Her grief for Nick Cordero marked COVID’s toll. A year later, Amanda Kloots is still here
On the Shelf
Live Your Life: My Story of Loving and Losing Nick Cordero
By Amanda Kloots and Anna Kloots
Harper: 336 pages, $28
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For 95 days, while her husband, actor Nick Cordero, was in the ICU battling complications from COVID-19, celebrity fitness trainer Amanda Kloots posted Instagram stories with a plea for positivity, asking people to sing “Live Your Life,” a song Cordero wrote and had just begun to perform, in hopes that it would “wake Nick up.”
Cordero, 41, had recently moved to Los Angeles with Kloots and their son, Elvis. Nominated for a Tony award for his performance in “Bullets Over Broadway,” Cordero also had starred in the Broadway musicals “Waitress” and “A Bronx Tale”; he was making inroads into television and hoping to jump-start a career in music. In March 2020, after a trip to New York to finish packing up their apartment, Cordero became sick. When he collapsed, Kloots took him to Cedars-Sinai. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, she and Elvis could not accompany him into the hospital. He was placed on a ventilator and then on an ECMO machine (to oxygenate the blood outside the body). Due to a blood clot, his right leg was amputated. On July 5, Cordero died. The last time Kloots saw “Nick as Nick” was when he walked into the hospital, unable to kiss his family goodbye.
Amid the terror of the early pandemic, rife with panic and devoid of reliable information, Kloots’ videos on Instagram were a potent dose of reality. Underneath the optimism, her updates revealed the seriousness of the virus, which took a healthy and talented man in the prime of his life.
Kloots’ story, related in a new book, “Live Your Life,” co-written with her sister, Anna Kloots, is one of resilience in the face of unbelievable loss. In between filming for CBS’ “The Talk,” where she is now a cohost, and a jump-rope session for her AK! Fitness Brand, Amanda Kloots spoke with The Times about public grief, spirituality and why she finally spoke out against Trump.
Amanda Kloots completed a song her husband, Broadway star Nick Cordero, began writing before he died at age 41 in July after a battle with COVID-19.
Can you describe the moment when you knew you had to write this book?
To be honest, it wasn’t my idea! I was walking out of the hospital, and I got a call from Lisa Sharkey at HarperCollins. She had been following the story on Instagram, and she said, you need to write this down. This was in June; I was so laser-focused on what was going on with Nick and Elvis that I don’t think I really heard her.
I write the way I talk, which is not in any way grammatically correct, and I knew I would need help. My sister, Anna, is a writer, so I asked HarperCollins to consider her rather than a ghostwriter. I think they were a bit nervous but once they read her work they immediately said yes. Anna knows me better than anyone.
How did you outline the book? Did you take notes while Nick was in the hospital? It was such a compelling read; I read it in one sitting.
A lot of people have said they read the book in one or two sittings, and I take that as such a compliment. When everything started with Nick I had no idea what we were getting into. I had never had anyone I loved in the hospital, let alone the ICU. I didn’t even know what I could ask for or what questions I could ask.
I’m very good at remembering details, especially in the moment, so I didn’t really write things down. But when the doctor would call I would write notes and then my siblings would dictate to our friends and family (we recorded those calls so that helped). But it was all from memory — and the collective memory. The book just poured out of me. Recording the audiobook, though, has been really emotional. Much harder than writing the book.
What made you want to include your and Nick’s journey as a couple?
It came from the stories I was telling about Nick on Instagram when he was in the hospital. I told many of our stories, about him jumping rope to win me back and our wedding dance. I wanted people to know more about us.
There is so much in this book about coincidence: Nick’s heart stopped on Good Friday; he had an AK (above-knee) amputation (your initials and the name of your company); he was in a coma for a biblical 40 days.
I’ve never been stronger in my faith than while Nick was in the hospital. I put every fiber of my being and trust in God. Nick didn’t have the faith that I have, and I could feel it. But I think God and Nick talked. I really believe that Nick was waiting to make sure that Elvis and I would be all right.
You’ve spoken about how the book has become a way to tell Nick his story, the story of what happened to him.
I didn’t write it with that in mind, but Jennifer Love Hewitt told me this dream she had about Nick, where he said that he was with me while Anna and I were writing the book, and that he was proud of me and relieved that now he finally knew what had happened to him. It’s pretty eerie, because it’s true. When I was in the hospital with the doctors, I wanted to keep things 100% positive around Nick, so any conversations about his status or his care we had outside his room.
Is there any indication from the medical community, a year later, of why Nick had such a severe case?
When Nick got sick, it was so early on in the pandemic and it was like the Wild Wild West. I don’t blame anyone, because they were just trying to do what was best. I think if Nick were admitted today it might be a different outcome. But with what COVID had done to his body, it was more difficult for him to recover. He could never catch a break.
You don’t strike me as a political person —
You’re totally right, I’m not!
But when the former president made remarks that COVID was not a serious disease and people didn’t need to be concerned, you spoke out.
After Nick passed, when Trump did what he did, that really hurt. Nick was one of half a million people who died from COVID. You know, I come from Ohio. I grew up Republican and my family is conservative. But it doesn’t matter what your politics are, you have to lead. To act so frivolously was not only insensitive, it was dangerous. I couldn’t stand by.
Broadway actor Nick Cordero died of coronavirus complications after spending more than 90 days in the intensive care unit. He was 41.
How do you experience grief now?
People say it gets easier as time goes on but I disagree. It’s gotten harder for me. I miss Nick’s energy and I wonder how he would be with Elvis. As time goes on, you do learn tools that help you. In the beginning, the grief is so overwhelming. You feel like an astronaut in space: You have a protective suit, your family, but you feel like you’re drifting.
I imagine that the promotion of this book will be extremely emotional. How do you stay grounded and take care of yourself?
Normally you write a book and you’re excited to talk about it and promote it — that’s part of being an author! I’ll be honest, it’s very difficult to talk about it all the time. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that writing the book and reliving those 95 days has helped me to process it. It helps me understand it, and that helps with the pain. And, in talking about Nick, it feels like he’s still here. It feels like he isn’t gone.
Ferri’s most recent book is “Silent Cities: New York.”
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