Clifford S. Tinder, formerly the Senior Vice-President of Playbill, passed away August 16 at the age of 66. Playbill CEO & President Philip S. Birsh offers a heartfelt tribute to the writer, musician, and publishing executive, reflecting on their decades-long friendship and working relationship. Read the complete obituary for Clifford S. Tinder by clicking here.
I first met Clifford Tinder at a Lincoln Center function. I briefly was allowed a moment to talk to him, forcing my way in between all his admirers in all the Center’s departments. I jealously watched him be greeted and share warm moments and inside jokes during the cocktail hours. I was an interloper at the event. A man trying to unseat Stagebill from Lincoln Center after they dared to infringe on Playbill’s Broadway territory. I saw Stagebill differently from that day forward. All my meetings with Lincoln Center had been fruitless. They all liked my proposal but all wistfully commented they couldn’t do that to Cliff. One member of the board at Lincoln Center suggested I buy Stagebill and preserve Cliff’s job.
My father was a cautious man, and he, too, had met Cliff before. He was angry about the Stagebill incursion in our market but wasn’t sure what we could do. I announced we were going to buy Stagebill. He rightly exclaimed I was crazy and that we couldn’t afford it. I agreed, but I told him that Stagebill wasn’t a company. It was a person. We both said in unison, “Cliff!” I was certain that if I could hire Cliff, I could get Lincoln Center. And that is exactly what happened. And, we got everything else including the Stagebill trademark.
Over our almost 20 years together, Cliff and I worked closely together conspiring, creating and delivering Playbills for all the Classic Arts venues in New York and across America. It was a lot of fun. I called Cliff Gromyko after the one and only Andrei Gromyko. A man that served every Soviet Premier and First Deputies from Stalin in 1946 to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. Tough, malevolent, murderous Soviet leaders came and went, but there was always Minister of Foreign Affairs Gromyko. Throughout his over three decades of relationships at Lincoln Center, administrations came and left but when it came to the all-important program, there was Cliff, our Gromyko, always on the inside and a trusted confidante of those in power.
His influence was so pervasive and his work so complete, I successfully was kept from speaking to anyone at Lincoln Center for his entire Playbill career. Probably a good thing.
Cliff and I went fishing together. I was proud of my rod and reel casting. I thought I could land a lure on a picnic blanket out 15 yards. When Cliff quietly brought out his favorite fly-casting rod, I quickly became certain he could land his fly on an ace of spades floating in a stream. We caught a lot of fish.
Cliff was a man of many interests and talents. His main focus was his loves Patti and Camille. I am certain they knew it. I will miss Cliff. Our Playbill family will never be the same.
—Playbill CEO & President Philip S. Birsh