Another star has fallen at Hollywood’s landmark Musso & Frank Grill.
Sergio Gonzalez, who worked as a waiter at the famous eatery for 47 years, died of a heart attack early Tuesday at his home in Sylmar. He was 66.
“Musso & Frank has lost another beloved family member with the passing of Sergio Gonzalez,” said Mark Echeverria, one of the restaurant’s owners. “Kind, generous, warm, dignified, caring and thoughtful, he had a gift for treating everyone like a guest of honor, whether they were famous, Musso & Frank regulars, or first-time patrons. We’re all heartbroken to bid farewell to this remarkable man.”
Gonzalez died a few hours after attending a special tribute at the restaurant to his former colleague Ruben Rueda, who had worked as a bartender at Musso & Frank for more than 50 years and, like Gonzalez, was a favorite among many of its celebrity patrons. Rueda died of natural causes in April at the age of 67.
“We were skinny and cute when we started,” Gonzalez said of his friend in a brief speech during the private event that drew more than 200 friends, family members and loyal patrons. The restaurant, which has a cameo role in Quentin Tarantino’s new film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and is nearly as famous as some of its customers, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Gonzalez began working at Musso & Frank when he was 19, according to the restaurant. He was in the naval academy in Veracruz, Mexico, when he came to Los Angeles to visit his grandmother in 1972. His uncle worked at the restaurant at that time and asked Sergio if he could fill in for a few days. He never left.
“When I became a waiter, one of my first customers was this guy, he was a Jewish gangster: Mickey Cohen. And I didn’t even know who the guy was,” Gonzalez once said. “I used to put two hot towels on his knees. He was kind of crippled because I think he was beat up in jail. He used to come with two bodyguards, and he used to give me 10 bucks — back then it was a lot of money.”
Some of his other customers included Johnny Depp, Steve McQueen, Francis Ford Coppola and members of the Rolling Stones, who famously flew Gonzalez to Mexico City to see the band in concert in 2006.
“Keith Richards’ assistant called me: ‘You’re going to the concert, so get your passport, go to LAX,’ ” Gonzalez told a reporter with the website mrporter.com in 2013. “I stayed with the band in the Four Seasons hotel like a big shot.”
Gonzalez is survived by his wife, Sandra; daughter, Leslie; son-in-law, Alex, who works as at Musso & Frank; and three grandchildren, Allesandra, Sergio and Victor. A memorial service is planned at the restaurant.