As R&B singer Millie Jackson performed at Hollywood Park Casino on Sunday night, Dwayne Alexander sat at the VIP table.
So did singer Norwood Young, whom Jackson had also invited. Alexander had directed a concert documentary for Jackson in 2007. As an executive for Capitol/EMI in the 1980s, he had signed Young to his first record contract, but the men hadn't seen each other for a good while.
"We acted like schoolboys all night," said Young in a telephone interview Thursday. "We were going to get together to talk about a film project he was working on this week."
The scene, friends said, was emblematic of the life of Dwayne Alexander, a gentle giant of a man who never married and had no kids but accumulated many longtime friends across years in the entertainment industry.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Alexander, 49, was stabbed to death at Los Angeles Job Corps in Hollywood, where he worked as a counselor. Police responded to 911 calls to find Alexander bleeding on the office floor and Job Corps students holding down one of their own: Freddy Leyva, 22, who was booked on suspicion of murder that night. Police have not released a motive.
In a statement, Job Corps officials called Alexander "a valued employee" and said they maintain a "zero-tolerance" stance toward violence and drugs at their facilities.
Alexander, originally from Tulsa, Okla., was 6 feet 3 and well over 200 pounds, but he was soft-spoken, quick to smile and had a big, strong laugh.
Friends on Thursday searched their memories for a moment when Alexander displayed real anger.
"This guy was such a gentle soul. For him to have such a violent end is unbelievable," said Max Vaval of Atlanta, a friend from Alexander's days in the music business.
Alexander entered the music business in the 1980s, first with A&M Records and later as vice president of artists and repertoire with Capitol/EMI, friends said Thursday. He spent time in Atlanta, many years in Los Angeles and brief stints in New York, friends said.
"He was a very kind spirit, definitely not one of those cutthroat A&R music people you meet," said Angelique Miles, an independent music consultant in New York, who began her career as Alexander's assistant at Capitol/EMI. His work at the Job Corps "was more suited to his personality: giving back and helping people," she said.
In 2001, he left the music business to study screenwriting full time at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, according to friends and the website script2screenfest.tripod.com.
Alexander was drawn to "the discipline of writing; He was really engaged with telling stories through film," said Karen Kennedy, a manager of jazz musicians in New York who met Alexander during their days together at A&M Records.
In 2007, he produced a play, "Full Moon Blues," with blues singer Linda Hopkins and Young in the cast. He later wrote, directed and produced "Willa Mae, the Church Lady Vampire Slayer," a low-budget film.
He was hired at Job Corps about a year ago. He monitored 35 students' recreation and academic activities, according to a Job Corps official.
Kennedy wondered Thursday how Alexander's Job Corps charges will react to his death.
"I hope what they take from this is that you have to live your life with love and honor and consideration of others," she said, "because that's how Dwayne lived his."