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Alex Cord, the rugged former rodeo performer who portrayed Michael Coldsmith Briggs III, better known by the code name Archangel, on the 1980s CBS drama Airwolf, has died. He was 88.
Cord died Monday at his home in Valley View, Texas, his publicist, Linda McAlister, told The Hollywood Reporter.
On the big screen, Cord starred in Synanon (1965), a film directed by Richard Quine that was set in a rehab facility; played Ringo Kid — John Wayne’s role — in a 1966 remake of Stagecoach; and worked alongside Kirk Douglas in The Brotherhood (1968) and with Britt Ekland in Stiletto (1969).
In 1977, he appeared in Grayeagle, another remake of a Wayne classic, this one The Searchers.
For three seasons from 1984-86, Cord starred as the eyepatch-wearing Archangel on 55 episodes of Airwolf, which starred Jan-Michael Vincent as Stringfellow Hawke, the pilot of a high-tech, CIA-created Bell 222 helicopter. The series was created by TV action maestro Donald P. Bellisario.
Cord was born Alexander Viespi Jr. in New York on May 3, 1933. He was stricken at age 12 with polio, which left a leg paralyzed, then sent to live on a ranch in Wyoming. He became a rodeo rider, but that career ended when he was hospitalized for eight months with a ruptured spleen after a steer landed on him.
“Like the crazy kid I was, I went into rodeo competition, roping steers,” he said in a 1966 interview. “I never became a star making $30,000 a year. My limit was $20,000. There is no salary in rodeo; the money is gained in prizes.”
Inspired by Laurence Olivier, Cord pursued an acting career and was accepted into the Shakespeare Academy in Stratford, Connecticut, then worked on the stage in London. In 1961, he made it to television for the first time, appearing on episodes of Laramie, Ben Casey and Frontier Circus.
He starred opposite Angie Dickinson on the 1983 NBC crime show Cassie and Co. and through the years showed up on shows including Naked City, Route 66, Mission: Impossible, Police Story, Fantasy Island, Simon & Simon and Walker, Texas Ranger.
He also wrote several novels and published a memoir, From Wheelbarrow to Ferrari and Back Again, last year.
Cord was married and divorced three times — his second wife was British actress Joanna Pettet — and had three children. A son, Damien, died in 1995 of a heroin overdose at age 26.
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