WHITTIER: Following the news that Martin Ortiz, one of Whittier’s most beloved citizens had died January 11, came the news that one of Hollywood’s greatest leading men Ricardo Montalban had passed away in his Los Angeles home, Jan. 14 at the age of 88. Although they lived worlds apart, these incredible individuals share a commonality in the legacies they leave their fans and in particular, the Hispanic community. Their staunch commitment and advocacy of the minority community helped open doors in both education and entertainment for many aspiring actors and college students.
Martin Ortiz was highly recognized as an advocate for minority students and founder of Whittier College’s Center for Mexican American Affairs. Diagnosed four years ago with Parkinson’s Disease, he died from complications of a lung infection. He was 89.
Ricardo Montalban, who was as suave in real life as he was as a leading man, was one of the first Mexican-born actors to make his own mark in Hollywood. Best known for his roles as Mr. Roarke on ABC’s Fantasy Island and the villainous Khan of the Star Trek franchise, the actor and Chrysler spokesman became a role model for the younger generation of minority actors waiting in the wings.
I was a newcomer to Los Angeles and working in the Program Practices Department at CBS when I first met Mr. Montalban. He was tall and charming and every bit a gentleman. He was there to meet with our director of programs regarding his group Nosotros (“we” in Spanish) that was advocating for more positive portrayals of minorities on television. One of my tasks was to keep track of the handful of minority actors who were appearing on our television programs and to identify the roles they were given as to whether they were positive or stereotypical. It was only the beginning of what Nosotros and other groups would continue to strive for during the next few decades – to give Latino actors more opportunities and present a more balanced portrayal of Latinos on the silver and small screen.
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Ortiz, an educator who worked at the college for more than 40 years, was a school dropout and hobo at age 13. His membership in the Hobo Association of America, however, was short lived. He was back in school when he was 16 where he served as president of his senior class. Following a stint as a Marine during World War II, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Whittier College, the only Latino graduate in his class. He went on to earn a master’s degree from George Williams College in Illinois and in 2004, earned an honorary doctorate of human letters from Whittier College. He founded Alianza de los Amigos Alumni Association and established the Center for Mexican American Affairs in 1971.
One of the things that I remember most about Mr. Ortiz was his dedication, his humility and his modesty toward his work. Always shunning the spotlight, I recall how he always turned it onto others by acknowledging and praising their accomplishments rather than his own.
Mr. Montalban was the youngest of four children of Castilian Spaniards who had immigrated in 1906 to Mexico City. When he was five, the family moved to the northern city of Torreon. After moving to Los Angeles, he studied English at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles where an MGM talent scout noticed him in a student play.
Beginning in the 1940s, Montalban starred in dozens of films with some of the greatest names in movies. He later turned to the stage and eventually television. He won an Emmy for his performance in the television miniseries How the West was Won, and a Tony nomination for best actor in a musical (Jamaica opposite Lena Horne). In the 1970s and ‘80s, he became a commercial spokesman for Chrysler. From 1965 to 1970, Montalban was vice president of the Screen Actors Guild, which gave him a Life Achievement Award in 1993.
In 1944, he married Georgiana Belzer, a model and Loretta Young’s sister. He is survived by two daughters, two sons and six grandchildren.
The Ortiz family has requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Martin Ortiz Endowed Scholarship at Whittier College, Office of Advancement, 13406 Philadelphia St., P.O. Box 634, Whittier, CA 90608. Checks should note that the donation is for the Martin Ortiz Endowed Scholarship.
Both Ortiz and Montalban shared a respect for people of all backgrounds and were respected by everyone who knew them. Icons in their own field, they both achieved many firsts. They were both giants. Their legacy continues. Future generations and we shall continue to benefit from their struggle, their commitment and their dedication.
UNIVERSAL CITY: mun2 will rebroadcast the popular World Wrestling Entertainment’s ECW series on Friday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
ECW, which has been one of SCI FI’s highest rated programs, will bring a new level of entertainment to mun2’s 2009 line-up and comes on the heels of the unprecedented success of WWE’s RAW on mun2.
Last year, mun2 partnered with WWE in the highly successful on-air and online Ultimate Quinceañera sweepstakes. The initiative, which celebrated WWE RAW’s 15th Anniversary garnered a prestigious Emma Award (Excellence in Multi-Cultural Marketing Awards) from the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications.
RAW can be seem every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday night at 6 p.m. on mun2.
mun2 is the preeminent voice for bilingual Latinos in America. Launched in 2001, mun2 was the first national cable network to offer bilingual programming for U.S. bicultural Latinos. mun2 is a multiplatform youth entertainment network that offers authentic content that reflects the lifestyle of the fastest-growing segment of the Hispanic population with original, relevant and cutting-edge programs in proven genres including music, movies, sports, fashion, and social activism. The network, which reflects emerging trends in all areas of pop and youth culture that are endorsed by its bicultural audience is available nationwide on digital and analog cable, satellite and free television. The network is part of Telemundo Cable Networks, a division of NBC Universal TV Networks Distribution.
Additional information on World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (NYSE: WWE) can be found at wwe.com and corporate.wwe.com. For information on its global activities, go to https://www.wwe.com/worldwide/
NEXT POST: Coming Soon. Stay Tuned.