It has been a hard few days for the deaths of very interesting, talented people…so I will try and memorialize a few in the my next few posts.

Long before Ricardo Montalban (born in Mexico City as Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino) had his career defined and deep-sixed by Fantasy Island and fine Corinthian leather, he was one of Hollywood’s leading “latin lovers” (back when such things were PC) and played the villain in countless westerns and tales  of “old California” as well as numerous Hispanic character roles along with American Indians and Asians (gotta love Hollywood).

Unhappy with the way that Mexican and Hispanic actors were treated and with the roles they were asked to play, in the 70s he founded the Nosotros Foundation to promote positive portrayals of Hispanics and encourage Hispanic involvement in the arts in the US. The foundation gives yearly Golden Eagle Awards for achievements by Hispanics in film and the arts.

I have great respect for Mr. Montalban’s achievements and like most of my generation, I know him first and foremost (and love him) as KHAN! The clip below shows him at his best (and has Big Bill Shatner too, for the win!).

Vaya con dios, Don Ricardo.




  1. While not discounting his work in Star Trek–and explained away once in a hysterical fashion by Walter Koenig at a convention (as to why Chekov mysteriously arrived *after* Khan’s episode, and yet Khan knew him on sight–the short version is there was a very long queue for the one working bathroom that week on the ship, and it broke again just after Chekov walked out of the door, so Khan vowed always to remember his face)–I always remember him from How the West was Won.

    I still think–even though it was a Hollywood tradition then, to miscast people of one ethnicity as virtually anything else (one reason I can’t watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s to this very day, because of Mickey Rooney’s “Asian” upstairs neighbor), that he made a very dignified, nearly regal Sioux chief.

    As I seem to have said rather often this year….he will be missed.

  2. As someone who did know him first as Mr. Roarke (just barely, mind you — I think the reruns of Star Trek started airing around the same time as the first season of FI) … don’t discount too much of his work on Fantasy Island. While he was definitely above the material, he never acted as though it was merely a paycheck for him. And when, in the rare occasion, he was called upon to be more than a genial and cheeky host … he brung it, as the kids used to say.

    You missed the discussion in Caledon as to whether Montalban was hotter than his screen son-in-law Antonio Banderas (yay, Spy Kids). Personally, I go with the Spaniard, but if someone has a What If machine, plugging in “What if a young Ricardo Montalban had starred in Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down?” would be a very interesting exercise.

  3. It must be said–as cheesy as Fantasy Island got–and it traded on major, major cheese–on occasion there was at least a rhinestone sparkle, if not a diamondine glow.

    When Montalban was called to be dark, to threaten, to challenge–he never looked back, he never held back, he powered forward with everything he was capable of. It kept me on and off watching the show, just for those moments.

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