In the fall of 1972, I walked into my dorm room to meet my roommate for the first time. Scott and I couldn’t have been more different. I was a tall string bean: frail and too sensitive, esthetic and well read. Scott, on the other hand, was casual and talkative and completely engaged and interested in the world. And yet there was something that drew us together.
I remember it like it happened just yesterday. Was it really over 40 years ago? I walked into the cafeteria to join Scott in line for lunch, dressed like I normally did, a skin tight red mohair crew neck sweater tucked into my blue-jean bell bottoms. Scott took one look at me and said, “You look very French today.” Without an ounce of judgment. Just observation. Maybe admiration. And for a kid that had been bullied throughout school, I instantly felt that not only was Scott a really cool guy, but maybe this place, Shimer, out in the middle of nowhere, was a place where I could finally relax and be myself.
And for the rest of our years as friends, it was always the same thing: his smile and those twinkling porcelain blue eyes observing life without judgment, and always through his intelligence and good humor.
To be honest, when I think of alcohol I only think of its ill effects, the toll it takes on those who use it too frequently. But Scott’s idea of a bar was a place where everyone comes to relax, to share ideas and have a laugh. We had both been to France. And when I think of Scott’s bar I think of those French cafes. I think of Gertrude Stein hosting her friends: Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Hemingway, Matisse, Picasso and so many others. I think of a place where drinking and smoking was part of a new generation of revolutionary ideas.
So maybe it was our French sensibilities that brought us together after all: the love of interesting people and pretty things, a desire to discuss ideas openly and without judgment.
I think for almost as long as I knew him he dreamt of this bar. And who doesn’t admire a man who follows his dream? Sweet Scott, you were a wonderful, special guy and a good friend.
David Zelitzky ‘76
One of my favorite memories of Scott was when he showed me how he liked to watch the sunset by gazing at the sky in the opposite direction of the sun. He liked to watch the more subtle color fluctuations and changes. Always an artistic and romantic soul, Scott had an eye for the beauty in the world.
Becky Tamblyn Pence ‘77
Scott was one of the first people I met at Shimer in 1972. He shared a quad with Joe Fraser, whom I knew from Joliet Central High School, and David Zelitzky. We and Melanie Allen hung around most of that year.
One thing that Scott died not knowing was that in 1975, Danny Shiner and I rigged the Plotzger-Bains poll so that Scott won – even though he was in England. Scott always called me “Mama” because I played his mother in a play. My pet name for him rhymes with his name and is also a nickname for female genitalia.
I shared a house with Scott, Jeannine Ramsey, and Cindy Hyndman in the inner Richmond in 1978, where Cindy reminded me that he hardly left the house, and we had to beg him to drive his van to Safeway at the Sea for groceries. He would go on and on about the Sandinistas and, in my pre-politicized state, I had no idea what he was talking about.
For New Years Eve in 1981, we went to a Grateful Dead concert and Scott had me hide his flask in my hot-pink-and-silver-lamé tutu. My saggy bottom was noticed by security just after I slipped through the gate, but I eluded the chase and Scott had his drink.
After I moved to Los Angeles, I rarely saw Scott. Joe Fraser and I performed at his bar at Karen Sorensen’s farewell party when she moved to New York in 1985. Scott did me the great honor of coming to L.A. to attend my wedding in 1988 and my library school graduation in 1991. I did not see much of Scott after that, but I miss him and remember him with great, great fondness. Though so sad at his death, thinking of good times with Scott brought back many happy memories.
Linda Karr O’Connor ‘77
Scott Ellsworth was an extraordinarily kind human being, an unorthodox intellectual, an artist, an incurable romantic, a poet, a dreamer, a world traveler, an experience junkie, the owner of the best dive bar in San Francisco, and the only Shimer College student ever hired to work at Poffy’s. We shall not see his like again.
Dan Shiner ‘77