Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ricardo Montalbon - Artistic Pioneer

I was surprised and saddened to learn that the actor Ricardo Montalbon has recently passed. I subscribe to the LatinoLA newsletter (I was born in Los Angeles). The author, Abelardo de la Pena, mentioned that the actor Ricardo Montalbon died at the age of 88.

Ricardo Montalbon was admired by my family. He was a successful Latino who projected elegance and kindness during personal appearances. I always felt that the racism of the time toward Mexican Americans and Latinos in general, limited the opportunities Montalbon had to share his artistic gifts. Nontheless, I knew after reading Pauline Kael's (the late film critic for The New Yorker magazine) reviews of Montalbon, that his talent was not completely unrecognized.

The news of Ricardo Montalbon's passing reminded me of a photo I'd seen years ago in my father, Joaquin Enrique Acosta, Jr.'s box of memorabilia. My dad passed a few years ago from Alzheimer's. He was a highly educated and accomplished Chicano (rare during that time as the legacy of Mendez vs. the Board of Education resulted in most of his generation in Southern California attending sub-standard segregated schools for Mexican-Americans).

I found these photos of my dad with Ricardo Montalbon and other of the elites of the 1970's Southern California scene, including Timothy Cardinal Manning, actresses Loretta Young and Ann Blythe. My biggest surprise was to see that Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield was also part of the crowd. (I now live in Bend, Oregon). I don't know the occasion for this event. My parents went to many political/social fundraisers so I presume the event was either a fundraiser or an event in honor of something/someone.

It's beautiful how somebody I didn't know could touch my life positively. We all have that gift to be a role model for others even if we're not a famous actor. Thank you Ricardo Montalban for being such a wonderful artistic talent and role model. I lit a candle for you.

Photo credit: Marjorie W. Gilfillan, Culver City, Calfornia.

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