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Hollywood remembers Vernon Scott

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Feb. 22, 2003 at 9:46 PM   |   Comments

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Scores of film and TV professionals gathered in Los Angeles Saturday to honor UPI Hollywood reporter Vernon Scott, who died at 79 of cardiac arrest last November.

Speakers at a memorial service at Skirball Cultural Center -- including Oscar-winning actor Charlton Heston, singer-actress Connie Stevens and legendary comedy writer Hal Kanter -- recalled Scott with affection, humor and respect. The service also attracted some of Hollywood's leading publicists -- people Scott always preferred to call "press agents," as they were known when he became one of the most respected and widely-read Hollywood columnists of the past five decades.

The affection expressed for Scott by these entertainment veterans made it difficult to tell whether their relationship with him was based on professional, friendship or family ties. Mostly, it seemed to be all of those rolled into one.

Kanter -- one of the most prolific comedy writers in Hollywood over the past five decades -- emceed the service for Scott, who he called "one gifted newspaperman you would always trust with the truth."

Stevens -- best known as the star of the TV detective series "Hawaiian Eye" -- said Scott always treated her kindly when he interviewed and wrote about her.

"He taught me that loyalty is possible in this business," said Stevens. "I will miss him and we will all miss him. He was truly one of a kind."

Heston, who disclosed last year that he had been diagnosed with symptoms consistent with Alzheimer's disease, made a rare public appearance to speak of his old friend.

"He was a good friend and a very, very good writer," said Heston. "If you knew Vernon was going to do a piece about you, you knew it would come out well."

Heston said he always enjoyed interviewing with Scott.

"Every time was a pleasure," said Heston. "Every time was an amusement. And every time, I came away knowing a little more about movies than when we started."

Scott was, in a way, a featured player at his own service -- appearing in a series of clips from interviews he had given to TV interviews doing segments on Hollywood celebrities.

In one clip, he recalled what a regular guy Clark Gable was. In another, he described how Humphrey Bogart would handle himself in a fight, relying on bodyguards to finish up if he couldn't handle it himself.

In one clip, Scott said -- perhaps surprisingly -- that he didn't like movies much.

"Still don't," he said. "But I do love beautiful women, and where else will you find so many beautiful women as you will in Hollywood?"

Jim Bacon, long-time entertainment writer for the Associated Press, remembered that Scott was in the habit of leaving Hollywood parties at an early hour, giving Bacon the chance to scoop Scott when news broke in the wee hours. After one such scoop, Bacon said Scott's editor at UPI ordered Scott not to leave parties as long as Bacon was still there.

After that, said Bacon, Scott showed up at a party with a hand-lettered sign that said: "Bacon go home."

"I always had great respect for Vernon as a columnist," said Bacon. "He was a real pro. From what I could see, Vernon was a good father and a good grandfather -- but most of all he was a good guy."

Nanette Fabray -- who co-starred with Fred Astaire in "The Band Wagon" and with Sid Caesar in TV's "Caesar's Hour" -- said Scott was "an absolute true gentlemen" and a gifted interviewer.

"This whole town can call him a friend," said Saul Turteltaub Saul Turteltaub -- who produced such TV hits as "Kate & Allie," "Sanford and Son," "Love, American Style" and "That Girl."

Vernon Scott IV -- known to family and friends as "Four" -- expressed the family's appreciation for the kind words offered by the day's speakers.

"In a town noted for a short attention span," said the younger Scott, "I can't tell you what it means to us to know that he hasn't been forgotten. My father loved you all very much and I think this afternoon would have made him very, very happy."

The service concluded with a slide presentation of moments from Scott's personal and professional life, accompanied by what Four said was a musical favorite of his father's a Scott Joplin rag that had been the main theme of the Oscar-winning 1973 movie "The Sting."

The slides show Scott interviewing celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan and Bob Hope. One extraordinary image showed Scott with Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Dean Martin.

There were also images of Scott enjoying time off from the Hollywood beat with his family, including his 5-year-old grandson Oliver -- who Four said had been an especial light of Scott's life.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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