divorce and was reaping what I had sown. Healing
from a failed marriage takes time and effort. The one constant through it all
was work and I threw myself into it with renewed vigor.

1981 one of our biggest accounts, the Valley National Bank agreed to shoot a
series of commercials that were quite dramatic starting Tom Bosley (the star of
Happy Days on television).  As fate would
have it, it was decided to both edit and produce the music track in Chicago. I
flew out a few days early to visit a distant cousin and once again my life
changed forever.

fate reaches in to take control and change your life forever, everything becomes
surreal. I recall the plane was two hours late. 
I recall a storm. I recall it was a cold February evening.  I recall fog, a cab, a streetlight, a buzzing
lock release at the door and then climbing the stairs to my cousin’s second
floor flat on Addison Road next to Wrigley Field.  I recall meeting a beautiful friend of my
cousin who was staying over since she lived in the suburbs and had an early
meeting in the city.  And that is how and
when I met my soul mate, Carlene Szostak. As I said before, we go left or right
on our path and life changes forever. But that is another story!

months later, Carlene and I moved to LA together, she from Chicago and me from
Phoenix. We had been commuting back and forth, spending obscene sums on phone
calls each night and quickly falling in love. Even with love, the adjustment to
living with someone again took about six months and then all was well. Yes, it
took that long! I had a lot of “baggage” from the divorce from which to recover!
Not the least of which was the often uncomfortable relationship between Michael
and Carlene, which seemed to resolve in about the same time span.

shock is at times overwhelming; the huge city, the new relationship, Mike
adjusting to the move and suddenly finding myself in the spotlight at the new
job in LA at Della Femina, Travisano, a famous advertising agency. I settled
in, or so I thought.

again, fate had other plans. The same recruiter who brought me to LA called and
asked me to interview for a top-secret job at a company who would not even
identify itself for the interview.  He
asked me to go as a favor to him.  I did
and following the five-hour interview at a hotel, I returned to my office. I
was hardly seated at my desk when he called and asked me point blank, what the
“hell” I had said in the interview. The way he said it I thought I had screwed
up royally and was about to apologize profusely when he went on to say “they
want to hire you now, have asked me to run references, start the contract
negotiation and lastly, do not want to see ANY other candidates.

story short, the company turned out to be Mattel, the Barbie and Hot Wheels
folks. The top-secret invention? We named it Intellivision. I was there for two
years, played a key role inventing the billion-dollar video game industry, met
Bill Gates, negotiated with Steve Jobs personally and became business friends
with the “Woz.” But that too is another story!

leaving Mattel I joined a large real estate company owned by a billionaire (we
met at the NFL Pro-Bowl in Hawaii where I was Carlene’s date) and together (his
money, my management) we started five companies, the last of which we sold to
GE Capital. I did not enjoy the “GE” culture and decided to leave when my
contract was up. 

was very good to Carlene and me.  We
married in 1984 with friends and family all around us, bought and fixed up a
great house a mile from the beach, found fun employment and made good
friends.  We even had three dogs, Max,
Shelby and Snickers, our famous or should I say infamous Chocolate Lab.

the best thing that happened in California was the birth of our daughter,
Rachael Charlotte Lavin in 1989. A true beneficiary of the diverse California
lifestyle, she spoke Spanish before English, took surfing lessons from champion
surfers and was personally known at “Good Stuff” our favorite hangout on the
beach! Quite a life!

that point in 1996, Carlene and I had settled into the routine that the “good
life” tends to provide. Then our world was turned on its side. I was offered a job
by General Motors to start a similar company funded by GMAC. The problem…it was
in Horsham, Pennsylvania and we would have to relocate to a suburb of
Philadelphia.  Once again, fate took a
hand and there was a gang shooting in a park in our neighborhood in
California.  Also, Rachael would have had
to go into a private school and Carlene did not like the choices.  So we moved literally in two months. Rachael
has still not forgiven me!

purchased a beautiful home in Doylestown, about an hour North of Philadelphia
and settled in. [email protected] Block (Carlene’s employer in California) refused to let
Carlene resign because of the move east and she was able to work from the house
reporting directly to the CEO in Kansas City. 
Rachael began to make friends and really enjoyed new her teachers at a very
good series of local public schools.  

I then
retired…that lasted a week!  Carlene threatened to divorce me if I did not
stop calling her at work, Rachael was in school all day and all my friends had

A week
later I was having lunch with a friend who was at that time the Chairman of a
large bank corporation and he asked me to start a new venture for them.  I
did that for three years; we successfully sold it to a bank headquartered in
Spain and I then retired again.  This time retirement lasted two
weeks.  Again, I was bored and miserable.

decided to get a job as an adjunct Professor and teach graduate school. It was
not about the pay; it was for the fun! I found a position within four weeks got
certified and have been teaching 4 to 8 classes annually, ever since.

is where the story gets a bit stranger.  I kept getting request for professional
advise, so…long story short, I have been consulting ever since. 

now I am working with one of the largest not-for-profit insurance trusts in DC,
a technology company in NJ, and my most interesting client…the State of PA. The
state has been investing millions in start-up companies to create jobs. 
With each investment they assign a board member to protect their investment and
help the founders build the company.  I have seven and they are all
cutting edge technology start-ups.  The people are terrific, appreciative
and welcoming.

the children grown, Carlene and I are now looking to the future and the next
phase.  We plan on moving closer to
family and out of the cold.  We found a second
home in Florida, but that chapter is too soon to be fully written. However, an American
Eskimo, Adelaide (Addie) has become my fur-baby and brings pleasure and joy.

here I am, retired and working 70-hour weeks…loving my life and my “portfolio”
career. As Jimmy Buffet (my favorite philosopher) states “I would rather die
while I’m living, than live while I’m dead.”

what of that illusive force that seems to have stepped in at each key part of
my life journey?  Some might say my life
has been a series of random, events, accidents of a sort.  I prefer to believe there is no such thing as
accident; it is simply fate misnamed.

for listening to my life…if you are reading this, there is probably a piece of
the above story that included you and for that I am truly grateful.

If I am gone
and Carlene is sharing this, in lieu of flowers I would love donations to be
sent to Eskie Rescues United American Eskimo Dog Rescue at

“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing
and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last
time.” -Banksy

As long as
memories and stories continue to be told all of our “second time” will never
occur. I wish you all eternity.

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