Nelson Despaire (born 1942) has led a unique and turbulent life. His voluminous knowledge of film scores belies his educational background: high school and two years of city college. From an early age he was entranced by movies, especially the music that ushered forth from them. “It was as if I could see the music more than the film,” he once stated.
After a stint in the Navy, Despaire spent the next thirty-five years working for the Post Office. His last fifteen USPS years found him working as a Nixie Clerk. Nixie is the postal term given to mail that cannot be delivered. Patrons move without leaving a forwarding address or pass away, or the letter is simply misaddressed. Despaire was fascinated by all of these undelivered communications. The job also gave him access to hundreds of undeliverable magazines. During breaks he would peruse them – everything from Pipe Fitters Weekly to Sand Blasters Monthly. One day he stumbled across an issue of Movie Music. At last he knew that he was not alone! Thenceforth he devoted all of his spare time to studying the history of film music.
When he was fifty years old, Nelson suffered a sudden and severe bout of vertigo. He was forced to see a doctor. (This happened shortly after his divorce from the famous writer Breezy O’Roark, author of the best selling book Bla, Bla, Bla: A Woman’s Right to Say Whatever the Hell She Wants!) Extensive tests were done. Despaire was diagnosed with Hyperaurality Syndrome, a very rare malady that causes the patient to see sound. Despaire has reported that, while watching a movie, he can separate the film into four parts: the visuals, the music, the dialogue, and the sound effects. He sees each of these on different panels in his mind. “To me a DVD is just the film score with a movie attached.”
Despaire retired in 2000. He now lives in Santa Monica, California. His unpublished books include: The Most Beautiful Movies Ever Made, A Picnic at Peyton’s Summer Place on the Beach, and Tiomkin: The Untold Story.
You may reach Nelson here.