From dishwasher to bartender to the stars, what one man learned from 30 years of working at a posh Los Angeles hotel

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer

In 1986, at just 17 years old, Oscar Zuleta started working at the Beverly Hilton hotel as a dishwasher. And he still works there today, where he’s built a reputation as “the bartender to the stars.”

“Once my kids asked me if I didn’t get bored doing the same thing, and I told them, If you enjoy what you do for a living — which is what I do — time goes by and you don’t even know when,” Zuleta, now 48 and a longtime Los Angeles resident, says.

After all, Zuleta says he was “blessed” to be moved to the banquet department of the esteemed hotel in 1996. Shortly thereafter, he worked his very first Golden Globe Awards ceremony, where he instantly made a name for himself for his ability to form quick, genuine bonds with his celebrity clientele, whom he describes as “the best of the best in show business.”

Zuleta says that recently he told John Legend, one of his many bold-faced regulars, that he is one of the people who makes him feel like his job matters since Zuleta says when he is serving Legend and his wife, model-author-television personality and Twitter queen Chrissy Teigen, it feels like he is serving family because of the relationship they have built and because of the way Legend and Teigen treat him.

Another celebrity guest who holds “a special place” in Zuleta’s heart is Sir Sean Connery. When the iconic James Bond actor was honored with a lifetime achievement award and ordered a special bottle of red wine to mark the occasion, he asked that Zuleta have a glass with him. And after getting permission from his boss after Connery insisted even after Zuleta told him he could not — since drinking with guests on the job is usually not allowed — Zuleta eventually did. And Connery toasted to Zuleta.

“It doesn’t matter how humble your beginnings are,” Zuleta says. “You can reach the sky if you really want to.”

And though he’s already been honored for years of dedicated work at the iconic hotel by his employers and peers, he says he plans to be there for a long time more still — and that he hopes when his children go to college, they show their professors the certificate for 30 years of service that he was recently awarded by his employer as proof that anything is possible when you combine commitment with joy.

In current culture, millennials move from job to job in order to climb the ladder. The average time spent at a company is just two years. For baby boomers and other generations, this was not the norm. Loyalty and dedication to a single company or career drove, and still drives, many of their careers. AOL’s original series Lifers features these dedicated, loyal workers who have been in their jobs for years and years. Will they retire? Are they prepared to?

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