Little did Hollywood publicist Scotty Dugan, 52, know on Wednesday, Dec. 21, as he climbed onto his bike to head to the North Hollywood train station with a pro bono press release and song he’d composed in memoriam for the funeral of tragically murdered music producer John Atterberry, that he would never complete the ride.
Bystanders at the station saw him grab for his head in pain and immediately collapse. Although paramedics worked to revive him, he died 10 minutes after arriving at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, CA at 11:30AM. In a way, however, it seemed typical, if not almost fitting that one who had always served others first, was doing that very thing even at the moment of his death.
The response was instantaneous and profound as family, friends and professional associates from L.A. to Boston could not believe the news. But then, a life cut short always evokes pain from those closest, but somehow this was different. People he’d only seldom met found themselves struggling for balance.
Though Scotty, as he was known in LA, worked at the highest levels in a cutthroat business as an editor at the Hollywood Reporter, a publicist for top stars like Barbara Streisand at Levine/Schneider, and as an executive assistant in the highest (CEO, CFO, COO, CIO) offices of Disney even spearheading a technical Oscar campaign for several studios, he also loved serving those independent filmmakers and actors who really couldn’t afford his world class skills.
Through his signature PR company, Dugan & Story (named for his grandmother Catherine Story) he gave independent movies like: “Clipping Adam”, “Midnight Reckoning”, “The Hungry Woman”, “The Desperate”; breaking actresses like: Emily Grace (“What Alice Found”) & Jenn Gotzon (“Frost/Nixon”); independent film festivals like “The 168 Film Festival”, and early years of the MOVIEGUIDE® Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala & Report to the Entertainment Industry publicity, news headlines, and TV coverage they never could have afforded during their early years. As a devoted student of cinema, he brought a contagious enthusiasm and a unique and demanding script analysis format to inspire upcoming filmmakers to the level of excellence that he’d always demanded of himself.
Actress Jenn Gotzon, a client and friend, reminisced that:
“Scotty had a passion that fired in his heart for story. That story was told through journalism in press releases, news articles and press photography. Scotty was the most uniquely creative person I’ve ever met with an entrepreneur mindset and creative vision backed by the most solid industry wisdom.”
John David Ware, President of 168 Hour Film Festival, added:
“Scotty was a true friend … always ready to listen and dig in with both hands. He was passionate beyond the capacity of most people. His work was of the utmost quality… He was one of those thinkers that is so far outside the box that you wonder where it comes from.”
People had to get their regular fix of this renaissance man. His insatiable curiosity and creativity led him to compose new songs, hold “A” class parties, snag amazing deals on Ebay, advise others on the intricacies of buying fine men’s suits, hang out with famous new people, tirelessly work on finishing his film equipment truck, rebuild a V-6 head block, research hot new topics, and make arrangements to skipper a tuna boat off New England. To the rest of us “muggles” who barely could keep our heads above water with necessities, he was that source of news and stimulation you could never get on cable.
Even when economic times were tough, no one ever heard him complain, blame anyone else, or ask for a handout. And while he never wore it on his sleeve, he was a steadfast believer in the gospel, and lived that out in the way he selflessly helped others.
Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher of MOVIEGUIDE, reflected:
“Scott Dugan was a force to be reckoned with. Not only did he have strong convictions and a clear vision but he also tackled every subject with intense gusto. Scotty always had time for humorous philosophic and ideological discussions. He had a passion for God’s kingdom and a passion for liberty.”
Judi Johnston Vankevich, known as “Judi The Manners Lady” added:
“What a thrill to see Scotty work that “red carpet” and yet he was just as comfortable serving in a soup kitchen or giving money away to someone in need.”
Like the ever-giving-to-a-fault George Baily from “It’s a Wonderful Life” Scott may not have ended his life with fame and riches, but boy did he have friends, and a man who has friends is never poor. In fact, he may just have crossed the finish line as “the richest man in the world.”
Certainly, his friends were rich for having known him. In his zest for living and giving, he reminded us that maybe, just maybe, we should worry less about the destination and more about the journey. And for those who took the journey with Scott, it was always an adventure.
As we all enter the New Year, we may do well to consider the dictum that Scotty seemed to live by as he publicized others over himself, “There’s no telling how much good you can do in this world, if you’re not concerned about who gets the credit.”
(A wake and funeral service was held on Jan. 3 and 4 at Cota Funeral Home in North Reading, and a memorial service will be held in mid-January in Hollywood – see Scotty Dugan Tribute in Facebook)