Thomas J. Doran, Jr. - 1952-2016

by cecilia

It's with great sadness we report the death of Thomas Doran on November 30th. He was one of the writers of Scotia News since it's resurrection as an on-line newsletter. He was immensely multi-talented. I hope this article listing his many accomplishments and activities does him justice.

Tom's father and uncles grew up on the "mean streets" of Glasgow and traveled to America in 1930 on the S.S. Transylvania. Tom was born in Port Chester, NY May 3rd, 1952 to Thomas and Immaculate DiLeo Doran. Tom would often tell me of how his childhood was filled with going to the theater - even at the age of 5 - to watch films. Tom would invariably and repeatedly point out that an old B movie playing on TV at the moment was one he has actually seen in a theater as a child. It sounded as if he spent his entire childhood watching films. He was driven all his life to study, understand and later try to make films. It seemed as if he had seen almost every film ever made. He would watch films over and over, studying how they were made, what worked, and what didn't. Tom would also regale me with stories of his visits to the Scottish side of his family every Sunday. This probably cemented his lifelong obsession with all things Scottish.

"Tom’s artistic vision for films was derived in part, from his background in painting and drawing. He was as concerned over the way the images told the story as he was with the way the words did. He understood not only the general painting concepts – those that have to do with composition, lighting, color and so on, but he also understood the impact of the photographic variables such as the way the image is changed by using different lenses or the way camera movement, zooming and editing can impact the story telling." -- John Beatty

Tom naturally gravitated toward people with similar interests and this included his childhood friend, Brendan.

Brendan Faulkner reminiscing about his lifelong friendship with Tom.

They met in first grade at the Edison School in Port Chester NY, immediately connected because of their mutual love of comic books, monster movies and drawing. Tom was a wonderful artist and prolific in creating his own pantheon of characters and was constantly turning out his own amateur comic books. In a funny incident, Brendan relates how he and Tom were invited to visit famed artist and inker Dick Ayers at his home. At the end of their visit they asked if the artist would sign a comic for them, however in their excitement about the meeting they forgot to bring any copies of Ayers books with them. So Ayers picked up a current issue of a comic that he had drawn, and proceeds to tear it in half, then personalizing each half, and handing one part to each of them.

Tom’s interest in writing was really helped along by his late cousin William L. DeAndrea who would go on to write numerous mystery novels and won three Edgar awards. The two would collaborate on stories for Tom’s comics.

At a young age Tom and Brendan were collaborating on 8 mm short film projects. Tom was the first one to grab up the camera shooting a horror opus called “The Shock Monster” where they received their first taste of filmmaking.

Over the next few years Tom and Brendan continued to crank out a number of short films, dealing in genres from superheros to horror. Brendan remembers they had planned to shoot a little effort entitled “The Werewolf vs. Dr. Jekyll”, but the night before there had been a large snowfall and it looked as if the shoot would have to be postponed. However, undaunted, Tom made it to Brendan’s house after braving the elements and the shoot went on.

Tom took his first foray into 16mm film making (can’t remember the title) with an ambitious project which was an action/ adventure tale set in the 1930’s. Co-staring with him was future writer Alex Simmons, sadly the project came to a screeching halt when Tom performed a dangerous stunt and suffered a serious injury, he was in a cast for a long time and unfortunately the film was never finished. But he continued to move forward, working on a number of modest budget pictures doing art direction, sometimes uncredited.

The two worked together on the film “Igor and the Lunatics”, they came onto the troubled production and together re-wrote the script and co-directed most of the film. With the unusual credit of : ‘ horror, action and suspense sequences’. They also played small parts, Tom as Slim and Brendan as Conway.

While promoting a script that they co-wrote, and showing around a trailer for it that they co-directed they became involved with their most well-known project “Spookies”. The film started life as ‘Twisted Souls’, Tom with Brendan co-wrote the script, co-directed and co-produced the film. Tom also handled some of the art direction creating production sketches and helped create some of the props used in the picture.

Sadly after finishing principle photography and starting to pare down their two and a half hour rough cut things came to a head with the backer of the film. The backer wanted to add unnecessary and unwanted material and there was a parting of the ways. The unnecessary footage was added by another director who had nothing to do with the original shoot and did nothing to enhance the original product.

In less than a year from the end of “Spookies” Tom was working with Brendan again as an assistant director on Brendan’s film “Killer Dead”. He also took another turn in front of the camera playing a hood that winds up mixing it up with a number of zombies. Outside the USA the film was known as “Non-Vegetarians Zombies from Outer Space”

In his early twenties for a couple of years Tom lived in London. While others may go to College Tom learned life in the ocean of the real world and it appears to have influenced him greatly. He spoke of those years often as I'm sure it opened his eyes to life in the rest of the world. Back then London was still living in many ways as if it was just after the war (WW2). He walked off the plane with almost no money and immediately had to survive on his wits. Which he did. Tom was fearless. When he came back to America he continued making films with Brendan.

The first time I met Tom, he and his childhood friend - Brendan - were in the parking lot of a funeral home shooting a ridiculous low budget horror film (something about drugs secreted inside zombies). The film was forgettable but Tom was like an onion; the more layers you peeled back the more depth you found. We were friends for many years. I had lots of time to discover Tom's profound complexities. Every moment was An Adventure and he could weave stories out of the most mundane encounter.

What made Tom so excellent as a director was how intuitive he was about other people's feelings. He always knew how people felt and while directing people he could instinctively steer them to acting just the way he wanted for that scene. But this ability was not ever turned off. Tom was incredibly sensitive and kind. Tom was obsessive about his desire to be creative but he never let that get in the way of being a caring and loving human being.

During this and later film projects I was struck by Tom's immense creativity, professionalism and unique view of the world. I don't think I have ever met anyone in my life that was THIS intelligent and insightful. Tom was the most ethical person I knew outside my family. He was completely honest, loving and giving. My Aunt used to call him "The Renaissance Man" because he was so knowledgeable about history, films, music, art and anything else that caught his interest. He would devour books and had a profound understanding of the subject.

Being so brilliant and creative he was impatient. He always struggled to find ways to get out whatever was inside of him. He wrote, directed plays and too few films, The last years of his life he made props for a film he hoped to make.

At some point, Tom decided to move to Boston where he was the bassist in an avant-garde, punk (?) band called "The Molls". Tom's friend Bill Koff (a Juilliard trained musician) played an electrified Bassoon. Even today the band's most well known song is the one Tom wrote - "Black Sheets, White Stains"

Tom and I met when he came into Sam Ash Music in White Plains in late 1972. Jeannie Bell was the cashier and earlier that year helped get me a job in the sheet music department. We were the first two people you would see when entering the store. Tom came in with a sign looking for musicians to play with. He asked Jeannie if he could put it on the bulletin board. She immediately called me over. After a few minutes of talking about music interests, influences and other background, I knew we were an excellent match. It was the beginning of a partnership that lasted over a decade, and a friendship for over 45 years

In those days,Tom looked like an English rocker dressed in black, very long straight hair, lots of jewelry especially bracelets. We had so much music in common King Crimson, Captain Beefheart, free jazz, Miles Davis... He seemed to know every UK/EU underground band and introduced me to so many: Roxy Music, Soft Machine, Gong, Hawkwind, Throbbing so many others . He was well connected in the Westchester/Portchester music scene. I met many of his friends; Gail, Loretta, Danny, Faith Fraoli (Flying Island), Larry McGowan (Rat Race Choir, caretaker of the Rye Playland Carousel and other restorations)

We started off playing with a variety of people; Tom on bass and lapsteel guitar, I played electric bassoon, Jeannie on oboe, Gail Spence vocal/flute, and a friend of Jeannies - a cellist who also played the saw, and some other people. In 1973-1974 we played together a lot and did a number of gigs. Two memorable performances include a trip up to Binghamton to play a club organized by Charles Kramer, and a Sunday afternoon tea party for a group of contemporary music fans listening to free music in a Scarsdale backyard with ducks walking around!

Tom was always reaching out to a variety of people, connecting us with people like John Zorn in NY and Derek Baily in London

When I moved to Boston in Sept 1974 he (and Jeannie on and off) rented an apartment down the block over Babos (sandwich shop). We hung out and played every day. Tom created posters looking for musicians. We had an enormous response and played with dozens of musicians in a wide variety of settings. This included Woody who showed up with suitcases filled with sound making toys and small percussion instruments, an early public transgender who could sing simultaneous multi harmonics (years later we both agreed she was too weird for us!!) We also found Rob Davis (guitar) and Gene Gilmartin (drums) who later became part of the Molls.

Tom and I would also use the name Bandicoots when just a few of us were playing. The band names Megaston and Ampersand were also used in different formulations. Tom connected with David Hild of The Girls and played with them before they formed the band

I got sick with mono in the spring of 1975. I had to stay in the school infirmary for a few days. I was completely out of it but every time I woke up, Tom was sitting there, drawing or watching tv (we didn’t have one in those days) This is when he drew the 3 part series: Tenement Bassoon, Bassoon in Idaho w/potatoes and Brain Damaged Bassoon (in pencil). Years later he did a fourth air brushed drawing in the series: a portrait of me as a space monster bassoon player.

He decided to go back to NY in the summer of 1975. I continued to play with Rob and Gene eventually forming the Molls with them, Tris Lozaw, and John Coe. Peter Prescott joined the Molls before the single and then later joined Mission of Burma. Rob, Tris and Jon later formed Someone and the Somebodies. Gene joined Ball and Pivot. Tom was part of the Molls creating artwork and co-writing songs with me From that point thru 1979 Tom and I would be constantly going back and forth between NY and Boston.

Tom did much of the artwork for the band including posters for the various gigs and his best known Molls piece, The Molls Head. There are three versions of the Head; early Vorpmi version, a more sinister version used for the posters and a larger (24inx24in) version which was used as the front cover of the single and as a branding logo.

Together we wrote many of the Molls songs. The A side of the single Black Sheets / White Stains was the best known. Some of the other titles are: The Girls Keep Coming, Electric Kid in an Electric Land, Vivarin and Vitalis and many others

After I moved back to NY in 1979, we continued to play together. We reconnected with John Zorn who I eventually played with in his Archery series around 1981-2. But Tom’s interest was pulling him more towards film. I remember visiting him a few times on the set of Spookies at the Jay residence. One time we went into the old Bleecker Bob’s store and the single was hanging on the wall. He told us that no matter what the record sounded like that the cover could really sell. When Bleecker Bob moved to his last store. it was on the ceiling until the store closed down

Thru the years Tom was often sending me mentions of the single or references to the band. On a few of the various blogs he came across, he corrected people’s history or facts about the band and the single. A few times he actively asserted our ownership rights. At one point he got into a wild argument with someone on a post who was ‘certain’ about the influence, meaning and intentions of the song! (all completely wrong)

After he moved to LA, I would always stop by when I was out there on business thru the 1990s. We stayed in close touch by email at least a couple of time a month after that, sometimes a few times a week. His last email to me was a week before he died. Tom had found a great video of some early Captain Beefheart

[I have most of the original artwork, and some old tapes]

Bill Koff

Tom co-directed "Igor and the Lunatics" and "Spookies" with his longtime friend, Brendan Faulkner. . ,co-produced "Killer Dead", acted in Igor and "Killer Dead",.., and the unfinished "Bloody Pulp" and "Hellspawn"

One of the very talented people Tom hired to work on "twisted Souls" was Gabe Bartalos who was about 19 at the time. They remained friends.

"Twisted Souls"
My friend Tom passed away.
From an early age he taught me that a true artist never stops creating.
Illustration, film making, writing, photography - he was fluent in all these languages.
When people meet at a young age and are lucky enough to know one another over 20 - 30 years, we forget that people may change from who they initially were. If the friendship allows for all these changes, these nuances in character that the years bring, that is true love.
I loved Tom - and my heart aches that he is gone.
For such a serious, and I dare say 'intellectual' guy, I think I will most miss his laugh.
Rest In Peace my friend.

- Gabe Bartalos

In about 1991-2 he moved to LA.

There he worked as an extra in several films including "Bram Stoker's Dracula" directed by Francis Ford Coppola, During his time on this film he loved to recount how the same women who cut his hair also did Tyrone Powers hair.
He did the storyboards for "MacGyver: Trail to Doomsday" and got along very well with Richard Dean Anderson. Of course one of Tom's talents was making friends easily. He was the consummate raconteur. He also worked on "Shackin' Up" (storyboard artist), "The Exterminator" (storyboard artist - uncredited)

He made logos for various companies, wrote copy, made short films and graphics for products, films, etc.

Bill Ohanesian is a friend he made in LA. Here are his thoughts:

At some point in my life, I realized that the main thing that remains after someone passes is the memory of their character, what they meant to those that know them, for good or otherwise. Death doesn't reward the virtuous with a crystalline eternity, nor does it redeem the jerks among us.

Tom may have been the best friend I never got to see much. His loss really is like losing a brother I never had. By "best", I mean that, despite our distance and very different upbringings until we crossed paths at THAT job, I felt closer to him in so many ways - temperamentally, aesthetically, in what we valued, laughed at, hated and complained about, than anyone else I could think of.

And it would not do his memory and character justice to deny that, that includes those times when I wanted to whack him upside the head.

Since I spent so little time with Tom, maybe the best summation is: I’m glad I knew him, even if from afar, and regret that there wasn’t more opportunity to hang out together. Of anyone I personally knew, he was the most knowledgeable and conversational about movies, aesthetics, history, etc., which I really appreciated. He had strong opinions and voiced then entertainingly. He knew the value of the art form and the abuse of it, a sentiment I shared in spades.

He could offer an empathetic ear when I bitched about job or life problems and genuinely share the travails.

He was definitely a talented, thoughtful, expressive creative writer, graphic designer and visual stylist in photography. From his storyboards and visual ideas, it was such a shame not to have the chance to realize them.

All that said, if I have one memory of Tom that I’d savor, it was hanging out post-CST, mid-90s, at his apartment in Culver City. I came by one afternoon to share shots of his single malt and we bitched about life, talked movies and drew up a list of candidates to target for our new underground organization - the R.A.S. The R-etroactive A-bortion S-ociety would start as a cheesy movie, maybe a documentary, which would be a cover for its real-life mission to cleanse the world of assholes. We also talked about our lives, etc. I think it was that day when Tom gave me (for him) his highest compliment: “You coulda been a New Yorker.”

I still can’t believe he’s gone.


While in LA Tom tried to get gigs in radio. He and his friend Terry Messal created several in person "radio shows" which were held in restaurants so they had an audience to play off of. During these free-wheeling conversation one hears what is on Tom's mind. You can listen to these shows here.

In 1996 he traveled to Scotland and spent weeks researching his family history. Taking many photographs and investigating his family in a variety of cities. He compiled as much info as he could find while having what for him was typical adventures while meeting strangers. When he returned he put all that together and made copies for family members.

Tom wrote a script about Sawney Bean "The Lords of Darkness" and wanted Ian Bannen to play a part in it. He was talking to Mr Bannen about it, even sending the script. It was a go until Ian Bannen unfortunately died in a car accident. The story was too good to drop so he wrote the novel from the script.

He was involved with a group in Pine Bluff who put on film festivals. He usually made their posters, ads and whatever else they needed. I had given him a copy of Photoshop in the 1990's and showed him the basic stuff, color curves and all that. He took it and ran with it. He ALWAYS knew which font faces to pick for a particular subject, always knew how to create a dramatic scene. He had worked with a printer and lithographer in school and as a young man. And he sure absorbed all that experience. Nothing was wasted with Tom.

"Tom’s love for movies – especially old movies merged completely with Kathy Majewska’s Pine Bluff Film Festival. Tom designed a number of posters for the festivals 14 year run which people loved. They caught the spirit of the festival perfectly and were always a big hit.
His incredible knowledge of films made it possible to write some insightful insights into the films and the stars who attended for the programs for the performances." -- John Beatty

While working with people in Pine Bluff he was trying to come up with different projects and one that was suggested was to write and direct a play about Martha Mitchell as Pine Bluff was her home. Tom did extensive interviews with as many people who knew her as he could find. He researched the subject and wrote 'This is Martha Speaking...'. The play was performed in Pine Bluff in 2004, with some actors coming from LA and the rest from Pine Bluff. It's probably THE most authentic and interesting play describing Martha's life as has ever been made. And Tom did it under not the most ideal conditions.

Tom also wrote all the copy, designed the posters, etc. - just look at the program he put together.

The play was well received.


When he came back to NY, he got a camera and started taking astounding photos. His eye as a director was on fully strength here. No matter how mundane the subject Tom would always find a brilliant way to capture it in a way no one else could.

Tom also wrote a play called "Desire" which was about a fictional moment in Vivian Leigh's later life. It's haunting and beautiful. Some of his work can be seen here.

Tom's personal friendship and professional collaboration have meant the world to me for more than three decades. My respect for him as a multi-talented artist and love for him as a human being of exceptional integrity were second to none. We shared so much, creatively, philosophically and otherwise. I was perpetually impressed with the scope and freshness of his story and visual ideas - always from such a highly unique and personal perspective. So much more I could say...
Frank Farel

One of the projects he did after returning to New York was to make astounding posters for the Band "Doublespeak" as well as performance videos, "Mother of Mercy, Is This the End of Doublespeak?" (Documentary) (producer). Tom also took it upon himself to call venues and try to get gigs for the band. What he tried to do was over and above and he did it because he believed in this group. He always threw himself fully in any project.

Tom was always interested in how others were trying to make their own films and found a group in Australia working on a historical project. For "The Legend of Ben Hall" he made miniature "signage" for them. Meaning he designed photos for their miniature buildings.

At the time of his death Tom was working on a film "Christie Cleek", writing the concept, storyboards, making props, designing costumes, locating actors and so on.

Tom is survived by His brother, Richard, his sister Linda, his brother-in-law Thomas, his niece, Andrea, his nephew Tommy, my mother (who thought of him as a son), and many many friends who loved him.
He will be interred with his parents in Rye, NY. Later, John Beatty will travel to Scotland with some of his ashes to unite Tom with his ancestors and the Scottish ghosts he loved

Film made by Keith


Scotland 1 - Mars 0

Started By Tom, finished by cecilia

This was supposed to be Tom's article. He sent me the photos and the title. SO I have finally accessed Tom's laptop and found the paragraphs he did write before he died. I'm including what I found and added info for these films he didn't finish. {cecilia}

The remoteness and perceived wildness of parts of Scotland – its stories of mystic creatures and misty glens make it an ideal setting for horror and science-fiction films. There have been few enough examples of home-grown films on sci-fi subjects, but there are some.

One of the earliest science fiction films that takes place in Scotland is one entitled The Man from Planet X (1951). Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, a poverty row director for most of his career, he was known for his artistic sense and his attempt to put something interesting on the screen, as creatively as possible, no matter how low the budget. For The Man from Planet X, Ulmer tells the tale of a vanguard alien agent from a mysterious and apparently galloping-through-the-universe planet. He lands to set the stage for a take-over of the earth – and the landing is in one of those remote parts of Scotland.

Ulmer used standing sets from a Joan of Arc film – as well as painted backdrops – all enshrouded with heavy mist to disguise the fragmentary and threadbare nature of the sets. It mostly works. The alien invasion (of one) is thwarted after a few desperate adventures as the army ultimately blasts the invader’s craft (and little green man) to atoms. The roving planet is never signaled and passes by the earth – invasion thwarted in the final moments. There’s not a lot of sincere Scottish accents, and many of the characters are not meant to be either. But it is a weird, creepy little film and worth checking out.


The Man From Planet X (1950) with Margaret Field

Scotland wasn’t left alone for long – and soon after The Devil Girl from Mars (1954) also managed to land in a remote part of the Highlands – with her giant, refrigerator-looking robot in tow. Dressed in black leather the Devil Girl looks rather stern but enticing. Her mission is to bring exceptional male specimens back to mars to mate and help rebuild the dying Martian race. Strangely the film is based on a stage play and much of it takes place in a local inn – and on some artificial sets representing an area around Inverness. The Scotsmen are not very interested in going to Mars to make woopee, and the only solution (since they can’t defeat the Devil Girl’s technology), is for one to pretend to go along with this crazy notion – and on the way back to the red planet, he sabotages the flying saucer, destroying himself, the Devil Girl and the loony plot.

Unlike The Man from Planet X – some of the Scots are actually played by Scots – including one (Adrienne Corri) who went on to a notorious bit part in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Even more interesting is that the director – David MacDonald - is also a Scot.

devil girl

Devil Girl

That is all he wrote, sadly ..... (cecilia)

X the Unknown

X The Unknown

"X the Unknown is a British science fiction horror film made by the Hammer Film Productions company and released in 1956. It stars Dean Jagger and Edward Chapman and was written by Jimmy Sangster. The film was directed by Leslie Norman. The film is significant in that "it firmly established Hammer's transition from B-movie thrillers to out-and-out horror/science fiction" and, with The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and Quatermass 2 (1957), completes "an important trilogy containing relevant allegorical threads revealing Cold War anxieties and a diminishing national identity resulting from Britain's decrease in status as a world power" "

Journey to the Center of the_Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth

"An Edinburgh professor and assorted colleagues follow an explorer's trail down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the earth's center."

the planet

The Planet

"This was filmed in Aberdeen City, Scotland"