"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

In Memoriam - Alex Cord

Alex Cord
May 3, 1933 - August 9, 2021

With the exception of a couple of frustrating phone calls, I began losing touch with Alex Cord after he pulled himself by the bootstraps out of his North Hollywood life and moved to his dream-ranch in East Texas. We spent nearly twenty years writing and chatting together, producing a number of yet-unmade screenplays, including Feather in the Rain, Dead South, Blood Witness, and Puppet on a String. Our martini-studded evenings with Bill Shatner, discussing Bill’s proposed directing of Dead South, were unforgettable.

We’d get together at Alex’s home, an island of macho tranquility unlike my bustling Park La Brea apartment where, he commented, I always sounded like I “was being pursued by a starving pack of Rottweilers.” There he would calmly and methodically whip up an excellent pasta while we free-wheeled convoluted chats about our mutual love of Italy (he was born Alexander Viespi), the serendipitous vagaries of life, the tragic disconnect between him and his son Wayne, the deteriorated state of male/female relationships--reciting Shakespearian monologues back and forth until it was time to settle down to our writing sessions.

Imperially slim, Alex was indeed a gentleman from head to crown, a spinner of tales, and an endless reservoir of priceless jokes that he delivered with the intensity of the veteran thespian. One of the highlights of our artistic friendship was the trip we made together to my native south Louisiana where he met and mesmerized my Cajun uncles, aunts, and cousins—and rebuilt the front steps of Uncle Wib’s front porch because he noticed they weren’t symmetrical and sturdy enough. Then we rounded out the trip to the deep rural of the countryside with the decadent urban oblivion of New Orleans, to visit Romanian novelist Andrei Codrescu and raconteur extraordinaire Laurie Stieber in a non-stop Creole weekend of storytelling and hijinks. Alex was truly a man for all seasons, whose mere presence was riveting and inspiring. After a youth wrangling his anger at the stupidity of the world, Alex Cord was a man at peace with himself with a black and white view of things that lit up every room he entered.

1 comment:

CL said...

It is rare, perhaps as far back as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, to read such a wonderfully honest letter written by a man about a cherished male friendship; at times rough around the edges, but as smooth as the martinis you drank together. Your extraordinary tribute to your buddy, Alex Cord, gives me the feeling, Ken, that a new book of essays/letters from you may be born entitled: Uncle Wib’s Front Porch. As you and Alex have said to each other a million times, “Cheers!” Sending love to you in Heaven, Alex!

Laurie Stieber