HOLLYWOOD — Ruben Rueda, who worked as a bartender at Hollywood’s Musso and Frank Grill for 52 years, died April 26 of natural causes at Whittier Hospital Medical Center. He was 67.
The announcement was made by Mark Echeverria, the restaurant’s proprietor, and a fourth generation family member and owner.
“Ruben always knew just what a customer needed, whether it was an ear to bend, or a joke to lighten the mood,” Echeverria said. “He brought professionalism and kindness to his work every day, and his loss will deeply affect many guests and colleagues who long counted him as a friend. Our family has run Musso’s for four generations, and to us, Ruben was, without question, a member of our family.”
A native of Durango, Mexico, Rueda decided to walk in and apply for a job as a server assistant while walking past the restaurant at the age of 19, After several years in that role, Rueda wound up serving as a bartender for the remainder of his 52-year tenure, working up until a few months ago.
From his place behind the bar, Rueda crossed paths with many of the brightest luminaries of the literary, entertainment and music worlds of the last half-century. Notables such as Keith Richards and other members of the Rolling Stones, Johnny Depp, Rock Hudson, Orson Welles, Raymond Burr, Charles Bukowski, Steve McQueen, John Lennon, and Gore Vidal were among his regular customers.
When asked about his role as “Hollywood’s bartender,” Rueda would answer, “Mostly I like to talk to people, and I make people happy. That’s my job. But I don’t work at Musso & Frank because I want to work in a bar. I work here because I like these people, because I know these people. I work in the greatest place on Earth. This is home. I see my customers more than I see my wife. I’ve been working here almost all my life. I’m a happy guy. And this place is here to stay.”
“Ruben helped define what Musso & Frank is all about by making guests feel both in another world — and yet very much at home — at the same time,” Echeverria said. “He was renowned for treating each and every patron like a star, one of the many reasons he became such an integral part of the incomparable Musso & Frank ‘experience.’”
Rueda, who lived in Whittier, is survived by his wife, Maria Olga Rueda, a son, Leonard, who also works at Musso & Frank Grill as both a server and a bookkeeper, and a daughter, Cynthia, mother to Rueda’s two grandchildren: Brooke, a UCLA student, and Sebastian, a student currently attending a university in Spain.
Plans are underway for a memorial service in the near future to be held at Musso and Frank in honor of Rueda.