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Mario Montez in a film by Andy Warhol.
Drag performer Mario Montez, who earned fame as a Warhol "superstar" in avant-garde theater and films of the 1960s, died on September 26, 2013 in Key West, Florida of complications from a stroke.
Montez was born Rene Rivera in Puerto Rico on June 20, 1935 but was reared in New York. Douglas Martin reports in the New York Times that Rivera changed his name to Mario Montez in tribute to the 1940s film actress Maria Montez.
Montez was discovered by experimental filmmaker Jack Smith who cast him in his cult film Flaming Creatures (1963). He subsequently appeared in numerous Warhol films, including Harlot (1965), Screen Test #2 (1965), Camp (1965), More Milk, Yvette (1965), and The Chelsea Girls (1966).
Montez was a member of Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theater troupe, which featured surreal settings, cross-gender casting, and wild improvisation. In his book Ridiculous Theater: Scourge of Human Folly, Ludlam said of him: "Whether he is playing The Wife, The Mother, The Whore or The Virgin, Montez captures the ineffable essence of femininity."
John Waters, who was greatly influenced by the cinematic experimentation of the 1960s, once said that Montez "forever holds the highest position of royalty in the world of underground cinema."
In 1980, Warhol wrote that Montez "had that classic comedy combination of seeming dumb but being able to say the right things with perfect timing; just when you thought you were laughing at him, he'd turn it all around."
Montez, who dressed in conventional male attire in "real life," reportedly had religious qualms about cross-dressing but, according to Warhol in 1980, rationalized that if God really did not want him to do drag He would have long ago struck him dead.
Montez retired from acting in 1977 and moved to Florida. He is survived by his partner David Kratzner.
The brief silent film below, Warhol's Mario Banana, illustrates Montez's seductiveness.