Alan Scott, one half of a husband-and-wife musical duo, writer of commercial jingles and campaign speeches, who landed troops on South Pacific beaches during World War II, passed away peacefully on February 5, 2021.
He died one month after his wife, Marilyn, at his home in Branford, Connecticut, with his two children and granddaughter by his side. He was 98.
In all his pursuits, Alan was a storyteller; he used stories to distill what he believed, where he found meaning, and why. He had a dry wit, a generous spirit, and an encyclopedic memory of anything that moved him—bird songs, flower varieties, poetry. He expressed love with precision and urgency. He was a prolific letter writer.
Alan was born on October 13, 1922 in Haddonfield, New Jersey. His parents, Lettie Gibbs and Walter Scott, were social workers, and Alan and his brother Walter grew up in and around the schools, orphanages, and settlement houses they served. After a childhood spent in the Depression, Alan attended the University of Pennsylvania, which provided an exhilarating respite.
During World War II, Alan enlisted in the Navy V-7 program, traveling to Chicago for “90-day wonder school.” On his third weekend liberty, he met Marilyn Lang, who was playing piano and singing at a club for midshipmen. They dated for some months, going dancing and making covert after-hours phone calls, until he left for the South Pacific.
Alan spent the war performing landings aboard the U.S.S. Ward and the U.S.S. Schley. By 22, he had survived typhoons, kamikaze attacks, bullets flying inches away. Sailing in rear areas, on watch under the moonlight, he recited poetry for the men, and he wrote Marilyn a page a day.
After the war, Alan was assigned to the U.S.S. Coolbaugh, which spent a comparatively peaceful winter month on Block Island, Rhode Island, supplying electricity to the 200 year-round residents. Decades later, Alan would return to the island every summer with his children and grandchildren.
Alan and Marilyn married in 1946, and Marilyn, a composer, wanted to pursue a career in New York. Alan turned down admission to Harvard Law, and they rented a tiny apartment in the city he dubbed “A Streetcar Named Desire”; if you leaned out the window, you could see the Hudson River. They spent evenings at the theater, paying a quarter to stand in the back, and going dancing. Alan attended Columbia Law while Marilyn composed commercial jingles. Eventually Alan, who would never practice law, started contributing lyrics.
Throughout their 74-year marriage, Alan and Marilyn were fastidiously attuned to each other, partners in all arenas. Their shared professional life—Marilyn wrote music, Alan wrote lyrics—spanned three decades. In the 1950s, they joined another couple, friends Keith and Sylvia Textor, to form Scott-Textor Productions. Their jingles for Cheerios, United Airlines, KMart, Fritos, Nestles, and hundreds of others were ubiquitous on radio and television nationwide.
Beyond the jingle business, Alan’s work was wide-ranging. Scott-Textor produced material for the early years of “Sesame Street” and the Muppets, including “Doll House,” a song Alan and Marilyn wrote about the number two. Alan wrote the lyrics (and co-wrote the book) for the musical “Apollo and Miss Agnes,” which ran in Dallas, Texas, through the summer of 1963. He also wrote the lyrics for the “Candid Camera” theme song and “The U.S. Air Force Blue.”
Alan was a lifelong peace activist, with a firm belief that “politicians who have never heard a shot fired in anger” should not send someone else’s children to die. After the war, he joined the writers’ board of the United World Federalists, where he was also head of public relations. He later wrote speeches for Hubert Humphrey, who was running for president in 1968, and Adlai Stevenson.
Alan and Marilyn raised two children, Anne and Alan, and in the 1950s moved to Larchmont, New York, where they lived for the next 50 years. Alan attended the Larchmont Avenue Church, served on the Mamaroneck Board of Education, and devoted 20 years to the Community Counseling Center, spending 13 years as chairman of the board.
In the 1980s, Alan began a second career as an actor. With his distinctive features and bushy eyebrows—“he looks like a person,” Marilyn would say—he landed roles in commercials, appearing as a disgruntled retiree for Roy Rogers and a firefighting captain for Miller beer. He studied at the T. Schreiber Studio and performed in off-off-Broadway plays, including “The Iceman Cometh” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater”. (Kurt Vonnegut, a literary hero of his, came to the play’s opening.)
For the last 15 years of his life, Alan lived in Branford, Connecticut, where he enjoyed swimming in the Long Island Sound, completing Sunday crosswords, and singing spontaneous duets with Marilyn. He was a devoted grandfather of three, a role he performed zealously. On summer evenings in Block Island, he taught his grandchildren poker, joking that he should be giving them coloring books instead of explaining seven-card stud, and regaled them with stories late into the night.
In his later years, Alan told stories ritualistically, a practice he used to connect with people he loved. Those he left behind—children Anne (Rob) and Alan (Jessica); grandchildren Ellen, Dan, and Johanna; niece and nephews David (John), Paula (Masoud), and Larry; and countless others lucky enough to love him—will miss him dearly. But the stories they can keep.
In lieu of flowers, Alan’s family asks that donations be made in his memory to the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Community Counseling Center, which Alan worked tirelessly on.
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