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15 MINUTES WITH ...

Magic moments

November 14, 2002|Maria Elena Fernandez

Sit at the counter of Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard and it won't be long before someone calls out, "Hi, Manny!" One afternoon it's City Councilman Tom LaBonge; another it could be Julia Roberts. Manuel Felix has spent 29 years serving up Caesar salad, magic tricks and sage advice.

The back story

The 65-year-old grandfather has lived in L.A. since 1957. A widower for five years, he calls Los Feliz home and is proud to be a "professional" waiter. "I do this thing well. I make you comfortable, and I serve your every whim as long as it goes with the house rules."

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Style

The traditional Musso uniform: red coat, white shirt, black trousers and black bow tie. Felix's fashion tip? Never leave home without your smile. He never does.

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Whatever

Felix serenades diners with Perry Como tunes and old Spanish love songs. But he is best known for his magic tricks.

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Work strategies

"I most enjoy my relationship with people, using my creativity to make a Caesar salad and doing things with my imagination."

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Confession

"In the trunk of my car is a packed suitcase, $2,000 in cash, my golf clubs, matches and cigarettes. I am ready to go anywhere at a moment's notice!"

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Best perk

Meeting Hollywood greats like Steve McQueen, Telly Savalas and Michael Landon. "As a little boy, Hollywood movie stars were figments of my imagination. All of a sudden, I'm dealing with them across the counter. That is beautiful."

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

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