The Loss of Debralee Scott

Disco era character actress Debralee Scott (1953-2005) enjoyed a brief time in the sun, although it must be said that during that time (roughly 1975-80) she was practically ubiquitous. Hers was a very useful type during the late ’70s, a tough Northeastern urban girl who was also All-American. She was cute rather than beautiful, with a memorable snaggle-toothed smile and broad shoulders. I think most New Yorkers would be more than happy to have her represent them as a mascot (as opposed to a beauty pageant contestant); she seemed to embody what NYC was all about, especially during those gritty times, though she was actually from Elizabeth, New Jersey. But Scott had also had an athletic quality. She often played younger sisters of prettier stars — Skippers, as opposed to Barbies. In her later adolescence she had lived in Shroudsburg, PA, in the Poconos, where she had been a cheerleader, which definitely informed her persona.

When Scott was 18 she began getting cast in small roles in movies. You can see her briefly in such things as Dirty Harry (1971), Butterflies Are Free (1972), American Graffiti (1973), Our Time (1974, with Pamela Sue Martin), Earthquake (1974, only some versions, there are different edits of the film), The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974, George Marshall’s last film, produced by Hugh Hefner), and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975). She was also a regular on the very short-lived TV series Sons and Daughters (1974).

Then, in 1975 it was like a dam broke and she was everywhere. She was the girl Sweat Hog Rosalie Hotsy Totsy on Welcome Back Kotter (1975-78). She was the sexed-up younger sister of the title character on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976-77) and its spinoff Forever Fernwood (1977-78). And she played Donna Pescow’s younger sister on the sitcom Angie (1979-80). During these same years, she was constantly on game shows like Hollywood Squares, Match Game, Password, etc, guest starred on The Love Boat, presented at the 1979 Disco Music Awards, and was on Donna Summer’s 1980 TV special.

Then, just as quickly, things cooled off. She was cast in the 1981 pilot of a sitcom called Living in Paradise starring Eddie Albert, but it wasn’t picked up. She was in the 1982 all-star slasher parody Pandemonium, but quite far down in the credits. This was followed by roles in Police Academy (1984) and Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986). Her last role was an unnamed character in a 1989 drama called Misplaced. After this, Scott worked as a talent agent for over a decade.

Then tragedy struck. It turns out that Scott was one of the indirect victims of the World Trade Center attack in 2001. Her fiance was a Port Authority police officer named John Dennis Levi. The pair had met in 1995 — at Hogs and Heifers! They were due to marry in March, 2002. But Levi was killed on 9/11 while evacuating people from the Twin Towers. Scott’s grief led to a spiral of drinking. She was living with a sister in Florida when she died of cirrhosis related causes in 2005 at the age of 52.