Latino program, grandson remember
Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán

Ricardo Montalbán was one of the best-known, Mexican-born Hollywood actors of all time. He is remembered in several key roles: mysterious Mr. Roarke of "Fantasy Island," epic tyrant Khan Noonien Singh of "Star Trek," the quintessential Latin lover, and the elegant pitchman with charming Spanish cadences for the Chrysler Cordoba's "soft Corinthian leather."
(Photo by Vivianne Schnitzer)

But for his grandchild Alex Montalbán, a senior who studies film and English, LSA, the perception of this iconic actor is much more complex and filled with nostalgia: "I remember when I was 9 years old, we celebrated Christmas at his home in Hollywood. He told us the most amazing stories with his authoritative and captivating voice, while playing flamenco."

Alex Montalbán was one of the keynote speakers last week at a Tribute to Ricardo Montalbán. The event was organized by Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, a professor in the The Latino/a Program.

Alex Montalbán and La Fountain-Stokes met last semester through the professor's popular course "Latinos In the Media."

"Having Alex in our class has been very special, as he was able to talk to us about his personal experiences with his grandfather," La Fountain-Stokes says. "We were all incredibly surprised the first day of school when he explained without having said his last name that he was taking the class because his grandfather was a Latino actor in Hollywood."

La Fountain-Stokes teaches about Ricardo Montalbán's role as an advocate for Latino actors in Hollywood. The actor died at 88 in January.

"Many have heard about Ricardo Montalbán, or have seen him in a film or a TV program, but few know about the great importance he had in Hollywood as a person who defended the rights of Latinos," La Fountain-Stokes says.

Alex Montalbán is on the Michigan men's club ice hockey team. He decided to study at the university because he was "a huge U-M football fan all my life."

The younger Montalbán, who plans to write scripts in Hollywood or be an actor, says that people often react to his surname. "Especially when I pay with a credit card and they see my name, they ask, 'You're not related to the actor, are you?'"

For him it "stings" that he did not share more time with his grandfather, especially at the end of his life, when Alex Montalbán was studying at U-M. He remembers his visits to the old and frail Ricardo Montalbán with visible sadness.

"I have learned more about my grandfather here at the university than in all previous years," says Montalbán, who surfs the Web in search of articles, photos, films or any more clues about his grandfather.