I awoke this morning overhearing Donna, in her office in the next room, consoling a relative of one of our readers. As I lay there in bed, listening for some clue to the reader's identity -- "He was with us almost from the beginning," I heard Donna say -- I understood that the tragedy was not just a death, but a suicide. "Sometimes the depression gets to be so much, and if you combine that with physical pain..." Donna offered, and I began to think of those VW readers who I know suffer from physical ailments and disabilities.
I put on my robe and walked into Donna's office, where -- still on the phone -- she looked at me and wrote a name on a handy tablet: "Thomas Scofield." This was not one of the names I called to mind, and this is indeed tragic.
I first came into contact with Tom Scofield in the wake of Video Watchdog's 5th issue, the one devoted to Mario Bava's BLACK SABBATH. Tom sent me a wonderfully descriptive, long letter about his first encounters with Bava's films at drive-ins in the Midwest. I haven't read it since, but I prize it in memory as one of the best Bava-related letters I ever received. It made mention of the fact that Tom, while still in high school, had conducted a correspondence with the film's American composer Les Baxter that touched on his Bava assignments for AIP. Tom offered to share that information with me for my Bava book, but as it turned out, he never did. Tom's initial letter had informed me that Baxter had recorded and released "Katia's Theme" from BLACK SUNDAY as the title theme of his exotica album The Jewels of the Sea, and he kindly loaned me his vinyl copy of this rare album for the year or so I misfiled it. When I found it again, I returned it to him with interest.
The next time I heard from Tom was quite some time later, circa 2000, when someone notified me by e-mail that I was the subject of some new controversy on the Film Score Monthly boards. Evidently Tom had been upset about some statements I had made (all perfectly true) in my liner notes or audio commentary for Image Entertainment's BLACK SUNDAY DVD, concerning the extent to which "Katia's Theme" had been copied from Roberto Nicolosi's original score. There's no need for me to paraphrase all this, because Tom's correspondence (unintended for publication) and my response to it are still available for reading on the FSM site. That his anger is still available for discovery, though the matter was later resolved amicably, is one of the misfortunes of an unforgetful cyberspace, where everything that survives seems to do so in the present tense.
Suffice to say, a year or so after that exchange, Tom e-mailed an apology to me for his overreaction, explaining that he had been suffering from depression and a physical ailment, both of which sometimes blinded him to reason. I accepted his apology, assured him that Les Baxter would be favorably represented in the Bava book, and wished him well -- but never heard from him again. Tom remained a VW subscriber (as he had been since 1991) for the rest of his life, and his mother tells Donna that receiving a new issue was always good for raising his spirits for a couple of days. She blames the dark mood swing that ended in his death on a new medication he was taking for depression, coupled with being several days off the medication he was taking for his bad back.
Tom's mother, his only survivor, is now trying to notify Tom's friends of his death but is completely out of her element with the computer he left behind. She would particularly like to find Tom's friend James Singer, for whom she doesn't have a current address. If anyone reading this blog knows of James Singer's present whereabouts (he used to live in Las Vegas), please write me by clicking the "Contact Tim" option to the right and I will forward the information to Mrs. Scofield. Likewise, if anyone who befriended Tom in cyberspace would like to forward their condolences, we will send those along as well.
Thomas Merritt Scofield was 50.
9:15 PM postscript: Donna tells me that Tom took his life last July, though we only heard about it today. His mother decided to contact us after receiving his subscription copy of VW #122 in the mail.