Publisher's Letter

updated 07/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

When other kids were learning the alphabet, PEOPLE'S Los Angeles bureau chief, Scot Haller, was reading movie marquees in his hometown of Cincinnati. It was a precocious start to a vibrant, accomplished life cut short June 24, when Haller, 35, died of renal failure.

Haller's death came five weeks after he completed his last story, a compassionate portrait of the villagers of Kapalana, Hawaii, as they watched volcanic lava destroy their homes. Despite his illness, Scot had taken the assignment, eager to see an extraordinary event.

No one who knew Haller was surprised. In eight years at the magazine, he had proven the most dedicated of journalists, pursuing stories as cataclysmic as the San Francisco earthquake and humanly significant as the AIDS epidemic.

Most often, though, Haller was on the show business beat. Starting in New York City in 1982 and our L.A. bureau chief since 1986, he contributed 21 cover stories and countless features, using his considerable charm to disarm such stars as Dolly Parton, Sally Field and John Travolta; Angie Dickinson and Polly Draper counted him as a friend, He directed a bureau of 25 that has given Hollywood some of its most lively and careful coverage. "Scot was born for the job," says assistant managing editor Hal Wingo. "His view of the industry was always right on the mark."

But that was nothing unusual for Scot. A magna cum laude graduate of Yale, Haller was an editor at Saturday Review and a film critic for Boston magazine. At 25, he published a short story in the New Yorker. To his co-workers, Scot was calm authority incarnate. "He could make riveting voice contact with overconfident editors during a conference call—and freeze them with a few astute observations," says managing editor Lanny Jones. "Scot had great credibility because he loved what he did and knew more about it than anybody. He was a man of one passion—show business—and many enthusiasms. If you looked at life through Scot's eyes, things became fresh and interesting."

When friends and colleagues gathered with his family in Manhattan to celebrate Haller's life last week, it was fitting that the memorial took place at the Booth Theatre: Scot loved Broadway. That day our colleague deserved—and got—a standing ovation.

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