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'Fantasy Island' Star Montalban Dead

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Jan 15, 2009 | 4:49am EST

Ricardo Montalban is heading towards that big Fantasy Island in the sky.

The Mexican-born actor, who became well-known for playing the enigmatic Mr. Roarke on the popular ‘80s TV show, has died at the age of 88.

Montalban's death was announced at a city council meeting by president Eric Garcetti, who represents the district where the actor lived, the Associated Press reports. Garcetti did not give a cause of death.

Although he got his start in splashy musicals in the 1940s, especially swimming opposite MGM star Esther Williams, it was later in his career that he got the most recognition. First, he played Khan in an original 1960s Star Trek episode, only to reprise the role in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Then he took on the role as the faintly mysterious, white-suited Mr. Roarke, who presided over a tropical island resort where visitors were able to fulfill their lifelong dreams -- usually at the unexpected expense of a difficult life lesson. Following a floatplane landing and lei ceremony, he greeted each guest with the line: "I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island." The show ran from 1978 to 1984.

"What you saw on the screen and on television and on talk shows, this very courtly, modest, dignified individual, that's exactly who he was," Montalban's longtime friend and publicist David Brokaw told AP.

So honestly, have you ever wondered what Mr. Roarke was? An angel, a demon? In a 1978 interview with AP, Montalban analyzed the ethereal quality of his character: "Was he a magician? A hypnotist? Did he use hallucinogenic drugs? I finally came across a character that works for me. He has the essence of mystery, but I need a point of view so that my performance is consistent. I now play him 95 percent believable and 5 percent mystery. He doesn't have to behave mysteriously; only what he does is mysterious."

That still doesn’t really explain it.

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