Does the name Monti Rock III ring a bell for any of you? How about Disco Tex?
Monti Rock III was one of the first quasi-openly gay men that I ever saw on TV. He was a frequent talkshow guest, first on Merv Griffin’s show starting in the mid-60s and then he was on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show A LOT in the 70s and 80s. (He was probably on the tonight show as often as Steve Martin was during that era). I was really too young to have consciously realized what Monti’s flamboyant persona meant, but I think with a character like Rock (not to mention Paul Lynde, or Kenneth Williams in the British “Carry On”), you just kind of got it by osmosis. Or via the eyeliner and glitter. (Or your dad’s grumbling every time Monti appeared on his TV set, perhaps!)
I must admit that the name Monti Rock III has not crossed my mind often in the past, I don’t know, maybe… three decades, but I was happy to read this fun article from Paisley Dalton at Zeitgeistworld (via World of Wonder) indicating that Monti Rock is indeed alive and well and living in Las Vegas:
NYC in the 70s would have been just another cesspit had it not been for the sparkle provided by the head queen himself Monti Rock III. Having scored two top 40 hits Get Dancin’ and I Wanna Dance Wit’ Choo, produced by Bob Crewe (The Four Seasons, Frankie Valli, early Michael Jackson and Roberta Flack), under the group name Disco Tex and His Sex-O-Lettes, Monti provided the soundtrack for many gay men who were celebrating newly found sexual freedom on the enfranchised dance floors in New York’s underground disco scene. After fame and notoriety hit from over 80 appearances on talk shows like Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin and a feature spot in mega movie Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta, Rock exited stage left with an addiction to booze, a severed relationship from Bob Crewe and a self-imposed moratorium on anything having to do with the glitz, glamour and gayness that made him beloved and in his words ‘a joke’. Now at 72, Monti is talking again…about life as a hustler, endowment (not talkin about money here!), the effete glitter years and… a new life as an ordained minister?
Zeitgeistworld: Hey Monti! What’s up with you?
Monti Rock III: First of all, I thank you for searching me out. I guess most people think I’m dead. Right?
Zeitgeist: To be honest, I don’t think most people under 40 have any idea about you and your contributions. I was a bit surprised that your still doin’ it in Las Vegas.
Monti Rock III: I’m working on a movie. The focus of the film is ‘hope and never giving up’. I see it as a guy, the first openly gay man in the 5os and 60s that got on television. The story should start with that. How being openly gay was very romantic in that era. What it was like to be a trailblazer. Everyone knew I was gay. I was very over the top, darling! If you donned long hair and beads and wore pancake make up in 1961, if that wasn’t openly gay, what was it? The ‘queens’ didn’t do that back then.
Read more: Monti Rock III is Not Dead, Darlin!!! (Zeitgeist World)
Below a fascinating clip of Monti Rock III on the Merv Griffin in 1966 (with Jayne Mansfield). Monti likes chicks with long hair, or so he says…