Saturday, May 26, 2012

behind the plate

This amazingly cute photo of Mitzi in catcher's gear was probably taken in the 1940s. We don't know the location, nor do we know if Mitzi had any interest in the game. In all my years of conversation with Mitzi, she occasionally talked about her dancing days but never mentioned baseball. Obviously this photo was a set-up, and it's amusing that both offense and defense are wearing the same uniform!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mrs. Raymond Scott at 90

[This was first posted on the Raymond Scott blog, July 18, 2008]

Mitzi Scott belongs to a generation among whom it is considered improper to give a woman's age. However, we've been advised by her family that she won't mind us revealing that she turns 90 today. What we won't divulge is her birth name. Just call her "Mitzi."

Mitzi and Raymond met in July 1966—he was recently divorced from his second wife, Dorothy Collins—and they were married six months later. That Raymond was an idiosyncratic man obsessed with music and technology was a fact of their marriage. They lived together at Three Willow Park, a Long Island industrial development which Raymond was comfortable calling home. "He would come into the living quarters for lunch, and I would put his lunch on the table and go back to the kitchen to get my lunch," Mitzi recalled. "By the time I returned to the table, he was gone. He was back in the lab. "If he awoke at four in the morning and had a great idea, he would get up. Then he might work until 7:00 or 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning, and then go back to bed. One night I woke up—it was around three or four in the morning--and he was hanging over the side of the bed reading some notes, with the lamp on the floor so he wouldn’t wake me up."

Not content merely having Mitzi prepare lunch, Raymond recruited her for projects. "Even before we got married, he had me wiring," she laughed. "He taught me soldering, and to attach the red wire to the blue wire, and the yellow wire to the green wire. I didn’t like doing it—but I got pretty good at it." Of course living with Scott meant music was part of the package—although it might not be Mozart or Chopin. "We would be having lunch, with the Electronium on in the next room," she recalled. "He would just leave it on—it was a self-working machine. It composed and performed at the same time. Sometimes it would play something lovely, and I would say, 'Oh my, isn’t that a pretty phrase!' And it would repeat it as though it had heard me and said, 'Well, if you like it that much, I’ll play it again!' It was so out of this world."

When Raymond was hired by Berry Gordy to work for Motown in 1972, Mitzi oversaw the move to Los Angeles. They settled in Van Nuys, remaining in the same home on Valerio Street until Raymond's death in 1994. Two years later she sold the house and moved to Santa Clarita. Besides living with and taking care of an eccentric musical genius, over the years Mitzi also took in dozens of stray dogs and cats, many rescued from local shelters. Mitzi was a dancer in the 1940s. Here's a publicity photo from back in the day. She still dances—not professionally, but with a group of spry senior gals.  

Thanks to Bianca Bob for 1993 living room photo above.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mitzi Scott (July 18, 1918 - May 3, 2012)

Mitzi Scott passed away in Santa Clarita, CA, on May 3, 2012, at age 93. She was the widow of legendary composer, jazz bandleader and electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott.

Born Mathilde Waldman, on July 18, 1918, in New York City to Muriel and Arthur Waldman, she grew up in the city, where she started dancing at age 10, thus developing a lifelong passion.

From 1937-43 Mitzi was part of the Roxyette troupe at the famed Roxy Theater on West 50th Street. In 1943 she first appeared on Broadway, and eventually performed in the musicals Star and Garter (with Gypsy Rose Lee), Something for the Boys (with Ethel Merman), and the road company of Let's Face It (with Benny Rubin). She performed on three national USO tours, headlined by Bing Crosby, Jackie Cooper, Phil Silvers, Martha Raye, and James Cagney.

In 1946 she married Hewitt Clay Curtis. The marriage dissolved a year and a half later, after which she sold advertising for the Miami Daily News and the Long Island Star-Journal. She became a dance instructor for the world-renowned Arthur Murray Dance Studios, and then served as a District Manager for Avon Cosmetics.
Mitzi was introduced to Raymond Scott in July 1966, and they were married in January 1967. (It was Mitzi's second marriage, Raymond's third.) She lived with Scott in Farmingdale, Long Island, at Willow Park, a sprawling suburban industrial park where Scott rented a large space that he had fashioned into a home and electronics lab. Mitzi undertook the administration of Scott's businesses during a period when he was inventing now-historic electronic instruments and The Electronium, a machine that composed using artificial intelligence. When Scott was hired by Berry Gordy to work for Motown in 1971, the couple relocated to Los Angeles, with Mitzi coordinating most of the cross-country logistics.

In retirement, Scott suffered a major stroke in 1987, which eventually caused severe financial hardship for the couple. Mitzi nursed Raymond almost singlehandedly in their Van Nuys home until his death in February 1994, at age 85. Shortly after her husband's death, Mitzi donated his extensive collection of over 3,000 personally recorded discs and tapes, covering his career from 1932-1987, to the Marr Sound Archives at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She sold Raymond's no-longer functioning Electronium to Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh in 1996, amid a resurgence of interest in her late husband's music and legacy.

In 1997, Mitzi moved to Santa Clarita and joined a troupe of former professional dancers called the Gingersnaps.  She was active in several charitable organizations, including Mes Amis, the North Hollywood Women’s Club, the Women’s Canadian Club and the Hope is Forever Foundation (City of Hope), for which she served as an officer. She was a member of the Sages group at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

She was a passionate animal lover, and regularly took in stray dogs and cats, and adopted rescue animals. In 2007 the National Wildlife Federation designated her back yard as a certified wildlife habitat. She told the Santa Clarita Signal, "Everybody who has a backyard ought to take care of the wildlife. It's very soothing to look out your window and see butterflies and birds."

Mrs. Scott is survived by four stepchildren: Carrie Makover, Stan Warnow, Deborah Scott Studebaker, and Elizabeth Adams, as well as fourteen grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, June 22, 11:00 am, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 24901 Orchard Village Road, Santa Clarita. A reception will follow in the church hall. The service is open to the public.

In lieu of cards and flowers, her family has requested that donations be made in the name of Mitzi Scott to City of Hope (via check payable to "Hope is Forever," mailed to Hope is Forever, c/o Chick Benveniste, 409 Meadows Drive, Glendale CA 91202), or online to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.