Debra Scott, 65, Peripatetic Writer

Feb. 19, 1953 - Sept. 10, 2018
Debra Scott, Feb. 19, 1953 - Sept. 10, 2018

Debra Scott, a journalist and author who had careers in public relations, marketing, and real estate among many other positions, died at home in Springs on Sept. 10 at the age of 65. She had been undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer for 18 months.

Ms. Scott wore many hats and had many passions, her friends said. She was a speechwriter, copywriter, corporate writer, and screenwriter, as well as a personal writing coach and Scrabble champion. She wrote for many publications, sometimes with aliases, from The Times of London to Elle Decor. She was editor in chief of Hamptons magazine in the 1990s, and editor in chief of Manhattan magazine and Shelter the Hamptons. She wrote about real estate for The East Hampton Star for about a year and also wrote for The New York Post. She once described her style as “a combination of highfalutin language mixed with folksy and pop culture references.”

Love of food and nutrition was a central theme in her life and she had worked as a professional chef. She also acted at Guild Hall, put gift bags together for the Academy Awards, and recently apprenticed with an interior designer. Writing about herself in a real estate biography, she said: “Like Seinfeld’s Elaine, she wrote scintillating copy for the prestigious J. Peterman catalog.” 

In 1985, Ms. Scott coauthored with Nicholas Monson “The Nouveaux Pauvres: A Guide to Downward Nobility,” while spending several years in London. It became a U.K. best seller.

During her time in public relations, she held key positions in top agencies where she oversaw strategy for brands like the 21 Club. In 2002, she co-founded Buzz Bags, a niche marketing company that generated product awareness through gift bags. She considered herself a “cool hunter,” and would act as a conduit between cutting-edge luxury products and attendees at elite charity events. 

Ms. Scott was committed to organic health and holistic living. She considered herself a “culinary creative” and “wellness enthusiast.” A graduate of Peter Kump’s School of Culinary Arts, she enjoyed hosting dinners for friends. She also enjoyed reading and gardening.

Born Debra Gay Scott on Feb. 19, 1953, in West Springfield, Mass., her parents were Everett Scott and Gail Louise Campbell. She grew up in West Springfield and found her way to Manhattan, where she graduated from Hunter College. 

In the early 1970s, she moved to the East End full time. She worked as a waitress in the original Bobby Van’s restaurant in Bridgehampton, serving literary lions such as Willie Morris, who became a friend and introduced her to Truman Capote, who lived in Sagaponack.  A couple of years later she moved back to the city, though there would be several stints when she lived here again full time before moving back permanently in 2010 from Dutchess County, where she had spent some time after writing screenplays in Los Angeles. 

In her real estate career, Ms. Scott first worked in Manhattan at Whit­bread Nolan, then went to work for Vicky Bagley Realty in Washington, D.C. She joined Braverman Newbold Brennan in Sag Harbor in the 1990s after coming to the South Fork, then worked for Douglas Elliman, the Corcoran Group, and Town & Country.

Once asked to describe her perfect day, she wrote it would be in summer and would begin with “yoga by my pool (my cat sliding against my warrior stance).” 

Her sister Karen Ann Barnes of West Yarmouth, Mass., a niece, Jessica Marie Barnes, and her beloved cats, Nelson and Savannah, were with her when she died. Also surviving are her closest friends, Teri Kane and Helayne Kane of Manhattan. 

A memorial service will be an­nounced for a later date.