SIR MONTI ROCK III STORY
Early this morning I had a dream that Sir Monti Rock III, a long time friend, was a guest on one of those popular talk shows. He came on very serious and was very serious throughout the show, as serious as he now is with his act. He was fabulous. Years ago when he appeared on the talk shows, such as the Johnny Carson "Tonight Show," he brought humor and made fun of himself. Critics did not recognize his talent.
My dream reminded me of a dream I had many years ago. In that dream, Monti, Monti's friend Gayle, my son Torre and I were touring Europe. We were being driven in one of those old-style convertible limousines, with the top down. We were driving along a winding country road to an ancient castle somewhere in Europe. Monti was wearing a light brown overcoat with a fluffy fur collar and sleeves to match. He wore a light brown, wide brimmed hat with a long white feather sticking out of the band around his hat. People lined both sides of the road leading to the castle. They were all cheering Monti as if he was their king, returning from a successful joust. He was smiling and waving to them. They all knew him, and many groups let out mighty roars as he passed them. It was a delightful dream. I always felt that Monti belonged there, that he was royalty and deserving of the praise.
Where did this all begin? New York, of course! Where else could one meet the likes of Sir Monti Rock III? The year was 1968, my wife and our two children had moved from Northern California to New York City. We were in New York to promote a singing career for my wife,(now ex-wife) Paula Samonte. I had booked Paula into the "Living Room" a club on First or Second Avenue near the 59th Street Bridge in Manhattan. One night Monti entered, I say entered because when he came into the club, his charismatic aura lighted the room. Paula always said that he brought good positive light into a room. He loved Paula's voice and we all became good friends. He knew the owners of the club and came in frequently. We caught his act many times while we were in New York.
The fall of 1969 we returned to Northern California and became involved with rock groups, like the Grateful Dead, whom we had met in New York. We lost contact with Monti.
In 1973 I was working as the artist relation person for The Circle Star Theater, a theater in the round, presenting most of the top Las Vegas acts. The theater was a few miles south of San Francisco. When they bought the Valley Music Theater in the Los Angeles area, I moved to Hollywood to work that theater. When they closed the theater in the summer of 1973, I went to work for the Dimples Foxx Agency.
One day I was asked to attend a club in Hollywood to see a performer who they were going to sign. It was Monti. What a surprise. We renewed our friendship and spent a lot of time together. He had a girl friend, Gayle, who lived near me, so, we got together often; parties, rehearsals and shows. At that time, he was appearing on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. He frequently asked me to accompany him. I had a large smokey topaz ring that I purchased in Mexico City for a popular singer I knew. I never gave it to her because I felt her husband might get the wrong impression. I brought it to the show for Monti. He wore it for good luck.
Everyone on the Johnny Carson show treated Monti very royally. Shirley Wood, was the Talent Coordinator for "The Tonight Show" and she spent a lot of time with Monti. She had a great sense of humor and she made sure everything was perfect with Monti before she put him behind the entrance curtain. Monti belonged on that show. He was right for Johnny Carson.
I contacted the Jay Leno people about booking Monti and they hadn't the time for him. I believe they hadn't a clue as to how to handle Monti. They needed a Shirley Wood. I believe Jay Leno would have been a good venue for Monti if they let him flow. I'll bet if it was up to Jay, Monti would be on the show.
Monti returned to New York and I was hired by Marathon Productions to be the stage manager for their shows at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. After Johnny Mathis, the producers booked Josephine Baker, who had just returned from many years in Europe. They did not have an opening act for Miss Baker. I remarked that I knew the perfect act to open the show. I described Monti and they told me to book him. I located him in New York and he agreed to come out and do the gig.
Monti was fabulous. He came on stage in a white jump suit, wearing a white, large brimmed hat and a long, white, feathered boa, like the one he wears on his album cover of "Disco Tex ..." - He was brilliant. At times the audience seemed hypnotized by his antics and stories. He moved on stage as though it was part of his living room. No act, I have ever seen, and I have seen most of them, could have done a more fitting opening for a Lady like Josephine Baker. I regret to this day that it wasn't filmed.
Some (most) nights when Josephine was late, (sometimes very late) I would stand off stage and give him the stretch sign. (a sign to keep going.) Monti gave me a nod and stayed on stage and entertained everyone. He was terrific and the audience loved him. He saved many a night, and I never got any negative feed-back about Josephine being late.
After the run, Monti returned to New York and I went to Hawaii for four months, designing and building sets for a large cultural show on the beach of Oahu. Monti and I weren't in touch again until many years later. I was living in San Diego and had created a web site to sell my book Cancel Christmas. On the site, I also listed the various celebrities I knew and had worked with. Monti was among them.
I am not sure about this. Either Monti saw my web site or I located him while surfing the web. Either way we connected again, and I started designing a large web site about Monti. That was in 1997 and we have been in touch ever since.
A trip to Las Vegas to visit Monti made for a wonderful reunion. He told me a story I never knew. One night, during the Josephine Baker run at the Beverly Hilton, Bob Crew, a record producer, was in the audience. After the show, Bob contacted Monti for a meeting. Monti signed with him and that was how "DISCO TEX & THE SEX-O-LETTES" came to be. Monti told me about the huge records sales, and about his wonderful tour of Europe. I have never had any desire to visit Europe, but to see Monti receive the reception he deserves, I would gladly go to Europe.
Monti is a rare and talented person. He was, and still is, ahead of his time. I fear that like many talented artist, his artistry and talent will not be recognized until after he has gone to the big stage out in the Universe.
Please know that there are those of us who do recognize your artistry and talent, and we all love you.
At this writing, Monti lives in Las Vegas and I live in Glendale, California; two old geezers who don't know how to quit.