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Sergio Gonzalez, a waiter at the historic Hollywood Boulevard restaurant Musso & Frank Grill for more than four decades who became pals with the likes of Keith Richards and Johnny Depp, has died. He was 66.
Gonzalez died Tuesday of a heart attack at his home in Sylmar, California, Musso & Frank owner Mark Echeverria announced.
His first customer was Beverly Hillbillies actor Buddy Ebsen, and one of his first regulars was Hollywood legend Steve McQueen. Richards is said to prefer the liver and onions when he’s in, and he and Depp were “the best tippers,” Gonzalez once noted.
The Rolling Stones flew Gonzalez to Mexico City in 2006 to see them perform live. “Keith Richards’ assistant called me: ‘You’re going to the concert, so get your passport, go to LAX,'” he said in a 2013 interview. “I stayed with the band in the Four Seasons hotel like a big shot.”
Gonzalez said that when Depp “had no job, before he became famous, he stayed here, drinking coffee. We used to have a phone booth on the other side. He waited for one of his agents to call for a job. He’s one of the guys, you know. He became famous and he really, really loves Musso & Frank.”
Then 19, Gonzalez came to Los Angeles from Mazatlán, Mexico, to see his grandmother in 1972 and got a job at Musso & Frank as a green-jacketed bus boy. His uncle worked at the restaurant and asked him to fill in for a few days — and he stayed. He was promoted to waiter, earning the right to wear a red jacket, a year later.
“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,” he 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.”
Serving as a waiter at Musso & Frank — marking its 100th anniversary this year — was the only job Gonzalez ever had.
“He was a truly wonderful man who was loved and respected by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him,” Echeverria said in a statement. “Kind, generous, warm, dignified, caring and thoughtful, he had a gift for treating everyone like a guest of honor, whether they were internationally famous celebrities, Musso & Frank regulars or first-time patrons.”
Added Echeverria, “For almost half of our 100 years, Sergio helped make Musso & Frank a home away from home for his valued patrons and colleagues alike, and we’re all heartbroken to bid farewell to this remarkable man.”
Gonzalez died one day after a memorial was held at the restaurant for Ruben Rueda, who died April 26 and worked as a bartender there for 52 years. Plans are underway for a Musso & Frank tribute for Gonzalez.
Survivors include his wife, Sandra; his daughter, Leslie, and son-in-law, Alex, a waiter at Musso & Frank for the past 15 years; and grandchildren Allesandra, Sergio and Victor.
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