Would Anyone Hire Ricardo Montalban Today?

by Herbie J Pilato

ricardo4I recently caught an episode of the classic TV show, The Name of the Game, which originally aired on NBC from 1968 to 1971.  It was one of the more unique programs of its time.  The series was like an anthology show, but it wasn’t.  There were three different main stars:  Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Tony Franciosa, each of whom had their own storyline, but yet all were connected by a Los Angeles publishing company.

The segment that I viewed featured Robert Stack as the editor of this one particular publication that was linked with the main organization.  The same episode also featured the multi-talented Ricardo Montalban in a guest-starring role.

As I’m watching the segment, I’m thinking, “Mmmm…there’s the great Ricardo Montalban, years before he found fame on TV as the mysterious Mr. Roark on ABC’s 70s/80s Saturday night hitFantasy Island; and right around the time he was also guest-starring in his original incarnation as Kahn on the first Star Trek TV episode, ‘Space Seed – decades before he reprised the role for the hit 1982 feature film, Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn.”

While filming The Name of the Game and the original Star Trek, Montalban (who passed away in 2009) was approximately fortysomething.

Years later, when he played Roark and returned to the role of Kahn he was in his late 50s and early 60s.

Each time, however, he was also Latino – and disabled, with one artificial leg.

Would such a man find work today on television or in a feature film?

Would any network or film studio hire a senior minority with a disability?

Most doubtfully – and most sadly, probably not.

In the early 2002, I had the great privilege of attending a special 20th Anniversary Paramount studio screening of The Wrath of Kahn, hosted by the film’s genius director, Nicholas Meyer, and featuring a special guest appearance by Montalban who was, by then, in a wheel-chair.  But his increased disability did not detract from his amazing charisma and “A”-bility to connect with his multitude of admirers.

It was a wonderful moment in entertainment history; and a moment that will never be repeated again…on several levels.

So, here’s to you, Ricardo – and the trailblazing performances that you set forth for decades with your diverse talents and charms – the likes of which Hollywood will mostly never see – or appreciate again.

About Herbie J Pilato

Writer, Author, Producer, Actor, Singer/Songwriter, Lover of Life