Whatever Happened to Maria Tortuga?

Whatever Happened to Maria Tortuga?

In my last conversation with industry stalwart Bill Margold, who passed away on January 17, 2017, I asked him if he was still in touch with adult actress Maria Tortuga.

Maria has long fascinated The Rialto Report. She may not have been the most famous adult film performer, but her fiery, Latina looks lit up dozens of films from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, while having a parallel career as a popular bondage fetish model.

With his usual flair, Bill said “Miss Hall, I would dearly love to find Maria Tortuga. She never got the recognition that was due to her but was something so special that I demand that you find out what happened to her. I knew her quite well, but she just disappeared into thin air one day and I’d love to find her. If anybody can track down Maria, The Rialto Report can.”

Bill went on to share his memories of Maria. The first time he met her when her boyfriend brought her into Bill’s office. The first time he saw her come to life in front of the camera, a bubbling cauldron of sexual energy. And the final time their paths crossed, which Bill did not realize would be the last time he saw her.

We’re not ones to turn down a challenge at The Rialto Report, especially when it came from Bill. After all, as he would often point out, “God Created Man, but William Margold Created Himself.”

This one’s for you, Papa Bear.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Maria Tortuga appeared in almost 50 adult films between 1978 and 1987, working with top performers such as Colleen Brennan, Lisa De Leeuw, Mai Lin, Tiffany Clark, Herschel Savage and Paul Thomas. Yet few of those she worked with remember much about her. When asked, her name would sound vaguely familiar and a photo might jog a moment of recognition, but specific memories were scarce.Maria Tortuga

Except for those who were close to Maria. For those few, Maria left a big mark, and they recalled her in great detail and with lots of emotion.

Bill Margold was one of those people Maria greatly impressed. When I asked Bill about Maria, he let out a wistful sigh. “I remember meeting Maria for the first time. Her boyfriend Doormouse brought her to me because they were both interested in picking up some adult work. Maria and Doormouse were living in what is now Koreatown in Los Angeles. They were heavy pot smokers, but that didn’t dampen Maria’s drive. She wanted to work in adult films so she became part of the porn family centered around the office I shared with restauranteur and nightclub owner Ed Nash.

“Maria was very friendly, extremely sexual, and easy to get along with. She was close friends with the actress Pat Manning whom I had met on the set of the Peter Balakoff movie The Psychiatrist/All The Devil’s Angels (1976). I really liked both women so I put them in the first film I directed, Carnal Cuties (1979). Maria was fantastic – a dream to direct – so I tried to work with her frequently after that.”

 

Maria TortugaMaria Tortuga and Pat Manning in the Bill Margold film ‘Carnal Cuties’

 

Adult actress Tiffany Clark also remembers Maria well. Tiffany performed with Maria in several movies, including Gerard Damiano’s The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue (1980) and Reincarnation of Serena (1983). “Maria was one of the most sensual women I ever worked with. She had that sexy librarian look – where she’d take off her glasses, shake out her hair and all of a sudden she was this amazing sexual being. There weren’t many women that I performed with that aroused me – I was more interested in the men – but Maria was an exception. Maria genuinely turned me on.”

 

Maria TortugaMaria in Damiano’s ‘The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue’

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

*

 

It’s no accident that Maria was a talented performing artist. After graduating high school in Washington state where she was born on September 14, 1949 and raised in a loving family with three other siblings, Maria moved to California to pursue her interest in conceptual art. In Los Angeles, she studied with feminist artist Judy Chicago at the Woman’s Building, a non-profit arts and education center. After graduating with an MFA in the late 1970s, Maria worked for many years as the principal designer at local carpet mills.

To supplement her income and express herself sexually, Maria decided to try her hand at adult films. She started with several small loops and quickly moved on to feature films where she worked with a wide variety of performers, directors and production companies. She also modeled for many men’s magazines during the same period, developing a penchant for bondage imagery.

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

Maria Tortuga

 

*

 

But while Maria enjoyed designing and acting, it was dancing that she loved most – perhaps inherited from her mother who was a member of the first Mexican folk dance company in the United States. Maria had a particular fondness for Flamenco and Spanish dance, and began studying both in earnest under the instruction of renowned performer Roberto Amaral in the late 1970s. Maria had several opportunities to dance in California, including in the inaugural season of the L.A. Opera where Placido Domingo sang and serving as the flamenco soloist in the Layalina Folkloric Ensemble. But in 1987, she left the world of adult films and moved to Chicago to pursue dancing full time, changing her name to Maria Gitana.

In Chicago, Maria threw herself into studying with the Spanish Dance Society and traveled over to Europe for a time to dance at Amor de Dios with Maria Magdalena, the Ballet Mistress of the Ballet Nacional de España. In 1992, Maria Gitana was awarded a grant to study Escuela Bolera or classical Spanish dance with Dame Marina Keet. A founding member of the Spanish Dance Society, Keet authorized and encouraged Maestra Gitana’s use of the Society’s curriculum and teaching methodology.

Becoming a Maestra de Baile with the Spanish Dance Society, Maria returned to Chicago to start the flamenco dance troupe Manteca Colora. The troupe had a successful run in Chicago for a number of years. But in 1998 Maria chose to move back to her home state of Washington to be closer to her aging parents.

In 2004, Maria started another performing dance troupe, Flamenco Gitana, and taught dance and pilates at several local schools and community centers. Starting in 2010 Maria was the recipient of several Youth Arts Awards from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture Affairs. She used the associated grant to establish cultural arts programs in flamenco dance at local youth centers. Maria also lead the choreography for a number of local theater productions such as ‘The Gondoliers’ for the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

 

 

*

 

On November 3, 2014, Maria passed away at the age of 65 from cancer. In her obituary her family wrote “the loveliest and rarest of flowers has bloomed and too quickly died.”

 

Maria Gitana

 

Maria Gitana

 

*

Update (January 29th, 2017):

Shortly after posting the above article, we received a touching message from fellow actor, Richard Pacheco, which we wanted to share.

I thought you might like to add this to your Maria Tortuga piece.
I was sad to learn that she was gone.

x

From HINDSIGHT. . .

“Probably the best thing that happened on Damiano’s NEVER SO DEEP was having an off-stage rendezvous with Maria Tortuga while we were waiting to go on one afternoon.
We snuck off to a broom closet and I gave her a blow job. This was was the kind of fringe benefit, of course, that often made being in the adult business a lot of fun.
She gave me the autographed picture below as a thank-you. In case you can’t make out the writing, it reads:

“Howie Sweetheart — See ya back in the broom closet,

LOVE,

Maria Tortuga.”

Maria Tortuga

 

18 Comments

  1. Charles Tatum · January 29, 2017 Reply

    A sad end to a full life!

  2. Ace J. · January 29, 2017 Reply

    Yay – Maria! I wondered if she was a dancer when I saw her tap dance in Pink Champagne.
    Were you able to pass your information to Bill or was it too late?

  3. Joe · January 29, 2017 Reply

    Good work. She was another one that I always wondered about.

  4. Not Donald Trump. · January 29, 2017 Reply

    Excellent as always.

    What gets me about many of these pieces is that so many people have recently died. Maybe this is the last decade that golden age participants will be around to share their memories.

    Thank you for being such good chroniclers of this disappearing world.

  5. anon · January 29, 2017 Reply

    Interesting life.
    Another good insight. Thanks RR!

    • James Brummel · January 29, 2017 Reply

      Its going around. John Hurt, Mary Tyler Moore in 2 days. I think its a demographic thing. Aging baby boom generation, so their pop culture Icons are all of around the same age, so they die around the same time. Poor Keith Richards will have no one to reminisce with soon.

  6. Richard · January 29, 2017 Reply

    A long asked question finally answered. Thank you,Rialto Report. (You too,Bill)

  7. Jim Stevens · January 29, 2017 Reply

    A name I’ve heard but knew zero about.

    It’s awesome that she had such a rich and fulfilling post-porn life and career.

  8. Matthew · January 29, 2017 Reply

    Can anyone offer any information about the person named Doormouse referenced at the beginning of this article? I used to have a pair of sketchbooks full of erotic stoner comic art, very much in the 70’s underground mode, drawn by this Doormouse. I did a good deal of internet searching in the earlier 2000’s for any info about this guy to no avail. I am going to try and get them back, there was some wild stuff that should be seen.

    Always amazing work here.

  9. A Maria fan · January 29, 2017 Reply

    So sorry to hear of Maria’s death. May she RIP. She was a very underrated performer and she had a very nice smile that could light up a room. She and Pat Manning often stole the show from their younger and so-called bigger stars. Being an “ethnic” performer (she was Mexican and German) sadly meant being a supporting player for most. Glad she is finally getting some recognition.

    Not surprising she was gifted in other area’s as well. And as Charles said, it sounds like she had a full life despite passing away at only 65. She didn’t look much different in her later years. Wonder if anyone recognized her as Maria Tortuga?

  10. Tony F · January 29, 2017 Reply

    What a nice piece. I will really miss all the comments from the Papa Bear. I really appreciated his involvement in the comments to the little community you’ve acquired. Thank you so much for providing us (the fans) such a comprehensive history of all these performers we’ve followed. Keep up the wonderful work and know that it is very appreciated.

  11. Steven Otero · January 29, 2017 Reply

    Another Mystery solved by the Holmes & Watson of Pornology Ashely West & April Hall.

  12. Paul Jones · January 29, 2017 Reply

    This piece feels quietly poetic. Almost like Bill sending you on a journey to find someone that he knew he’d be with by the time you found her.. who knows?

    Anyway thanks for the always-impressive work. You have my deep appreciation and admiration.

  13. Philip Castor · January 29, 2017 Reply

    Once again, The Rialto Report proves to be the main source for the golden age of adult cinema! Another wonderful piece of a long forgotten legend. I’m sure Bill is reading this where he is right now. And I’m pretty sure he’s reading this with Maria. Fantastic job my friends!!

  14. Natasha Stevens · January 29, 2017 Reply

    Yeah, the way so many of your interview subjects are passing away just underscores the importance of what you are doing and underlines the humanity and mortality of it all. I NEVER fail to be moved by your pieces, even with a relatively happy story such as this one. It’s like you’re right at the edge of history … or maybe I, in my 40s, am just at the edge of mortality?

  15. Martin Worthington · January 30, 2017 Reply

    The work you’re doing is priceless, thank you for every article, it makes my day when they show up. RIP Bill Margold and Maria Tortuga.

  16. J. Walter Puppybreath · January 30, 2017 Reply

    Another amazing and moving piece, RR.

  17. Ace · February 2, 2017 Reply

    Interesting that Margold mentioned sharing an office with Ed Nash. I presume he is referring to the same Ed Nash who was involved in the John Holmes “Wonderland” murders affair. Always find something fascinating at the Rialto Report!

Leave a reply