Sergio Gonzalez, a favorite waiter of Hollywood stars, rock legends and ordinary customers during his long career at Musso & Frank’s Grill, has died. He passed on Tuesday at his home in Sylmar from a heart attack at age 66. The announcement was made by Mark Echeverria, the restaurant’s COO/CFO/proprietor and a fourth-generation family member/owner.
Gonzalez began working at Musso & Frank’s in 1972 at age 19 as a green-jacketed bus boy. He had been in the Naval Academy in Veracruz, Mexico, and came to L.A. from Mazatlán to see his grandmother. His uncle worked at the restaurant at that time, and asked Sergio to fill in for a few days. He stayed for the next 47 years, earning a promotion to waiter and donning the red jacket after one year of service. It was the first and only job he ever held.
“When I became a waiter, one of my first customers was this guy, he was a Jewish gangster: Mickey Cohen,” Gonzalez recalled. “And I didn’t even know who the guy was. 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.”
There were many others, as Gonzalez loved to relate in his media interviews (yes, he had many). But he had two favorites: “Johnny Depp and Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones are my favorite customers,” he revealed. “They are the best tippers. I have a lot of friends along with Johnny and Keith, like Charlie Watts and Ron Wood also from the Stones.”
The Stones would always ask for Gonzalez when they dined at Musso’s, and 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,’” Gonzalez said. “I stayed with the band in the Four Seasons hotel like a big shot.”
“Me and Johnny Depp, we go back so many years. He makes no secret of his affection for Musso’s,” said Gonzalez. “When he 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.”
“I have the most celebrities—very loyal clients,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes I’d rather be working here than in my house, because my wife will say, ‘Sergio, do this, do that, bring the ladder!’ And I’ll say, ‘No, honey, because if I have an accident, I won’t be a waiter anymore! Send somebody else to do it!’ ”
“When people ask me why I have stayed so long, my answer is that the bosses here are very nice. We have good customers, and we run the place,” Gonzalez said.
“Musso & Frank has lost another beloved family member with the passing of Sergio Gonzales,” said Musso’s COO/CFO Echeverria. “He was a truly wonderful man who was loved and respected by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. 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.:
Gonzalez’s death follows the April 26 passing of Ruben Rueda, who worked as a bartender at the restaurant for 52 years. Gonzalez passed away just one day after a memorial service was held at Musso & Frank for the family and friends of Rueda.
Gonzalez’s survivors include his wife, Sandra; a daughter, Leslie and son-in-law Alex, who is a 15-year server at the restaurant; and three grandchildren, Allesandra, Sergio and Victor.
A memorial will be held at Musso and Frank’s in honor of Gonzalez. No date has been set.