I was recently looking back over my blog posts and realized I had said I was going to tell my story about Ricardo Montalban. I had told my husband, Bobby, that one thing I wanted to do in my life was to meet Ricardo Montalban. Even though it was on my bucket list, I thought the chances of it actually happening were very slim. (As a side note, I have learned to stop doubting what can happen when Bobby Warren is on your side.)
It just so happened that in the early part of the year 2000, a good friend of mine, Carla, who shares my enjoyment of Star Trek, told me about a Star Trek convention in Pasadena in March 2001. It would be the first time that all the members from the original series would be featured, except for DeForest Kelley who had died already. They also invited some guest stars to come, which included Ricardo Montalban. He had portrayed the character Khan in both TV and feature film. When Bobby heard about it, he said, “We are going!”
Now this was before we knew anything about Dave Ramsey, so charging the trip was not an issue for us. But Bobby still says today that he would go into debt to make this wish happen. To understand why, you need to know that ever since I saw him on the TV show “Fantasy Island,” Ricardo Montalban has been a favorite actor of mine. I would pine over him like other girls did for Scott Baio (Chachi) or John Schneider (Bo Duke). My friend Heather gave me the best birthday card ever one year that had Mr. Roark on the front. (He was the character that Ricardo Montalban played on Fantasy Island.) He is also the only actor that I ever wrote a fan letter to as a kid. Heck, I am not even sure I wrote Santa!
So Bobby and I headed west. We purchased tickets for the convention and then special tickets that would allow us to get an autograph by Ricardo Montalban. We bought two tickets, not because we necessarily needed two autographed pictures of him, but to make sure that Bobby could get pictures of me getting his autograph.
I was so excited to be able to see him, but also a little nervous. We had never been to a Star Trek convention and had no idea what we would encounter. We did not dress up and I wondered if we would fit in. Turns out I worried needlessly. There were plenty of people there dressed in street clothes like us.
I also discovered that at a Star Trek convention the actors give a speech, but then they also have Q&A time. I was so excited. Not only was I going to see Ricardo Montalban, but I could even ask him a question! I couldn’t sleep the night before. I kept trying to think of a decent question to ask him. When the time finally arrived that he was going to come on stage I was almost jumping out of my skin. I still remember being 12 rows from the front of the stage and Mr. Montalban walking out on the stage. The crowd erupted with applause and cheers and of course gave him a standing ovation. A friend had asked me before we left for California if I would cry when I saw him for the first time. I laughed and answered, “No.” But there I was, with tears running down my face. I really couldn’t believe I was so close. Then Bobby urged me to get in line to be ready to ask him a question. I was a little scared, so I didn’t get up right away. By the time I was in line, there were several people ahead of me. The cool thing about that though, is the line for the microphones were by the stage, so I was even closer than before!
I was enthralled with his talk and the way he answered questions. He was funny and charming and debonair. He was everything I had always thought he would be. As the questions were asked and answered, I kept getting closer to the time that I could ask my question. Then I was at the microphone. Because they were alternating the questions from one side of the stage to the other, the person on the opposite side of the stage was up next to ask her question. It was right before she did that the announcer said, “We have time for one more question.” While I was disappointed I wouldn’t get to ask my question, it was probably better that I didn’t get a chance to speak. I probably would have been bawling and thus embarrass myself in front of this great man, not to mention hundreds of Star Trek fans.
So Mr. Montalban wrapped up his talk and then left the stage. Now all I had to do was wait for my time to get in line for his autograph. The tickets were separated by letters of the alphabet. Our tickets were the letter U. What I didn’t know was that there were a whole bunch of letter U’s. When our letter was finally called, the line was incredibly long. Then there started to be murmurs that Mr. Montalban was getting tired and might not be able to make it through all the autographs. (Remember, he was in his early 60’s when he filmed “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan” in 1982.) I was really nervous about this. I didn’t come all this way not to at least say hello to the man! At one point, one of the convention staff offered to give us pictures that were already autographed in exchange for our tickets. I asked that if I gave him my ticket, would I still get to meet the actor. He indicated I would not. So I declined.
As we waited, I couldn’t stand still. I would lean a little to my side to see how close we were getting to the front of the line. Another convention staff person–apparently a security guard kept watching me. She told me often to stay in line. She was quite stern and obviously couldn’t see that I was excited to be meeting my favorite actor. Finally I was there. I was inches away from speaking to him. As the security staff was escorting people through the line (quite quickly if you ask me) and Mr. Montalban was signing the pictures, I leaned over and patted his free hand. I said, “Mr. Montalban, you are the only person I ever wrote a fan letter to. Meeting you is like a fantasy come true.” Then he squeezed my hand and said, “That is very kind of you, Dear.” And then I was escorted away.
I was in awe. I had his picture in my hand and I was shaking. I think I was probably crying, too. I told Bobby that I had to sit down. The security staff who had been so mean to me previously said to me, “This is more than just an autograph to you, isn’t it?” Of course it was!
When we got home, I ended up writing an article for the newspaper that Bobby worked for about my experience. Bobby took what I wrote and then created a booklet of it, including some pictures. We printed up a few copies and then on a whim I sent a copy of it to Mr. Montalban’s publicist. (Bobby had gotten his card when we were standing in line during the Q&A.) I didn’t expect to hear back, but then probably a month or so later, I received another autographed picture, only this time, it was personalized! (Bobby said his signature was different because the picture he sent was with his signature, while the pictures he signed at the convention was his autograph.)
Not only did I get to meet Ricardo Montalban, but we also found we were close to the Los Angeles County Arboretum. We had some time in the morning before we went to the convention so we went there. It turns out that the Queen Anne Cottage that is on the grounds is actually used in the opening scenes of Fantasy Island. How amazing was that!
Ricardo Montalban died January 14, 2009. It was a sad day. But I will never forget the day I was able to meet him. It was a moment that touched my heart and will be forever in my memory.