Mar 24, 2018

Coffeehouse Chronicles #146: Mario Montez

Michal Gamily – Series Director
Arthur Adair – Educational Outreach

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Coffeehouse Chronicles honors the life and career of actor, drag performer & Warhol Superstar Mario Montez
with panelists, live performances and including archival material from the La MaMa Archives.

Conrad Ventur

Brian Belovitch, Bibbe Hansen, Joe E. Jeffreys, Tom Kalin, Agosto Machado & Lola Pashalinski

Lady Quesa’Dilla
Carmelita Tropicana
16mm projection of Mario Banana 1 (Andy Warhol, 1964)

Video Testimonies
Samuel R. Delany

With excerpts from films by John Heys, Hélio Oiticica, José Rodríguez-Soltero, Jack Smith, and others

Cover Photo by Tom Harding

Legendary Puerto Rican-American drag actor Mario Montez made his first screen appearance in Jack Smith’s infamous Flaming Creatures (1963) as Dolores Flores. For Smith’s Normal Love (1963), he settled on the name Mario Montez as an homage to the exotic Hollywood actress Maria Montez. Throughout the next decade, Montez would star in several of Smith’s short films and collaborate with other filmmakers including Piero Heliczer, Takahiko Iimura, Hélio Oiticica, Ron Rice, José Rodríguez-Soltero, Bill Vehr, and Avery Willard. Montez starred in over a dozen short and feature-length films between 1964 and 1966 for Andy Warhol.

On stage, Montez worked with Ronald Tavel and John Vaccaro prior to becoming a cofounding member of Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company in 1967. From 1967-74 he appeared in RTC productions of When Queens Collide or Conquest of the Universe, Whores of Babylon, Big Hotel, Turds in Hell, The Grand Tarot, Bluebeard, Eunuchs of the Forbidden City, and Caprice. Montez  appeared in Jackie Curtis’ Vain Victory in 1971. In 1972, he performed with Curtis and with Harvey Fierstein in plays directed by Donald L. Brooks.  In 1974 he was a featured performer in the Palm Casino Review.

Montez disappeared in the late 70s – not to reemerge until 2006, when he made a brief appearance in Mary Jordan’s documentary Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis. Not long after this, personal appearances followed in New York; Wroclaw, Poland; and Berlin, and he began receiving long overdue recognition as a queer icon. A year before his passing, Montez was presented with a special Teddy Award by John Waters at the 62nd Berlinale International Film Festival, to a standing ovation.

– Conrad Ventur

Brian Belovitch has appeared on New York stages for more than three decades. Recently he was Alice, First Lady of Earth in Charles Ludlam’s Conquest of the Universe or When Queens Collide at LaMama to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Ridiculous Theatre. His Ridiculous debut was as Lamia, the Leopard Woman in Ludlam’s Bluebeard. Belovitch is a 2000 GLAAD award nominee for his Off-Broadway autobiographical play Boys Don’t Wear Lipstick. He has worked alongside legendary East Village artists and performers including Penny Arcade, Anthony Ingrassia, Pork, Sweet Dreams, Lypsinka (John Epperson), Ballet of The Dolls, and Hapi Phace. Brian founded Queer Stages, an LGBTQ play reading group that revisits historical and groundbreaking works. In film and television, Belovitch has appeared in The Irishman, Nor’easter, Silent Prey, Q&A, The Deuce, Homeland, and The Americans. His forthcoming memoir Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man will be published by Skyhorse in Fall 2018.

Bibbe Hansen is a performance artist, actress and musician. She is the daughter of Fluxus artist Al Hansen, and the mother of artist Channing Hansen and the pop musician Beck. A longtime participant in avant-garde, contemporary art communities, as a youngster Bibbe made films with Andy Warhol and Jonas Mekas and released a pop record with Jan Kerouac. Currently a member of the virtual reality performance group Second Front, Hansen is writing a memoir, and she teaches and lectures on art and the creative process. Hansen read the part of Fidel alongside Mario Montez as Juanita in a 2009 staging of Ronald Tavel’s ‪The Life of Juanita Castro at Berlin’s Hebbel-am-Ufer (HAU). Bibbe is represented by Gracie Mansion Gallery in New York.

Joe E. Jeffreys is a drag historian and videographer. He teaches theatre studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Drama Department and has published on female and male impersonation in academic journals, encyclopedias, book anthologies and the popular press. His drag happy videos have been screened at festivals internationally and at museums and galleries including the Tate Modern, the Museum of Arts and Design and Howl! Happening.

Tom Kalin is known as a part of the “New Queer Cinema” and his work traverses diverse forms and genres, from experimental video installations to narrative feature films to activism. His features Swoon, Savage Grace and I Shot Andy Warhol explore the tension between documentary fact and dramatic truth. In short works, he often takes inspiration from literary sources, addressing issues such as displacement, urban isolation and homophobia. In these works and as a part of the collective Gran Fury, he has done significant work to change the public opinion of AIDS, simultaneously expanding the definition of activist video. He is a contributor to the catalogue raisonné of Warhol’s films being produced by the Andy Warhol Film Project at The Whitney Museum of American Art.

Agosto Machado first met Ellen Stewart in 1961 and is one of her oldest living “Babies.” At La MaMa, Machado has performed work by Jackie Curtis, John Vaccaro’s Play House of the Ridiculous, H.M. Koutoukas, Jeff Weiss, Paul Foster, Charles Allcroft, Jim Neu, Chris Tanner and finally John Jesurun. A lifelong friend of Mario Montez, the two performed together in work by Jackie Curtis and Jack Smith. In Machado’s words, “I feel so blessed.”

Lola Pashalinski is a founding member of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company where, with writer/director Charles Ludlam, she created 17 roles in 13 years. She received two Obie awards for her work with the company. Since leaving the Ridiculous in 1980, Lola worked extensively Off-Broadway and regionally in productions directed by Lee Breuer, Richard Foreman, JoAnne Akalaitis, Les Waters, Anne Bogart, David Gordon, and Neil Bartlett, among others. With her life-partner Linda Chapman, she wrote and performed Gertrude and Alice: A Likeness to Loving, receiving her third Obie in 2000. Lola made her Broadway debut in Fortune’s Fool with the late Alan Bates. She’s appeared in many films and on television, including most recently Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close directed by Stephen Daldry.

Alejandro Rodríguez, aka Lady Quesa’Dilla, is a native Tejan@ from the El Paso and Ciudad Juárez border. Their work is at the intersection of cultural identity, drag, and community. The Brown Queen, an autobiographical solo performance about growing up queer in the southwest, premiered at HERE Arts Center in the spring of 2010. Recent solo performances include My Tia Lupe and The Faggot in the Pink House. Rodríguez has performed in New York City, El Paso, Chiapas, and Montreal. Rodríguez is a member of The House of Bushwig, as Lady Quesa’Dilla, duties include Volunteer Coordinator for the annual Bushwig Festival. Rodríguez is an Information and Referral Specialist at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan; and is a Teaching Artist in the Bronx and in Brooklyn. Rodríguez holds a BA in Theater from The New School for Liberal Arts, and an MA in Performance Studies from New York University, and is an alum of The Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics. Lady Quesa’Dilla was the 2014 Miss Coney Island Queen of Drag.

Carmelita Tropicana, a persona born at the WOW Café, is a writer and performer. Her works have been presented nationally and internationally including: The Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Performance Space, New York; and Vermont Performance Lab, Vermont. Tropicana’s awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, Obie award, Anonymous was a Woman, and a Creative Capital grant for a collaboration with Branden Jacobs Jenkins. She is an editor with Holly Hughes and Jill Dolan of Memories of the Revolution: The First Ten Years of the WOW Café Theater. Her longtime collaborators are film makers/directors Ela Troyano and Uzi Parnes.

Conrad Ventur is an artist living and working in New York. In 2010 he befriended drag performer Mario Montez. They collaborated on a series of photographs and videos together until Mario’s  passing in September 2013. Montez’ participation in the underground film and theater scenes of the 60s and 70s will be explored in a documentary directed by Ventur. Examples of Ventur’s work with Montez are held in the permanent collections of The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art.

Special thanks to: The Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation; The Fales Library & Special Collections, New York University; The Film-Maker’s Cooperative; César Oiticica Filho; Franklin Furnace; Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Participant Inc.; and Everett Quinton.

Coffeehouse Chronicles


Coffeehouse Chronicles is an educational performance series exploring the history of Off-Off-Broadway. Part artist-portrait, part history lesson, and part community forum, Coffeehouse Chronicles take an intimate look at the development of downtown theatre, from the 1960s’ “Coffeehouse Theatres” through today.

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