Scott Dorobiala had always dreamed of living in Los Angeles, and so, at the start of the 1980s, he drove to California from Buffalo, New York, armed with a SUNY art-history degree and the belief that everything in life awaited him here.
After a stint designing ads for Zody’s department stores, Scott joined the L.A. Weekly’s art department in 1983, long before computerized layouts became the norm for the alternative press. Perhaps it was L.A.’s post-punk attitude or the simple absence of computer monitors and keyboards on the production staff’s worktables, but in those cut-and-paste days the Weekly’s art room was a freewheeling party marked by spontaneous singing, pranks and melodrama, with Scott among the chief organizers of costume days and pajama parties. Like L.A. itself, Scott’s appearance was always changing — one day he looked like Pee-wee Herman’s brother; the next, a Joe Orton leather-boy doppelgänger.
“It was a room always on fire and ruthless in the pursuit of humor,” recalls former Weekly production-room member Julie Williams. “Scott and [L7 band member] Donita Sparks were the funniest — we were all supporting characters to their headlining roles. One time someone arrived in the building and was brought in for an important meeting with Scott, who at that exact moment was braying at the top of his lungs like a mule. I adored him.”
“We were Sondheim fanatics,” says Scott’s life partner, Tom Provenzano, who is a Weekly theater critic. “Scott was a painter and amazing interior designer who loved midcentury antiques. We shared 22 years together and loved each other.”
Scott left his position as the Weekly’s editorial art director in the late 1980s to become advertising art director of its glossy sister publication, L.A. Style. After the magazine folded, he joined the Advocate and later designed the first issues of Genre.
I’ll never forget the night when, during the intermission of a theater revue of Broadway musicals, Scott emerged, teary-eyed, into the lobby following an excerpt from West Side Story — a fable about the dreams and dangers of city life. I’d never seen anyone so moved by music and dance — his face said everything he felt about the piece.
Scott died Sunday, on his 45th birthday, of HIV-related pulmonary failure. His ashes will be scattered at Piano Rock in Joshua Tree National Park.