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For decades, a bartender to the stars

He served martinis to Orson Welles. He made pecan punch -- a potent combination of brandy, grenadine and pecan liqueur -- for Bing Crosby. And, on occasion, he would drive Charles Bukowski home when he was drunk.

Ruben Rueda, 59, may be the longest continually serving bartender in Hollywood.

“I started at Musso’s in 1967,” he said. “I started as a busboy. I did that for about a year. Then one of the guys got sick and I became a bartender. They call me ‘the traffic light’ because I changed from a green jacket to a red jacket.”

Over the years, Rueda said, his customers have included John Huston, Sam Peckinpah, Rock Hudson, Steve McQueen and the Rolling Stones. Keith Richards, always a good tipper, once presented him with a Gibson electric guitar.

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Another time, he said, he went home to Durango, Mexico, and ran into Peckinpah, who hired him to drive a truck on the set of “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.”

“He used to sit right over there,” Rueda said of the renegade director, pointing to the end of the bar. “He drank a lot.”

So did Bukowski, who favored martinis, scotch and sweet wines -- sometimes in the same sitting.

“He once asked me, ‘Ruben, what do you think I do?’ I said, ‘Well, you’re always drunk, you have lots of money and you have lots of girls. You must be a pimp.’ Oh, he got upset.”

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Ruben said he loves his job because he loves Hollywood.

" Johnny Depp still comes by just to say hello,” he said.

“It makes me feel like a big shot.”

carlos.lozano@latimes.com


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