When the crew of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" showed up to shoot a tiki bar scene at Bahooka Ribs and Grog in Rosemead, Bernardo Reyna saved the restaurant's prized pacu from a beta carotene overdose. The crew wanted to send Rufus, a 34-pound South American predatory fish that loves carrots, into gyrations of ecstasy by feeding him stick after stick of the veggie. "If we feed him that much, he's going to explode," warned Reyna, caretaker of Bahooka's Polynesian paradise of 105 built-in aquariums. To fend off calamity, he fastened a string around a carrot, dropped it into the tank and tugged at it off-screen as Rufus pursued. With no undue stomach upset, Rufus thrashed about magnificently as Johnny Depp's character made his frantic call to score drugs on an aquarium-adjacent pay phone.
During their six years together, Reyna, 31, and Rufus, 24, have developed a singular rapport. "When I clean the tank, he nuzzles up to me," Reyna says. As if on cue, Rufus looks through the aquarium glass at his keeper, flexing his strong jaw, enormous girth and tragic, loving eyes of an aging Marlon Brando. "He's like a little cat." It's a tremendous compliment, for, as Reyna explains, Rufus doesn't favor company: "He doesn't like roommates. He eats them."