One of the things I try to do for this column is remember people we’d otherwise forget to pay tribute to until they’re dead. The problem, of course, is remembering to do so! Actually, I came across Hector Elizondo’s name when doing the research for my Garry Marshall obituary, and I immediately added him to my list. He’s not a flashy guy in most of his roles, but he’s memorable, and I think we’d all regret not thinking more about him if I didn’t get to him while he was alive—and he’ll be eighty in December.
He was Garry Marshall’s mascot, really, appearing in most of his films. In fact, in Exit to Eden, he was credited as “as usual, Hector Elizondo.” He took over as Monk’s therapist after Stanley Kamel, who played Dr. Kroger, died. He apparently won’t do sitcoms, but he seems to have done a little bit of everything else; he’s the last-living gang member from The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
While one of his earliest roles was on a Honeymooners episode called “Mexican Hat Trick,” he has since gotten pretty firm on the subject of not taking stereotypical roles. He’s of Puerto Rican, Basque, and Canarian descent, but in the US, everyone knows that translates to “Hispanic,” and I’m sure he’s been offered the same old tired roles that most Hispanic actors have been.
He says his role in Pretty Woman was one of his easiest, that it basically required showing up in the right toupee, but he still brings a warmth to what could be a very stiff, nothing part. He’s I think the first character to accept Vivian as a person and encourage her to grow; one almost suspects that, if it came right down to it, he’d consider hiring her by the end of the week. Though as what, it’s hard to say.
He’s one of many people we could discuss who have a distinctive voice that has been used for all sorts of voice work. It isn’t just the odd episode of Avatar or what have you; he’s also done his share of narrating. PBS has used him, and the History Channel in their actual history presentations. I feel like there must be something he can do with Ken Burns.
No, he’s not exactly in the same star ranking as some of the people we’ve gotten to, but what of that? This column was never created just to talk about the ultra-famous. I’ve gotten to Hector Elizondo before Harrison Ford in part because everyone talks about Harrison Ford. Hector Elizondo, too, is worthy of acknowledgement.