Just a reminder about those fine folks serving your food, cooking your food, and slinging your drinks when you’re out on the town:
Scene: The corner of Hollywood & Vine. Clumps of young women tumble out of the Metro Red Line subway station, all sequins and sparkle, their skirts as short as their heels are high.
Someone tweets that Jamie Foxx is upstairs at Drai’s glassed-in nightclub. A girl crouches at Latin pop singer Shakira’s sidewalk star waiting for her friend to snap a picture.
“See, the night is just getting started,” Javier Romero says as the escalator drops us into the subway station, beneath a ceiling preposterously lined with faux film reels and supported by pillars shaped like palm trees.
Romero, 34, a restaurant worker, is part of a platoon of busboys, bartenders and other hospitality workers that form the scaffolding that underpins Hollywood’s glamorous night scene. For many, public transportation is a lifeline. They either can’t afford a car or are undocumented immigrants who lost their vehicles in traffic stops.
Romero would love to have a car; back in Mexico City he drove a bus, 14 hours a day, seven days a week. The last Red Line car out of the Vine Street station leaves around 1 a.m., so he and other riders have to start for home just as the late rush of club kids arrives.
Their trips can be epic. Ten miles, and 15 minutes by car, from his place in Highland Park, Romero will travel more than two hours before the night is through. Still, he isn’t complaining.
“As long as the place I’m working gives me the money I want, it can take me two hours to get home, I don’t care,” he says.
Romero arrived in 2007 and quickly mastered English. He worked at a United Nations of restaurants — Japanese, French, American — before landing a position as an expo runner at a Hollywood seafood house, making sure the courses roll out with pinpoint precision.
“Basically what we do is make sure whenever they finish their appetizers, they can start working on the next dish,” he says.
His restaurant is one of Hollywood’s ubiquitous casual but pricey bistros: you can wear a hoodie, but be prepared to drop $100 a head. Since he lives off his tips, that’s a good thing.
“It’s expensive, and that’s how I like it,” Romero says.
Some chefs carry their knives to the subway in rollaway bags, and other restaurant workers stash a change of clothes in their backpacks. Romero travels light: a brown apron rolled up in his hand and that’s it.