“THIS JOURNEY IS MINE”
Richard (Ric) Montejano was born on September 22, 1949 in San Gabriel and grew up in Van Nuys and then La Habra. In the late 1970’s, he found his true community in Silver Lake, CA where he lived as a creative artist, entrepreneur, and activist on his own terms, chasing his passions and accepting the pitfalls, until he died from lung cancer on June 22, 2014 at the age of 64.
After graduating from La Habra High School, Ric attended CSU Fullerton where he developed his talents for choreography and directing as a student of theatre and dance. In 1970 under Ric’s artistic direction, a troupe of fellow CSUF students formed the communal Dudesheep Theatre Company and moved to San Francisco. They became the resident company at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Poets Theatre. Ric directed the West Coast premiere of The Open Theatre’s The Serpent to rousing critical acclaim during the heyday of San Francisco’s experimental theatre boom.
Returning to Los Angeles in the mid-1970’s, Ric continued to perform sporadically as a dancer, actor, choreographer, playwright, producer, and director at a variety of local venues including Los Angeles Actors Theatre, The MET, The Fountain Theatre, Scorpio Rising, and Word Space.
Over the years, Ric was a notable presence in Silver Lake. He unabashedly loved the leafy, hilly neighborhoods that housed an interesting mix of locals who were gay, straight, Hispanic, and a “little bit of everything.” His first ink, in his fifties, was the word Silver Lake tattooed in bold calligraphy across the top of his back.
In the 1980’s he was proprietor of Mohawk’s Antiques & Collectables specializing in mid-century finds at his store near the corner of Mohawk and Sunset Blvd. His knowledge, instinct, and style attracted customers, and he loved “the hunt” of finding treasures at thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, and auctions.
Ric also succumbed to the drug culture that was part of the swinging gay lifestyle in the 1980’s and developed a weakness for speed that derailed his career and his health down to a period of sickness and homelessness. His strong life force and creative energy prevailed, but he continued to fight this personal demon for the remainder of his life.
The AIDS epidemic that swept through the gay community had taken many of Ric’s close friends by the 1990’s and Ric was diagnosed with HIV and other ailments. His direct link with historic times compelled Ric to write about his experiences as a gay man. He discovered a knack for composition and cadence coupled with a distinctive and honest point of view. He wrote with raw clarity about what he had observed and fantasized, including the Gay 80s, AIDS, crystal meth, incest, obsession, and murder.
In 2008 at the Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Ric’s stories were performed under the title The Unforgiving Road, a journey down the mean streets through the eyes of a survivor. Ric’s spoken word interpretation of his own stories went on to mesmerize and inform diverse audiences at many other venues and festivals in Los Angeles.
As his declining health kept him closer to home, Ric and his tiny tufted foundling Chihuahua-mix Sparky (the “velcro dog”) could be seen on their daily stroll down Silver Lake Blvd. to the 7-11 for a cup of coffee and the paper. Every Saturday Ric became “the lamp man” and sold distinct, eclectic, collectable lamps from the curb in front of his Silver Lake apartment. A steady stream of friends, neighbors, and passers-by populated his sales, and brought him food, reading matter, and even special finds for him to appraise or sell.
Ric detested threats to the character of his cozy, friendly Silver Lake neighborhood. He became a community activist by spearheading the successful effort to ban digital billboards near his home on Silver Lake Blvd., close to the Silver Lake reservoir and the dog park. Ric and Sparky stood daily across the street from the intrusive flashing electric sign that had been installed at a prominent cross-street, holding a hand-made poster that said “HONK if you hate this sign.” His efforts and objections attracted major media attention that eventually unleashed a floodgate of protests to city hall until the sign was removed.
Ric is one of the “Faces of Sunset Blvd.” in photographer Patrick Ecclesine’s book of the same name with his “Lost” portrait of a shirtless Ric with a blond Mohawk haircut on a bus bench that was featured in exhibits at LA City Hall, ArcLight Hollywood, and at the Berlin City Hall, Germany. Another candid portrait of Ric writing at his kitchen table by photographer Phil Chin was exhibited at the Pasadena Armory.
Ric is currently featured on YouTube in a filmed interview posted on March 27, 2014 by Richard Goldin and Marco Larsen for the Silver Lake History Collective. Ric discusses his life and the evolution of the gay community in Silver Lake.
In 2011, Ric fulfilled a lifetime ambition to take a show he directed to New York City. Performance artist John Fleck, a sometimes collaborator and longtime friend, asked that Ric help direct his auto-biographical one-man show, Mad Women. Ric’s gifts for restraint, for visual and aural composition, and for focus on what’s essential, heightened the impact Fleck’s stream of conscience memory show that wove the story of an aging Judy Garland with that of John’s mother, Josephine Fleck who died of Alzheimer’s disease.
The show opened at the Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz to rave reviews and an extended run. Then John and Ric travelled to La MaMa NYC. In L.A., John Fleck received an LA Drama Critics Circle Award for this production, and Stage and Cinema commended Ric for “weaving the show together with finesse and panache and a great deal of heart…never forgetting the darker truths or the human warmth.”
Ric is survived by his loving, strong, active family of friends. He has been clear that he has no regrets over the life he has chosen. In his own words, from his story “Beauty,” Ric says, “I don’t regret chasing the dragon or flying too close to the sun. I don’t regret biting off more than I can chew or my nose to spite my face. I don’t regret eating crow or humble pie. I don’t regret walking down roads that led nowhere. This journey is MINE.”