Tag Archive: Star Trek

An Encounter with Ricardo Montalban- A Class Act by Tony Piazza

   We shared the same birthdate, but not the same year. He worked on radio, televsion, theatre, and film. So did I. His career spanned six decades, mine only one. He was a star, and I…a fan. His name, was RICARDO MONTALBAN and he was every inch a movie actor in the classic sense. Granted there were other actors that could project the charm, wit, and sophistication that he did, but somehow his performances always seemed to do it better. Perhaps it was because it was no act, but film capturing the real man. 

   Montalban with Herve Villechaize (Fantasy Island).

   RICARDO MONTALBAN… to most, he needs no introduction. From early MGM musicals with Esther Williams (whom I also met) to Star Trek, Fantasy Island, The Naked Gun, and Escape to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes…he has been a prolific actor that has brought us much enjoyment through many generations. This photograph (below) was taken in 1971 on location in SF for a televsion mystery movie called “The Face of Fear’, co-starring Elizabeth Ashley.

   Montalban- a class act!

  They were filming at San Francisco’s Aquatic Park, close to the boat club, a very dramatic scene that included both Ashley and Montalban. On screen it was a private conversation, but in life they were surrounded by lights, camera, reflectors, sound recording equipment, booms, and a couple of dozen people which included director and film crew. That is the reality of the movie industry; creating an illusion that will convince an audience to accept what is projected on the screen as life. I have to admit that working in film does rob you of some of that magic, but it also instills in you an admiration for a film when it is really done right. That is where the actors come in, and the concentration and intensity delivered by both Montalban and Ashley in this scene really sold it for me.

   Co-star Elizabeth Ashley.

   “The Face of Fear” production company shot for forty-five minutes at that location. I was there the entire time, watching with the crew- others, a much larger crowd of onlookers were roped off at a distance, but because my father worked with the company I was given a front row view. After the scene was completed , Mr. Montalban was whisked away to his car. My father took my mother’s hand and led her towards the parked limo, I in close tow. When we reached it, I saw him sitting in the front passenger side, exhaustion etched on his face. My father called his name and tapped lightly on the car door. Always the latin gentleman…when he saw us with my father…he got out of the car…and then took my mother’s hand, a smile stretched broadly across his face…kissed her hand, and said, “you are a very lovely lady” and then asked “who is this gentleman?” (me), and shook my hand. There was class, and a fine example of what a gracious man he really was in life. If only the stars of today could conduct themselves with such panache, perhaps then we would have a few actors that years later we could call a class act.


Great memories. Thank you for letting me share them with you.


Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” has just been released. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.



Raymond Burr as Perry Mason.

RAYMOND BURR (Rear Window, Perry Mason, and Ironside). Below is a fun photograph; unfortunately I had to take it off a frame from my parent’s 8mm movie so it is blurred. The home movie was shot one summer afternoon (1969) in the neighborhood of San Francisco’s Pacific Heights. Universal was filming an episode for the second season of “Ironside,” a crime drama on the NBC network. This was the second time I met Raymond Burr, and both times he was a lot of fun, extremely warm, and pleasant to visit with. DON GALLOWAY, his co-star (in the back row), had a real sense of humor. In our home movie he was clowning around throughout the filming,  jumping around like a jack-in-the-box. Another co-star seen in the home movie was the attractive actress BARBARA ANDERSEN (she guest starred on the original Star Trek)…needless to say I spent at least a minute (of 3) shooting footage of her towards the end of the home movie!

Frame from home movie- getting a handshake from Raymond Burr

The producer of the show CY CHERMAK took the home movie. When we started shooting all of us were all standing there like we were posing for a still picture. Raymond Burr suddenly spoke up and said, “Hey, this is a moving picture, let’s do something!” He reached over and shook my hand, and then kissed my mother’s friend and my mother on the cheek. He then leaned over to my dad, and whispered, “Your wife is cute, do you mind if I take her to lunch?” Don Galloway, as I mentioned before was very animated behind us jumping up and down like a school kid. Everyone on the cast of that show was terrific.

The Cast of Ironside (Top: Mitchell and Galloway. Bottom: Burr and Andersen)

 My first visit to the location of “Ironside” was the summer before, during a scene they were filming for a first season episode. It was at the San Francisco Cable Car Barn Powerhouse on Washington and Mason Streets, and I believe it was a “shoot out” they were filming. On that day I collected a book full of autographs (which I have 45 years later! ). They not only include those mentioned above, but DON MITCHELL (co-star regular, Mark on the show), and guest stars ANTOINETTE BOWER (Star Trek) and JACK KELLY (Maverick).

“Ironside” ran on NBC from September 1967 until January 1975- a total of eight seasons. The story centered on a wheelchair bound chief of detectives, Robert T. Ironside (Burr) and his police force companions (Mitchell, Galloway, and Andersen) who solved murder cases in San Francisco. A bit of trivia; their headquarters was the old Hall of Justice Building near Chinatown that was torn down shortly after the stock footage was taken. Actually stock shots were not uncommon on the show. Most of it was shot on the Universal lot, but occassionally they did come up from the studio to film some scenes with the cast on location.


Tony Piazza is author of the 1930’s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel is due out early 2012. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.