As a teenager, growing up on the other side of the mountain in Hemet, I used to drive to Melvyn's on the weekends to model in their lunchtime fashion shows, then hit Saks for a bit of shopping before heading back home and to high school. The desert has really changed, but Melvyn's is still the same! - Sheri
By email@example.com for the LA Times
In most places, the past four decades have been a time of dizzying change.
But at Melvyn’s restaurant, Frank only means Sinatra, Coachella headliners go unrecognized, and a steady patter of one-liners trumps talking politics.
Bobby Bolduc, 81, a dining room captain, has been working here for 42 years. He has seniority over waiter Manuel Castaneda, who’s worked 41 years, and maitre d’ Brian Ellis, who’s been here 42 years but started off as a backroom waiter under Bolduc.
Chef Juan Castaneda said he is in awe over the way “these gentlemen keep doing what they are are doing.” He’s been in charge of the kitchen for only 38 years.
The front of Melvyn's restaurant in Palm Springs. (Stuart Palley / For The Times)
Stories? They’ve got stories
“Nothing bothers Bobby. The place could go up in flames, and he’d keep cooking his steak Diane,” said Ellis, shaking his head of still-thick hair.
“Let me tell you about what happened right over there at Table 32.”
In 1990, John Compton Harvey — a man police later would describe as silver haired and distinguished looking — was having dinner at his regular table.
Suddenly, undercover law enforcement agents planted around the dining room jumped up and drew their guns. Bolduc was table-side, cooking. An agent held a gun to his head.
The way Ellis tells it, Bolduc kept cooking.
“I was pouring a glass of Dom Perignon when they put a gun on me because they didn’t know what I would do,” Bolduc corrected.
He said he was cooking the steak while they handcuffed and took away Harvey — who turned out to be wanted in 10 counties on a variety of fraud, forgery and embezzlement charges.
Bolduc boxed up the steak Diane and ran after them.
FBI agents paid for the dinner. But they didn’t tip.
Harvey always tipped $100, Bolduc said.