I lost a good friend this week, Clem Taylor. The world lost a “good” man and a great storyteller. Clem was an award-winning producer for 60 Minutes, no doubt his dream job. Clem loved “the news” and he loved “the story” and had a long and rewarding career in broadcast journalism. Looking around the room yesterday, at an overflowing crowd of people, I saw many icons of the industry. It was like the “who’s who in broadcast news”. Clem’s stories have touched millions of people over the years. He was a connector of people and a curious lover of life. His life threw a large net.
I’ve known Clem for over 40’s years. There aren’t many people in my life that I’ve known as long as Clem. Clem was a family friend of Tom’s from Doylestown, PA. I met him in the early ‘70’s, when was I was living in Santa Barbara, California. Tom’s brother Tim had driven out to the West Coast with Clem and his BC college buddy, Steve Kolbe during spring break one year. We always stayed in touch with Clem, he made sure of it, and my mind is full of memories of the times that I got to spend with him. He always brought a smile to my face.
In a way, meeting Clem was a huge twist of fate in my life and Tom’s and it led to the “big break” in our careers. When we moved back to the East Coast after graduating from Brooks, Clem connected us with his father, Adrian Taylor. Adrian had also just gone “back East” after living in the San Francisco area and working as an art director in advertising. He had taken a job as art director of Travel & Leisure Magazine in New York City and Clem, knowing that Tom and I wanted to shoot for magazines, made the connection happen. That connection changed the course of our lives in a richly rewarding way. With Adrian’s encouragement and his willingness to take a chance on two young kids straight out of school, we learned and grew under his mentorship. That first meeting with Clem was a fateful day.
The thing is, what I remember most about Clem is that I always had a good time with him. He was fun to be around and incredibly interesting to have a conversation with. I have a lot of memories of Clem that have accumulated over the years but it’s the simple and sometimes silly ones that seem to surface in my head. But isn’t that what life is made of – the everyday moments? Clem knew that and his stories reflected that.
As I get older, I realize that life is all about our connections with people. Some of our connections may be short lived and some may last through the years, but I’m sure that each person who enters our lives is meant to play their part. Yesterday, I saw a lot of old friends who I hadn’t seen in decades. We all “caught up” on those missing decades and shared regret on letting the years slip by. But we shared a connection through Clem and always will.
The last line in one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life, is a quote by Mark Twain: “No man is a failure who has friends”. Clem, you’ve got George Bailey beat as the “richest man in town”.