Idyllwild resident and multi-talented artist Scott J. Foster died from kidney cancer in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 4, at Desert Regional Medical Center. He had just celebrated his 43rd birthday April 24. Foster is survived by partner Mary Ann “Annie” Brook, son Zion, 8 months old, born Aug. 22, 2013, and mother Maria Foster, all of Idyllwild.
Few expected the cancer that consumed his body would take him so quickly. Gary Kuscher, Art Alliance of Idyllwild president and a close friend to Foster, said, “I knew it was serious, but I never expected it to move so fast. This is heartbreaking.” And the many residents and friends in Idyllwild who knew him would say the same.
When Foster arrived in Idyllwild in 2012, people took notice; it was more an event than a relocation for folk in Idyllwild. Town Crier reporter Marshall Smith wrote in his article, “Scott Foster decides on Idyllwild,” in November 2012, “New Idyllwild resident Scott Foster has the kind of entertainment background and résumé any athlete, actor, singer, dancer, choreographer or music producer would call a world-class career.”
Foster said about his move, “My gravitating to Idyllwild is a big part of who I am and why I am writing. Idyllwild is a place that helps you realize who you are and gets you in touch with your purpose. Some fit, some maybe are driven crazy, but for me it feels right.” And right it was. Foster would become involved in many aspects of the Idyllwild community: as an entertainer, a filmmaker and a friend. Smith wrote, “Foster said that for him, at this point in his career, it is also about giving back and being part of the community that is sustaining his ability to write.”
Shortly after Scott and Annie moved to Idyllwild, he sent for his mother, Maria, who was suffering from bladder cancer. “It’ll be the second year I’ve had bladder cancer. He wanted me close, in case. I’m not quite through it but at least mine is staying where it is,” Maria said. Foster was adopted, and early on displayed the energy and intelligence that would define him. “He walked at 7 months and never stopped moving since. He was very athletic — he played football, ran track, had the New Jersey record for the 100-meter at the time and was a running back, All State. He had an appointment to West Point that he turned down,” Maria said. “He was a good kid. He never got in trouble. When he was little, the school, they’d call me because the teacher would give a lot of homework and, I remember once exactly, they gave him 50 division problems to do. He did 10. I said, ‘You didn’t finish it,’ and he said, ‘Oh I did; if I can do 10 I could do 50.’” [laughs]
There wasn’t much Foster couldn’t do. According to Maria, he toured as a figure skater with the likes of Scott Hamilton, organized a rollerblading league in Europe and recorded a number one record while under contract with Sony Records in Italy. And he could sing like Frank Sinatra.
After his move to Idyllwild, Foster became chair of the 2014 Idyllwild Festival of Cinema. “There is something about our community that is very special and unique … We might not have someone as famous as Brad Pitt in attendance, but last year we had a filmmaker who came from Iran. His flight probably cost more than the entire budget on his film. That’s a very special thing. Everyone was in tears at the end of his film. This is the kind of thing we’re looking for — to take the spirituality of Idyllwild and let that be the magnet,” Foster said.
The Idyllwild community Foster so loved would serve as inspiration for what would be his final project, “The Herd Gathering,” a project Foster called “his love letter to Idyllwild.” The documentary film project was inspired by “Deer Sightings,” a public art display AAI sponsored last fall. Foster launched a campaign on Kickstarter.com, a crowd-funding platform, to raise money to make the documentary. The project was funded on Jan. 19, 2014, reaching its goal and raising $28,905. “The Herd Gathering,” according to Foster, is “a stylized and poignantly constructed feature-length documentary, featuring the lives of artists living in a small village high in the San Jacinto Mountains called Idyllwild, also known as ‘the Hill.’” According to Brenda Scherlis, a friend of Brook, the filming was completed at the time of Foster’s death. “Scott worked 12- to 16-hour days to complete the filming,” Scherlis said. “As I understand it, all that remains is the editing.” According to Scherlis, despite Foster’s illness, he was determined to finish the film. Maria concurred: “That last week they were filming, he was in misery and I kept telling him, ‘Scott, stop.’ The filming is done. One of [Scott’s crew] is going to put it together. He left pages of what to do. It was a rough week.”
To Foster’s many friends on Facebook, Brook posted a tribute to him which read in part, “Many of you know Scott as a multi-talented performer, artist and friend. But he was also an amazing son, and loving father and partner. I want to thank everyone for the enormous outpouring of support toward Maria, Zion and me during this difficult time, and invite you to join us at the upcoming Scott J. Foster Benefit concert and memorial service to celebrate his life (details to come). I also wanted to extend my deepest gratitude to all our friends and family who were with me fighting and taking care of Scott until his last breath. I could not have done it without you …” Brook has also asked that photos, videos and films that include Foster be sent to her so she may gather them for their son, Zion. Send to: Mary Ann Brook, PO Box 21, Idyllwild, CA 92549.
True to his nature, Foster also started a journal that would chronicle his battle with kidney cancer at https://medium.com/p/9d45acac2e88.
AAI, a sponsor of “The Herd Gathering” project, has issued a call for art donations to raise money for Foster’s family. In an email blast, AAI asked for donations for an art raffle similar to the “Eye of the Artist” event held in March. Donations can be delivered to the Acorn Gallery, 54750 N. Circle Dr., from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday, and from 11:30 am. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday up until Saturday, June 7. To make special arrangements, call Kirsten Ingbretsen at 951-795-3799. Kuscher, has donated one of his manzanita sculptures and is raising money at the Idyll Awhile Wine Shoppe in downtown Idyllwild. Raffle tickets may be purchased there.
Family friend and local artist Kathy Harmon-Luber asked that, prior to the Celebration of Foster’s Life scheduled from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at Jo’An’s Beer Garden, donations be sent to Brook who is struggling financially. Donations can be sent to Brook at the address listed earlier in the story. Luber also indicated that more than 15 musicians will perform at the benefit, including jazz great Marshall Hawkins.
Also, Velvet Rhodes, director of the Glendale International Film Festival, will dedicate this year’s festival to Foster and will offer a special award in his honor.