Fans of Rufus, a 37-year-old, carrot-eating fish that once welcomed visitors at a now closed Tiki-themed restaurant in Rosemead are celebrating today after the community rallied to find the giant fish a new home.
Rufus, who has lived in a large aquarium at the shuttered Bahooka Restaurant since it opened in 1977, was shown the door after the building's new owners decided to remodel the space and get rid of its 110 aquariums and nearly 1,000 fish. That worried many Bahooka regulars, many of whom grew up seeing Rufus in the restaurant.
"He's like a pet. He's part of the Bahooka family," said Steve Silva, a longtime Bahooka customer and self described "Rufus fan," who helped spread the word about the fish. "For 36, 37 years, he was a constant presence here. You'd walk in, you'd take a picture with him, you'd feed him carrots. He was always here. He was part of the family."
After hearing of Rufus's impending eviction and his uncertain future, community members came together on a local Tiki message board and through the Facebook page "Hidden L.A." to find him a new home.
Rufus and his tank will be moving to Damon's Steak House in Glendale, which also carries a Tiki Theme. Now, the big issue is finding somebody who can safely move him and a vet who can check him out before the move. Rufus is a Pacu fish, a relative of the Phirana, and needs to live in the tank by himself.
Lynn Garrett, founder of Hidden L.A., started an online fundraising page to raise funds for Rufus' move and continued upkeep. It has raised more than $900 so far.
When Rufus originally came to Bahooka Restaurant, he was only 8 inches long. He now weighs around 30 pounds and he maintains a steady diet of carrots. This is not the first time he's gotten attention. He appeared in the 1998 Johnny Depp movie "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," when crews used the restaurant to film scenes for the movie.
When Bahooka closed, employees put out a book for customers to write memories in, and nearly every page mentioned Rufus, according to Darlene Fliegel, who worked at the restaurant since 1977.
"They talk about how the grew up coming in for birthday parties and
watching the fish, and it was all age brackets thought he was a big
attraction," Fliegel said. " ... He made an impact on a lot of people. We
consider him a buddy."
—City News Service