Sergio Gonzalez served stars and everyone else like they were one, at Hollywood’s famous Musso & Frank Grill
Sergio Gonzalez brought a little bit of Hollywood with him when he’d come home to Sylmar from work.
Not just because he was a waiter at Musso & Frank Grill, the nearly century-old institution on Hollywood Boulevard, for more than 45 years. Also because Gonzalez, who at 66 died of a heart attack at home on Tuesday, was a favorite among the restaurant’s celebrity customers – whether distinguished, notorious or some of both.
His regulars included actors ranging from Steve McQueen to Johnny Depp. One-time L.A. mob boss Mickey Cohen, after he’d gotten out of prison, was a great tipper. So was the waiter’s “hero,” Keith Richards; he and other members of the Rolling Stones liked Gonzalez so much, they flew him to Mexico City for their 2006 concert.
“Keith Richards’ assistant called me: ‘You’re going to the concert, so get your passport, go to LAX,’” Gonzalez said in a 2013 interview found on the website mrporter.com. “I stayed with the band in the Four Seasons hotel like a big shot.”
The Mazatlan-born Gonzalez was a 19-year-old cadet at Mexico’s Veracruz naval academy when he came to L.A. to visit his grandmother in 1972. While here, an uncle who was a busman at Musso asked Sergio if he could fill in for a few days. Although he’d had no work experience, Gonzalez donned a green jacket and did the job – and never left the only employer of his life. A year after he began at the restaurant, he was given a red jacket and promoted to waiter. Hollywood dancing legend and “Beverly Hillbillies” star Buddy Ebsen was Gonzalez’s first customer.
“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 has said.
The feeling was mutual.
“Musso & Frank has lost another beloved family member with the passing of Sergio Gonzalez,” Mark Echeverria, the restaurant’s fourth generation proprietor, said in a statement that also acknowledged the April death of Ruben Rueda, who bartended there for 52 years. “(Gonzalez) 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 indeed seemed to welcome all customers, whatever their status, with equal, loving care.
“We get a lot of tourists,” Gonzalez said, during a 2018 YouTube interview.
“When they see the steaks, they take a picture of it,” he added, grinning widely.
Along with favorite customers Depp and Richards, Gonzalez got to know such regulars as the original “Hawaii Five-0’s” star Jack Lord, the cast of “Bonanza” and actor-producer Jack Webb (“Dragnet,” “Adam-12”), along with countless other recognizable names.
“It’s funny,” Gonzalez noted while sitting in one of Musso’s famous, red leather banquettes on the YouTube video. “When I’m at home watching TV, it’s like I’ve waited on everybody. Everybody comes here.”
Gonzalez is survived by his wife Sandra, daughter Leslie, son-in-law Alex (who’s worked at Musso for 15 years) and three grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at the restaurant soon.
Gonzalez lived in the San Fernando Valley for 25 years, the last 20 in Sylmar. Sand dabs were the waiter’s favorite Musso dish, though he also thought the steaks and chops were delicious.