The Chemist

Photo by Kevin Scanlon

A veritable Time-Life canon of events happened in 1967, yet one that went unnoticed was a new addition to the action behind the bar at Musso & Frank. Fresh from Mexico, Reuben Rueva moved to L.A. and took a position serving drinks at the legendary Hollywood Boulevard booze-and-meat-and-booze haven, a place he still holds in a town he still loves. Neat and natty in the standard-issue blood-red jacket and black tie, with a deft hand at martinis and the demeanor of a father confessor, he’s served them all, from Industry glitterati to basic mortals.

“I serve Orson Welles, he drank martinis,” recalls Rueva. “I serve Raymond Burr, he drinks vodka gimlets. In the ’70s, I serve Steve McQueen. He was a beer drinker. He was married to Ali MacGraw. She drinks Manhattans and he drinks Löwenbräu.”

Rueva has achieved a few fingers of celebrity himself, mainly for feeding the alcoholic needs of Charles Bukowski.

“Bukowski, oh yeah. I talked to him a lot, he was a wild man,” offers the bartender. “A lot of people, they used to think he was broke, but I never seen him broke. He always got money. Once he came with two girls and he asked me, ‘What do you think I do for a living?’ I said, ‘Well, you’re ugly, you’re always drunk, you’re always with the beautiful girls and you have a lot of money. You must be a pimp.’ Oh, he got upset!”

After nearly four decades behind the wood, Rueva is part of the 87-year-old Musso chemistry, a steadfast liquor-pouring cog in the attraction works of Los Angeles. And so it shall be.

“I feel good, I feel young,” he says. “As long as you do your job they treat you good here, that’s the main thing. And I like my co-workers. I’ll tell you what, I see more of these guys than my wife.”


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