Nick Cordero arrived in New York City in 2004 with high hopes and a freshly dented resume. A week or so earlier, while working as a cruise ship entertainer, the actor and singer had returned inebriated to the docked boat in Germany, failed a breathalyzer test and been fired. After being sent home to Hamilton, Ontario, he picked up and moved from Canada to the Big Apple.
Now, Cordero is a Broadway star, as well as an inspiration of hope, courage and perseverance against COVID-19. Every evening, as the Tony Award nominee lays unconscious in a Los Angeles hospital, people around the world sing along to “Live Your Life,” an uplifting song written and performed by him.
Amanda Kloots, Cordero’s wife, does her singing and dancing in front of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Because of restrictions, she can’t go in to see her husband, who has been there for a month: hooked up to a ventilator, his right leg amputated and a temporary pacemaker in his chest. On at least one occasion, he almost died.
“He had no pulse for two minutes,” Kloots told The Post. “They resuscitated Nick and put him on an ECMO machine to keep his heart and lungs working. He was on it for five days.”
But there was some incredibly hopeful news late Friday when Cordero, who is still in a medically induced coma, was taken off a ventilator and given a tracheotomy.
“The trach is still assisted breathing, but it’s more comfortable, presents less risk of infection and is better on his vocal cords,” said Kloots, 38.
Though the virus has left Cordero’s body, he is now dealing with the terrible complications. Undaunted, Kloots remains dedicated to her mission.
“The idea is to sing and play ‘Live Your Life’ every day, and he will wake up,” she said.
“Outside of the hospital, I’ve had people drive by and shout, ‘We’re praying for you’. Others tell me, ‘We’re singing his song.’ Everyone is behind Nick. We’re all waiting to hear how this ends. He has to wake up and tell us.”
She dreams of the day the 41-year-old can come home to her, their 10-month-old son, Elvis, and their friends. Former cast members from the Broadway show “Waitress” — in which Cordero starred in 2016 — have posted renditions of “Live Your Life” to social media. A GoFundMe campaign to help cover his medical expenses has raised more than $450,000.
“Nick’s a good friend, wonderful guy and a fantastic actor,” Steven Van Zandt, guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and host of “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” on Sirius Radio, told The Post.
“We are giving as much positive energy as possible. I’m playing ‘Live Your Life’ every night at 6 o’clock on my show. People have been responding passionately. I can’t wait to tell him.”
Growing up in Ontario, where both his parents were high-school teachers, Cordero participated in community theater. He majored in drama at Ryerson University in Toronto, but dropped out after two years.
That’s when Cordero focused on his band Love Method. The group’s guitarist, Ro Sardana, told The Post: “We were signed to a subsidiary of Universal Records and put out an album in 2000. But [the momentum] slowed down and Nick went back to acting.”
He snagged a part in the Toronto company of “Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding” before trying his luck on the cruise-ship circuit. Soon after hitting NYC, Cordero had his share of roles, including in Broadway’s “Rock of Ages” and as the title character in “Toxic Avenger” off-Broadway. But after a decade, he was tired of the hustle required when you’re not a big name.
By 2014, “Nick was going for his real estate broker’s license,” said friend Clyde Alves. “He was getting older and could not establish a substantial run on Broadway. He wanted a steadier way to make ends meet. Then, out of the blue, he got an audition.”
It was for a musical adaptation of the film “Bullets Over Broadway.”
“He thought there was no way he would get the job,” said Kloots. “Nick figured that if he did, it’s a sign. He got cast … and was nominated for a Tony.”
Kloots and Cordero met on that job, as she was an ensemble cast member. “He was living in Brooklyn, staying in a friend’s closet because he had no money,” she recalled. “He was so supportive and such a great listener. He helped me through a rough time.”
Their first date, in 2014, was dinner at La Marina in Washington Heights. “We sat outside and did the thing where you wonder if you really like each other,” remembered Kloots. “We did!”
“It’s heart-wrenching to be away from Nick. You feel helpless.”
– Amanda Kloots
Positive notices in “Bullets” helped end hard times for Cordero, who had previously subsidized his acting with gigs at restaurants and record stores.
For fun, he bashed out classic rock with various bands. “There was one gig at a bar in Washington Heights, where they played so loud that the show got shut down just four songs into the set,” Alves said.
After a couple years, Kloots and Cordero moved in together on the Upper West Side. “We’d spend afternoons wandering around the East Village or drive up to Hudson,” Kloots said. “Our favorite neighborhood restaurant was Fiorello — we had a regular table outside.”
Following a celebratory dinner for Cordero’s 35th birthday, the couple was in a taxi when the actor got a call. “It was Tommy Mottola,” recalled Kloots of the producer and legendary music executive. “He said to Nick, ‘Are you doing “A Bronx Tale” [on Broadway] with us? I hope you’re doing it.’”
Cordero said yes — and was excited to work with co-director Robert De Niro.
“He was a childhood hero,” said Kloots. “I remember Nick coming home from a fitting and De Niro wanted to make sure everything was exactly right. They talked about the smells in [the character’s] room, the way he’d hold his cup, how the shirt’s collar should look.”
Co-director Jerry Zaks treasures a Tiffany key ring that Cordero gifted him on opening night.
“Every time I open my door, a little piece of Nick is with me,” he told The Post.
Nick and Amanda married in 2017 celebrating on a Midtown roof, with the Empire State Building in the background and stars in the sky. Their pals Alves and Robyn Hurder choreographed the couple’s first dance like a Broadway number.
“We danced to ‘It Had to be You,’” Kloots recalled. “I had a costume change and there were kicks and a big dip at the end.”
Cordero scored a SAG card by appearing as a mafia don’s son in “Lilyhammer,” the Netflix show starring and co-written by Van Zandt. His TV and movie career also heated up, with a recurring part in the show “Blue Bloods” as well as film turns in “Mob Town” and “Inside Game.”
Last year, Cordero was offered a role in a Hollywood stage revival of “Rock of Ages” at the same time an opportunity in LA opened for Kloots, who had started Amanda Kloots Fitness, an online workout series. Their son, Elvis — “Nick loves Elvis Presley,” his wife said — was a newborn, and it seemed like a good time for change.
They bought a home in Laurel Canyon. “The first thing we saw when we walked in was a picture of Elvis Presley over the piano,” said Kloots. “Clearly, it was our place.”
The couple flew separately to New York during the first week of March and packed up their apartment. Now, Kloots can’t help but think about those flights: “Who knows where Nick got [coronavirus]. It could have been on the plane.”
By March 20, Cordero felt fatigued. He spent almost a week in bed. On March 26, while changing Elvis’ diaper, the actor fainted. He went to urgent-care and was told to return four days later if he did not feel better.
“We definitely did not think he had COVID-19, but Elvis and I began isolating together, just in case,” Kloots said.
By the 30th, “Nick’s breathing became labored. I took him to Cedars-Sinai, and he stayed overnight,” Kloots said. “One day later, they moved him to the ICU, believed he had COVID [although tests first came up negative] and intubated him.”
Amazingly, that seemed to work: “Nick was getting better; I thought the problem would resolve itself — he’s 41 and healthy,” said Kloots. “On day six, they planned to take the ventilator out. But, the night before, he had no pulse for two minutes. Things suddenly began to go south.”
Kloots last saw her husband when she dropped him off at the hospital. “It’s heart-wrenching to be away from Nick,” she said. “You feel helpless.”
Eleven days after he was admitted, she got a nurse to put a phone to a heavily sedated Cordero’s ear. “I told him, ‘Honey, you’ve got a lot of living to do.’ I knew that was also the title of a song, so I looked it up on Spotify and got the Elvis Presley version. I hit play, sang along to him over the phone — and his blood pressure improved. That was when it dawned on me: I can’t hold his hand every day, but I can play music, sing to Nick, maybe have people join me.”
“His song [’Live Your Life’] means the world to him. And what a title,” continued Kloots, who added that Priscilla Presley recently reached out to her and said she’s praying for Cordero.
“If only he knew that this song is on the radio and that people all over the world are singing it for him. When Nick wakes up, he’s going to love it.”