Mario Montez, the Warhol superstar who also appeared in Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures and Normal Love, died last week at the age of seventy-eight. Montez was born René Rivera, but renamed himself in his teenage years, as a tribute to actress and gay icon Maria Montez (an obsession he shared with Smith). He is best known for appearing in thirteen films by Andy Warhol, most notably Chelsea Girls.
Montez also co-founded the Ridiculous Theatrical Company with Charles Ludlam, and the group rehearsed at Montez’s SoHo loft. In 1977 he retired from the NYC underground scene and relcoated to Orlando, Florida, where he has been working clerical jobs.
“People thought that I didn’t want to talk to anybody, but no, I was looking for a better environment for my health,” he told the NYC Daily News, “you get tired of the cold weather.”
He resurfaced briefly in 2006, taking part in the documentary Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, alongside Tony Conrad, Billy Name, John Zorn, Mike Kelley, Jonas Mekas, John Waters and Robert Wilson. He attended a Smith tribute in Berlin the following year.
On March 31st, 2010, Columbia University held an all-day event called Superstar! A Tribute to Mario Montez, which featured film screenings, round-table discussions and a conversation with the actor. Organizer Frances Negrón-Muntaner, director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race called him “...one of the most gifted performers of the underground period.”