Interviewed on November 25th, 2013
Welcome everybody to the first ever Retromash podcast. Now to be honest I never thought that I would be doing a podcast as a part of the Retromash website. I happen to have a stutter which used to be extremely bad, I wasn’t able to speak in many situations, and so I really have to slow down my speech at times and and use a special breathing technique in order to speak well. I hate the sound of my own voice, but I think everyone does, and I never thought I would do a podcast. However, I was offered the chance to interview Alex Cord from Airwolf and, I mean, who can refuse that? It really was fantastic to speak to Alex and I could have spoken to him all night. He’s a fascinating man and a true gentleman, and I got so engrossed in the other interesting parts of his life that I didn’t actually manage to ask him all the Airwolf questions that I had, which is a shame as I’d love to ask him a few more questions about Airwolf but we just ran out of time unfortunately. But I do hope that you find the whole interview interesting as I love to find out more about the people behind the characters that we love and not just ask the standard questions that they must get asked all the time. I do also have to apologise for bits of the recording where the Skype dropped out slightly, particularly in the part around 15 mins or so when Alex was talking about having lunch with Elvis. The Skype connection was horrendous for a few moments, but I’ve decided to leave it in because, I mean, he’s talking about having lunch with Elvis so you kind of have to leave it in! But I do apologise for the sound quality there. I’m hoping off the back of this one that I can interview a few other people too so stay tuned for some future podcast episodes either of people who were active in the 80s or people who are active now and involved in 80s retro somehow. But I’m an amateur podcaster, I do have a stutter and this is early days, so with that all said, I hope you enjoy the show!
RETROMASH – I’m joined this evening by a major 80s television star, a Hollywood actor and a best-selling author, all rolled into one. And what’s more he can ride a horse extremely well as well. Retromash listeners will probably know him most as the iconic Archangel in Airwolf. I’m very excited to introduce Alex Cord. Welcome, Alex. How are you, sir?
ALEX CORD – Well I’m very well thank you Michael. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. Looking forward to our interview.
Well I really appreciate you letting me interview you, Alex, so thank you very much indeed. If I may I’d like to start at the beginning and ask what was it that made you want to become an actor in the first place?
I was in college studying English literature. I’ve always been fascinated by the written word and it didn’t take me very long to realise that all the pretty girls were in the Dramatic Arts department. So I found out that I could take some of the courses in the Dramatic Arts department along with my other studies. They had Voice & Diction, and Elocution, and History of the Theatre and things like that. So I started to take those classes and soon I had a girlfriend who was an actress and she was in that department and at one point we had to get up in one of the Voice & Diction classes and recite speeches from Shakespeare and there was a wonderful teacher who managed to make Shakespeare sound unpretentious and you had the feeling she had had dinner with him the night before the class! So I got up and started to do the speeches and found that I enjoyed it although I was very shy about getting up in front of people but she gave me a lot of confidence. The next thing I knew my girlfriend was auditioning for the American Shakespeare Festival which was at Stratford, Connecticut. A beautiful theatre. Katherine Hepburn had played there the Summer before. And my girlfriend got the job that she auditioned for and we drove up there to check out the theatre and I had an old beat up car and we were still weeks before she was going to have to go up there and so we wanted to see the theatre and had heard a lot about it. And it was so beautiful and I was so envious of the fact that she was going to be up there all Summer in this beautiful place and I thought she’ll probably fall in love with some actor and forget all about me. So I came back to New York and found that they were still auditioning for some smaller parts, spear carriers and also a student program at the theatre so I went to that wonderful teacher, had to do a dramatic soliloquy and a comedy piece, and I asked her if she could help me, and she did. She had always said when I got up to read that I should be an actor, and I thought it was the most absurd suggestion in the world, but there I was. She helped me, and damned if I didn’t get the job! I hadn’t told my girlfriend that I was doing this, so once I got the job I came home and told her, “I’m going to be up there all Summer with you”, and that was the start right there. And I spent a glorious Summer at the American Shakespeare Festival. We did Hamlet and Midsummer Night’s Dream and that was the start of my career.
Fantastic. Have you got any advice for any aspiring young actors out there?
Well you know, I do. I had a son, a beautiful young man, who unfortunately passed away at the age of 26, and I wrote a book about him. It’s one of my novels, it’s going to be made into a movie. It’s called “A Feather in the Rain”. My son, he was about as, well he looked like Brad Pitt. I mean, that sums him up. He came to me, he was not a scholar by any stretch, and he was working in restaurants as a waiter and stuff and he had a lovely girlfriend who was interested in being an actress. And my son came to me and he asked me if I thought he should become an actor. And I said, his name was Damien, and I said, “Damien, the only way you should become an actor is if everyone that you tell you want to become an actor, if everyone one of them tells you that you should not, and you go ahead and do it anyway! Then you might have what it takes to survive that desire.”
It’s hard work then.
It’s the hardest thing in the world! And the odds are against you every inch of the way. You know, there are people who get extremely lucky or have extremely good looks and get by on that and then maybe learn to act along the way, but for the most part it’s extremely difficult. There are more wannabe actors that are waiters in Hollywood and in New York that you could shake a stick at.
Yeh. And you’ve had some amazing opportunities in the past working in the past with such big names from the industry like Bing Crosby, Richard Attenborough, Kirk Douglas, so I was just wondering if you had any specific memories from those days and I do have to ask what was it like when you had to kiss Kirk Douglas in the movie The Brotherhood?
(laughs) Well kissing Kirk was… first of all he was one of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life and I’m blessed to be able to say that I have met some really great people, a lot more than my share, and Kirk, we played brothers in that movie and at the end of the film he gave me a solid gold money clip and he inscribed it, because we were playing Italians, in Italian he said, “For My Brother, Vince. Love, Frank.” And that was in Italian. So we had that kind of a relationship and we remained friends forever, to this day. So kissing him, to answer your question, was just another day’s work! It was pretty antiseptic and of course it was an extremely emotional scene because it was the kiss of death and I was going to have to kill him, which really points to the power of the Mafia that they could get one brother to kill another, to exert that kind of pressure where I simply did not have a choice. I had to kill him or they were going to kill his wife and my wife and child. So that’s how it came about and that’s what the kiss was. And he initiated the kiss because he knew I was there to kill him.
Now, I’ve also heard that you once had lunch with Elvis. If so, may I ask what was he like in person?
Well I was doing a little detective movie at MGM and I knew that Elvis was filming on another sound stage at MGM and I had just finished a movie called Synanon which was about drug addicts. And it was my first film. I had been 10 years in the theatre on stage but Synanon was my first major film with a leading role in it. And it was a very powerful movie. Little black and white film. Very well directed and with a great cast. Edmond O’Brien, Richard Conte, Eartha Kitt. I had a really good part in it. Stella Stevens was in it also. And the movie enjoyed very good reviews and it put me on the map in Hollywood almost overnight. And now I was doing this little detective movie at MGM and one day a guy comes on the set and I can’t think of his name right now but I know it. Anyway I knew who he was, he was one of Elvis’s guys. Elvis had a, you know, a little crew of guys who were his friends and helped him out and stuff. And this guy came and introduced himself to me and he said, “We ran your movie Synanon the other night at Elvis’s house and he just loved that movie and would like to meet you and asked me to come over here and invite you to have lunch with him”. And I said, “When?”. He said, “Today, if that’s ok”. I said, “That’s ok”. I was absolutely delighted, so the next thing I knew I was sitting in Elvis’s trailer on the sound stage. [Bad Skype connection starts here] And he was just the nicest guy in the world. Friendly, charming. and so complimentary about my performance in the movie Synanon. So it was a pure delight. We were together for about an hour and a half, something like that but one of my, I have so many good memories…[Skype connection gets worse]…that other people might dream about andfor me they came true! I still as I tell you this story I find it hard to believe I’ve had the good fortune that I’ve had.
Wow. That must be an amazing memory to have. Now, you appeared in many of the classic shows of the 70s and 80s such as Mission Impossible, The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, Six Million Dollar Man etc. Can I ask what was the experience like when appearing on one or two episodes of a big show like that and how were you treated by the main stars of those shows?
Well, you know, I have found throughout my entire life and career that the bigger the star, the nicer the person. I never met anybody that wasn’t a really good human being. I can’t honestly say that I’ve met anyone… I’ve met a lot of selfish, egotistical megalomaniacs that didn’t even deserve, didn’t have the gifts to warrant their behaviour. But the really big stars and the people who had the leads in series, they were all wonderful to the guest stars. Murder She Wrote, Angela Lansbury, could not have been more charming. I fell in love with her. The one that comes to mind right away is George C. Scott. He had a series called East Side West Side and I got to play a great part as a guest star on that series. I played the part of a paraplegic who became convinced that he was going to be able to walk and it turned out that it just was not true. But I had all of my scenes were with George Scott, and in every scene he was so generous. Usually the star of a series, they favour him with the camera angles, and the directors favour them, you know I mean these are the guys that the series is hanging on so they get the best shots, the best angles, but with George it wasn’t like that at all. He made everything work in my favour, in the scenes with him. Everything was focussed on me. And at the end of one very dramatic scene the entire crew and cast stood and applauded. And it was just a scene between George and me, and I will never forget that. Then afterwards we stayed friends again and I ran into him one time. Hadn’t seen him in probably a year or two, and it was at a horse show. His wife used to ride horses, and I had some horses kept at this facility where the show was. And George spotted me, it was a big charity event, and he spotted me from 20 or 30 feet away, called my name out loud and came charging at me like a bear out of the woods, flung his arms around me and lifted me off the ground in this huge bear hug! I mean it was just wonderful. And things like that just warm your soul. And that was, you know you mentioned a bunch of other shows. And of course there’s a guy named Bob Fuller, who was a big TV star. He starred in a couple of westerns, Laramie and Wagon Train, and he was also a doctor in a TV show called Emergency and I guest starred on Laramie. And I mean that was a hundred years ago and we are friends to this very day, I’m going to have Thanksgiving Dinner with him this coming Thursday! And I was Best Man at his wedding, he was Best Man at my wedding, so we’ve been friends for more than 50 years.
Excellent. Now obviously Airwolf is the show that you are probably most associated with. How proud are you, looking back, of being involved in Airwolf, one of the biggest shows of the 80s, and are you still regularly reminded of it by people who recognise you in the street?
Not so much in the street. I look so different now, you know. Back when I was doing Airwolf they wanted my hair bleached blonde to go with the white suits. And my moustache was dark. And now a pure white moustache, pure white eyebrows and I’ve still got a lot of colour in my hair, and a lot of hair I’m happy to say for my age! So I don’t get recognised in the streets very much any more. Occasionally, and of course I live in Texas too so that makes a big difference, if I were in Hollywood there’s a chance I would get recognised more often, but no I don’t get recognised very much any more, but I am constantly on the internet, and Facebook and stuff like that and am constantly being reminded of Airwolf, and you know the greatest thing about Airwolf was working with great people, Jan Michael Vincent and Ernie Borgnine. Ernie Borgnine, I can’t tell you how close he and I were. We not only did series but we did several films together. A remake, not a remake, but a sequel of the Dirty Dozen, and we did a disaster epic called Fire. Ernie and I shared an Italian background, so we both loved to eat, we both loved to cook, so I would cook for him and his beautiful wife, Tova, at my house and he would do the same at his house, and when he passed away, which was very recently, I lost a member of my family because we were much more than co-workers, we were like brothers. Yeh. He was a huge loss, I miss him every day because we used to talk, oh every month, two months probably over the years, even though he was in Hollywood and I was in Texas. We’d call each other. And then he wrote his book, and sent me a copy of it signed to me and stuff. So Ernie was a big deal.
Can I ask what he was like in real life then? Because he was always very energetic and positive on screen. Was he like that off screen as well then?
Oh positive, oh yeah! He had the most infectious, huge laugh you’ve ever heard in your life. And it came from so deep inside of him. There was not a false note in Ernie anywhere. He was one of the most genuine people. What you see is what you get. He was the most warm hearted, positive is a great word for him. Super super guy. If you spent any time around Ernie you always came away feeling better than when you started.
Excellent. And what was it like working with Jan Michael Vincent?
Well, Jan and I first met on a, there was a very successful show called Police Story. It was an anthology series so there were no regulars on the show. Every week it was a new story. He and I, I did several Police Stories, I don’t remember how many, I made 3 or 4 anyway, but one with Jan was a really great show. It was about, I played a sniper. And it was all about the psychology of being a sniper and Jan played the young up and coming guy. Kind of like my protege. And that was the first I met Jan, and we became friends instantly, right there on that show. In many ways, especially when we were working on Airwolf, where we spent so much time together, he reminded me a lot of my young son, the one who passed away. They were very similar, both charming, intelligent, good looking guys.
Right. Now, Archangel had a very distinctive look. He was a very stylish man. And I bet you are asked this a lot but I do have to ask, have you still got the eye patch or the cane?
(laughs) No, I don’t. The cane went back to the prop department and it was an eye ‘patch’ originally in the pilot for the film, and it was a white eye patch which went with the white suits. That was all in the script that he wear white all the time, but the patch was very disturbing to wear all the time because first of all it inhibits your depth perception so you’d be tripping over wires on stage and stuff, then they were so particular about my hair, you know that it all be just a certain way, and so if I went to take the eye patch off it would mess up my hair, so then the hairdresser would have to come in and start poking around at your head to fix your hair all the time, so I came up with the idea of having glasses with one lens blacked out and I talked to the Producer and he said ok and the prop department fixed the glasses so there was a leather thing attached on the side of the glass where the dark lens was, so that you couldn’t see in from the side to tell whether there was an eye there or not, you know, so that way I could easily take the glasses off without messing up the hair, so that’s the story of that eye patch.
But you also had to wear white all the time. Did you ever have any annoying stains right before the cameras rolled or after having a hot dog or anything?
(laughs) No, but that’s a good question. I was very good about trying to keep it clean and they had I think three suits and then there were times when I wore sweaters and slacks and stuff and you know the wardrobe people were very good after every take if I was wearing the suit and had the jacket on they’d come in and take the jacket off me and put it somewhere where it would stay clean until it was needed again. And I was good about you know where I sat and stuff like that, you know, at lunchtime I usually took off anything that I could spill ketchup on and then put it back on and went back to work.
Have you got any other amusing or interesting stories from Airwolf that you think our listeners might enjoy hearing?
Well, I can’t think of anything that was particularly amusing. One thing that I did enjoy a lot was that it was perfect for Archangel to be a polo player. That was not written and I played serious polo for 20 years, so I had all my own polo ponies, most of which I trained myself. I’m a very serious horseman to this day. And so I got to use a couple of my polo ponies in some of the shows and at one point they incorporated a polo scene into the, what do you call it, like the teaser before the show starts where they show clips you know of stuff, and they would show clips of me playing polo. So that was always fun because that was shown in every episode for a period of time.
Excellent. Now, the books that you’ve written really highlight your love of horses. What is it about horses that you love and when did your love of horses begin?
Aw, you know, I was born with it. Literally. I cannot remember a time when I was not obsessed with horses. My parents put me on a pony when I was two years old. I have photographs of it. And I was in heaven. Next to me was a kid whose parents had put him on a pony and he was crying, screaming to get off. Hated it. And I was grinning from ear to ear. I could not wait for the guy in the summer to come around with those ponies. He’d come every Friday late afternoon and you could ride up and down the street three times for a quarter. For 25 cents. Or 10 cents a ride once up and down the street. And I would be sitting on that curb clutching my quarter every Friday afternoon waiting for this guy to show up with his little string of, I think he had about 5 ponies, and the kids would all be waiting to ride. And I’ve been that way ever since. I mean I take it very, very seriously. I’ve studied with some of the best people in the world. I use to show jumping horses. I’ve competed seriously in every discipline there is. I ride cutting horses, which is a wester thing, team rope, which is a rodeo event roping cattle at high speed, one guy ropes the horns the other guy has to rope the feet of a steer and I’ve done everything, fox hunted for years. And as I say I’ve studied with some of the best people in each of those disciplines and then playing polo… polo is an obsessive thing. It’s extremely dangerous, so you always, you know, you’re on the edge of your… I was going to say on the edge of your seat… yeh you are on the edge of your seat all the time, cos you can die out there. Most people don’t realise, polo at one point in one of these sports magazines it was described as the second most dangerous sport in the world, the first being Formula 1 car racing.
Are you still riding horses every day now?
I don’t raise them but I have them. I’m looking out my window right now and I’m looking at three horses grazing in a pasture and we’ve got about 7 horses here. My wife is a very serious horsewoman and a professional dressage trainer. And now I quit roping, oh, about a year ago. I had to put down my last good rope horse. He got a disease that proved fatal. So when I put that horse down I was really very upset by that and one of the hazards of team roping is getting your fingers cut off when you dally the rope around the saddle horn every once in a while a guy will unfortunately catch a thumb in that loop and it just takes your thumb right off. So I feel that I was ahead of the game that I still have all my fingers, so I decided to quit roping and so I started, I got a little horse that I could use for dressage and I started to take lessons from my wife and here I am after more than 60 years of seriously riding, owning and training horses and I’m starting a whole new discipline now and learning dressage and loving it.
Are you still riding horses every day?
I’m riding them yes. Yeah. I’ve got this one new horse. Just got him, literally a few days ago. She found him for me. He’s a Lusitano, which is an Iberian horse. You may have heard of an Andalusian. Andalusian comes from Spain. Lusitano is from Portugal. And a Lusitano is bread to fight the bulls and they are very good at dressage because they’ve got that, their confirmation. It’s called the Horse of Kings. And they kind of have that magnificent presence and I just got one and I can’t wait to really start working with him. Right now it’s freezing cold here and we’ve got icicles on all the fences.
Now, in your book, ‘A Feather in the Rain’, the main character of Jesse had to put his arm up a horse to help it in labour. Is that something that you’ve ever had to do?
Yes, as a matter of fact I did have to do that. That’s why I knew so much about it and could write about it. The mare did not have to die, that was only in the book, but the foal had it’s head turned around backwards and could not be pulled out. It couldn’t come out by itself. So I had to reach in there and grasp it’s nostril between my fingers and pull the head around. And it was an arduous event. And as it is in the book the vet was trying to get there as quickly as he could but he didn’t get there fast enough so I got it done.
Yeah, that must be a very emotional experience as well.
Yeah, yeah. And to have the foal survive without getting it’s neck broken or anything.
Yeah. Wow. I understand that a lot of the book ‘A Feather in the Rain’ mirrors your own life. I was wondering just how much of Alex there is in the main character of Jesse and how therapeutic it was writing that book.
Well yes a great deal of me is in Jesse, yuh. A great deal. And of course all this stuff about my son is true. So as much as it is referred to as a novel it’s really largely autobiographical. And you know it was therapeutic. Some of it was very painful cos, you know, writing the book I had to relive it all and often I did a lot of rewriting so I had to re-read a lot of those sections for days and days and days to get, I’m very particular about structure when writing just a sentence, moving words around or making sure that it’s as perfectly written as I’m capable of doing. So I’m not just telling the story, I’m trying to tell it in the best way possible. So it was therapeutic. One of the gratifying things about the book is that the publisher contacted me at one point to tell me that they had gotten a letter from a woman whose profession was Grief Counselor and she found that there were parts of the book that would be very helpful to her in her grief counselling sessions and she wanted to know, to get permission to use those parts of the book. And so that was very gratifying because you know I never dreamed that would happen or that it would have that kind of an impact.
Yeah. I believe they are also making it into a movie. Can you tell us the latest with that?
Well I just have finished a screenplay which is a whole other task, cos I don’t know how much you know about that but a screenplay is very different from a novel, in it’s structure. It’s all a matter of structure. You have to know what you’re doing to write a screenplay. So I did it, and I had to rewrite it, well twice, before I got it to the point where it was very professional and that I could show it to anybody with confidence and so it has just literally as we speak, I mean two days ago I sent it off to a producer in Hollywood and he is going to read it and we’ll see where we go from there. So I’m holding my breath, and Harrison Ford when I first had the manuscript for the book, before it was published, I managed to get it to Harrison through a friend, and well there’s an endorsement from him on the cover of the book about seeing it as a movie and so Harrison actually telephoned me and we had I think three conversations about it’s merits as a story for a film. Unfortunately he was so busy at the time and still is, god bless him, that I didn’t have a chequebook fat enough to get Harrison Ford, but he expressed such an intense interest and enthusiasm in it so that was very encouraging so I’m convinced that it will be a movie one way or another.
Well I wish you all the best with that and I’ve read two of your books, ‘A Feather in the Rain’ and ‘Days of the Harbinger’ in preparation for this interview, and I have to say I was really impressed, I really enjoyed them very much and I wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone listening who is interested. And I just wanted to ask, have you had any formal writing training or is it all just natural?
No, I’ve never had any formal training, but my training has come from an intense interest, a passion about the art of the written word. I have spent my entire life reading the classics. I mean, starting with Shakespeare and I read only high quality stuff. I don’t read any junk. I don’t waste my time with that. And when I read something worthwhile, I have read every word that Hemingway and John Steinbeck wrote. I actually have had dinner with John Steinbeck once. And I have read everything that he’s written and most of his stuff I’ve read more than once. He’s got one book called ‘To a God Unknown’ and I have read that book three times. Over a period of many years, but when I read these guys like Steinbeck, Hemingway, Cormack McCarthy, to name a current guy. If you’re not familiar with him he wrote ‘All the Pretty Horses’. He wrote ‘No Country For Old Men’. He’s a brilliant writer. And when I read those guys I read them with a yellow highlighter in my hand and when I see something that I know I know I’ll want to go back to and say how did he put that, how did he say that, and so I highlight it in yellow so that I can find it again easily. And those are my teachers, you know, and the thing about writing is that there are so many different ways, there are great storytellers, I mean, you can take a contemporary guy like Vince Flynn or Tom Clancy, those guys, they’re wonderful storytellers but I don’t need a highlighter when I read them. I read them because I do enjoy the stories and the pace and they’re very well done so they’re worth reading but rarely is there a memorable phrase or paragraph or a description where you say ‘Wow, that’s poetry’ which is is true of Steinbeck certainly, Cormack McCarthy, those people. So those are my teachers. But no I have never had any formal training.
Wow, yeah, well that’s very impressive. Your more recent novel, ‘Days of the Harbinger’ is a very different book, and could even be classified as science fiction. Is that a genre that you have a particular interest in?
No, I have never had an interest in science fiction. However, 15 years ago… I’ve always had an interest in being the most powerful person in the world. I’ve always thought “If I were king of the world this is the way it would be!” and so about 15 years ago I was obsessed with thinking about all the things that I thought were wrong in the world and how if I had the power I could make it better, and I came up with this idea of the Harbinger and it just came into my head about how a guy could become, acquire that kind of power. And that was 15 years ago but I could never make it work. I could never figure out how to go ahead and make this thing work. And I tried, I wrote oh maybe 20 or 30 pages. Still couldn’t figure out how to do it. So I burnt out on trying, and quit, and I put it aside and about 2 years ago I wanted to write another book and I had a couple of different ideas but the idea of the Harbinger started to make itself known to me, so I finally went into my closet and dug through a bunch of stuff and found my notes on the Harbinger and I started to read them and as I was reading them I realised, well this doesn’t work, that doesn’t work, no wonder you couldn’t make it work, and suddenly it was as if a coin dropped in my head, and the whole thing became clear to me how to do it. And that was it. And I sat down and started to write it, threw out all of those old notes and started from scratch. And I was able to go from page one to the end non stop and it took me less than a year to write the whole book. And then I had to you know go back over it. You know writing, it’s a common phrase but it’s so true, writing is rewriting. I mean anyone can put down a first draft of something but before it ever becomes worth anything you’ve got to sit down from beginning to end and go over it with a fine toothcomb before it’s worth anybody’s time to look at it. You know, so, but it finally worked and it’s got nothing but 5-star ratings on Amazon, wonderful reviews, and it’s doing pretty well.
Yeh well I really enjoyed that book in particular, and the bit where the main character advises the President, I thought that bit was really good and after reading that, well I think you should be the President of America, Alex!
(laughs) Yeah, I’m with you! I tell you there’s a guy who should be President and I doubt, well you might be aware of him but even most Americans are not. He’s a wonderful human being who’s a doctor, a world famous neurosurgeon. His name is Ben Carson, and this is one of the most highly revered doctors on the planet. And he is now retired. He’s a young man. By a young man, I’d say he’s maybe late 50s early 60s. And one of the most compelling people I have ever seen anywhere, and I’ve watched him interviewed at one point for two and a half hours and I sat on the edge of my seat while this guy was questioned, for two and a half hours, and there is a movement afoot right now to try to get him to run for President. Dr Ben Carson. Yup. And the best part of it is that he is a black man. But what a great man he is. Check it out. I mean he’s all over the internet. All you have to do is type in Ben Carson. I am supporting him. I’ve already contributed some money to these people who are trying to get him to run, and he is open to the idea, and the best part of all is that he is not a politician, and that’s what we need. You know, every professional politician owes somebody something and they’ve got to pay them back, you know, and that’s were the corruption starts, and as soon as they’re paying somebody back for something their original thoughts go out the window. They can no longer be true to their own beliefs.
Your books have a lot of horses in them. But I spotted something else that your books also have a lot of, and that is Whisky! Are you a big Whisky drinker by any chance?
(laughs) Yeh! Yeh. I love a good single malt. Scotch. And I love Tequila.
Ah, nice. Well being Scottish myself I do love whisky as well, and there was one whisky in particular that you mentioned in one of your books and that was the whisky Lagavulin. Is that a particular favourite of yours?
Lagavulin, yeh, yeh. And Laphroaig is another one. Are you familiar with Laphroaig?
I am indeed. Well I respect you even more now Alex!
(laughs) Well there’s nothing like a good single malt. The thing I like about Laphroaig is, you’ve really got to like Scotch cos it’s got that very earthy, peaty, smokey flavour to it.
Now, I was listening to an interview that you did recently where you asked what advice you would give to the younger generation I believe, and you said that they should follow their dreams and not listen to negative people. And I just thought that they were very wise words, and I was wondering if that was a philosophy that you’ve always had or if it’s something that you’ve learnt over the years?
I don’t think I’ve always had it as a philosophy consciously but I’ve always been a dreamer. I’ve always had fantastic thoughts, and ideas that were out of the realm of my actual existence. I grew up in a very humble family. Modest means. I was born during the depression, the Great Depression. My father had to struggle to feed his family. He had three different jobs to support his family and he was a great man with very, almost no formal education but he taught himself. He worked in the construction business, and he became an unlicensed engineer. I say unlicensed because he didn’t have the formal education to get the papers necessary to be licensed, but he ran these big construction jobs and he did it all by teaching himself to read blueprints and stuff like that. But, you know, when I told him that I wanted to become an actor the first thing he did was roll his eyes towards heaven in utter despair. I mean, he just said, “Oh man, this kid’s really lost it now”. He always thought I was a little bit outside the box but with that he thought “Good God”, but he never outwardly, vocally did anything to discourage me, but he certainly didn’t do anything to encourage me either. I got no support from him as far as that went. My mother on the other hand did give me a lot of support, but she always loved the movies and she named my brother after a movie star whose name was Robert Taylor. He was a big movie star in the 40s, 50s. And she named my brother Robert after Robert Taylor, so she loved it you know, and her biggest idol was Bing Crosby, and then as you know I got to work with Bing Crosby, so I flew her and my father to Colorado, where we were filming, and I had told Bing about my mom and how enamoured she was of him and would he be able to squeeze out some time and maybe have dinner with us, and he could not have been more gracious, so my mother got to meet Bing Crosby and have dinner with him! Talk about dreams come true. Good God. So I really am a big believer in that, in having the courage and conviction to dream big and don’t listen to anybody who is negative about your dreams. That’s the most important thing. It’s so easy to be discouraged. You know, it’s so easy for other people to say negative things, you know. But, anything is possible, good God I’m living proof!
(laughs) And you’re 80 years old and riding horses every day. Have you got a secret for how to stay healthy. Are you strict with what you eat or how you exercise or anything like that?
Well I think it is important, I do exercise although you know that’s the trouble with being a writer as opposed to being a rider, is you know as a writer you’re sitting on your ass on a chair all the time. That’s the worst thing in the world you can be doing to yourself under any circumstances. So it’s always tough to balance those two, you know, to get off the chair and work out, I do a lot of exercising on a, I have a cross country ski machine, and I get on that thing as often as I can, and I do a lot of stretching and a little bit with weights, not much. Unfortunately where the age is really showing on me, or feeling it, is in arthritis. Joints getting stiffer, you know. My right wrist is really giving me hell right now. But there are a set of exercises you can do for that. In fact I just got a book on that. A little booklet on exercises to help your wrist, arthritis in your wrist, and I’m starting to do those and they are helping but yeh and riding a horse, just the mere act of doing it that in itself is pretty good exercise. I mean anybody who things you’re just a passenger on a horse doesn’t have a clue. I mean, if you’re riding well and especially doing the stuff I did, playing polo, roping and dressage. Dressage uses every muscle in your body. And you separate them all. You’ve got to isolate your arms, your shoulders, your core muscles, your legs. You’ve got to be able to flex your left calf when you want to, or flex your right calf, or tighten your abdominals and yet at the same time be relaxed on the horse, so there’s a lot going on, yeh. Yeh and you’re right there aren’t many people 80 years old and are gonna go out and do the stuff I do on a horse. But I also ride a tractor a lot and use a chainsaw a lot. We’ve got a little ranch here and it’s a lot of work to keep going, yeh.
OK, we’ve now reached the stage in the show that we call Five Fast Facts.
No.1 – What is your favourite drink?
Well I would say single malt Scotch, or Tequila.
No. 2 – What is your favourite meal?
Oh, almost anything Italian.
No. 3 – What is your favourite movie?
Oh God there is so many. Of course I love westerns so Red River, with John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, My Darling Clementine, Henry Fonda playing Wyatt Earp, Tombstone, another great western. You know recently, a damn good western was Open Range with Kevin Costner. But then I’ve got to say On The Waterfront and almost anything with Marlon Brando, he was one of my favourites. And his western, One-Eyed Jacks, damn good western.
No. 4 – What is your favourite song?
Well you know, the first thing that comes to mind when you say a song, is Kristofferson had a song, and I’m not even sure what the title of it was. It may have been, but the song was, “Take the ribbon from your hair, shake it loose and let it fall, softly on my skin, like the shadows on the wall.” Great line, great line. And that was Kristofferson. That song always sticks in my mind as a beautiful song.
No. 5 – What is your favourite travel destination?
Well there are two. Italy and Africa.
Well, Alex, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. I’d like to wish you all the best for your writing, and your movie, and once again thank you very much for your time.
Well thank you, Michael, I enjoyed it very much indeed. It was my pleasure.
Massive thanks to Alex Cord for taking the time and being an amazing guest, and also to his UK agent Nick Wale for helping set things up.
You can find Alex on Twitter at @CordOfficial and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alex-Cord-Author/489177407810772.