#SaveRufus: The Legendary 38-Year-Old Pacu Fish From Bahooka Needs a New Home


Rufus, the giant fish that welcomed generations of visitors to the Bahooka restaurant in Rosemead, is looking for a new home. The 38-year-old pacu has been munching carrots and floating inside one of the 105 tanks that decorated the shipwreck fantasy restaurant from 1976 until it closed last March. The sea creature emoted behind Johnny Depp in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, and became the living symbol of a revived Polynesian pop culture before the restaurant shuttered and he was left in a world without humans, hovering in the dark. Los Angeles magazine writer Ed Leibowitz once described the silent animal as having the “tragic, loving eyes of an aging Marlon Brando.” Jorge Mastache, a former cook at the restaurant, comes by every morning to feed Rufus.

“He’s an icon,” says Book Of Tiki author Sven Kirsten. “And he deserves to be saved.” Supporters have been working with the property owners as they clear out the last layers of lush décor and prepare to open a tiki-free spot serving Chinese food. Andrew Meieran, the owner of downtown’s Clifton’s Cafeteria, purchased most of the artifacts in a sale last year. He plans to use them in a new bar inspired by the Hawaiian-themed Clifton’s Pacific Seas. He is one of several potential stewards for the beloved fish. “I’m very concerned about his health and well being,” says Meieran. “I am definitely looking at all possibilities to provide him a loving new home.”

Some have expressed hesitation at the move, worried that Rufus’s advanced age and special requirements make it impossible. The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago recently celebrated the 80th birthday of their Australian Lungfish, and some aquatic species have been known to live for more than a century. Fans have reached out to the Aquarium Of The Pacific and other specialists in an effort to rescue the monster fish but it might fall on another restaurateur to save him. “He’s the embodiment of the spirit of Bahooka,” says Meieran. “And all that’s amazing about tiki culture!”

Spread the word: Use the hashtag #SaveRufus to help the fish find a place to spend his golden years. Potential new owners for Rufus should contact Esteban Silva at (626) 602-4522.

Illustration by Tom Thordarson

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  • Tikiskip

    In Columbus home of Kahiki we have Sam the parrot and the Kahiki is gone but Sam lives on.
    Save Rufus the famous Bahooka Pacu!
    We would take him but we are in Columbus Ohio.

  • C S Joy

    Great article, great cause. The fine folks @ Tiki Central (Thor and all the many others) who have been working hard on this pressing issue around the clock want this well loved iconic Pacu saved. The Bahooka is gone, but the heart and soul is living…and getting LONELY! SAVE RUFUS! Sincerely, OGR

  • http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?mode=viewtopic&topic=46856&forum=1&start=120 Ace Explorer

    Holy carp, Batman! This is one fish which needs to be saved, and soon! How often do you encounter a friendly and toothless piranha which is sociable, a movie star, and who munches on carrots to entertain you and your friends? That’s right, this fish needs saving, and the time to act is now.

  • Socal Savage

    Thank you for the coverage Chris! Thank you Tom for the great art. Please someone help out Rufus and give him a loving permanent home!

  • robert

    Save Rufus! Someone call Johnny Depp.

  • christiki295

    What an opportunity to preserve a part of LA history and the beloved Rufus!

  • Lori

    Rufus the Bahooka pacu is a Los Angeles institution! He brings a smile to everyone’s face, whether it’s the first time they’ve seen him or the 1000th. He loves attention and he deserves a new home where he will be appreciated.

  • Lunavideogames

    We do need to find this guy a home. He is 38 years old and still has a lot of life in him. Rufus has a lot of history behind him in movies and is an icon for all tiki lovers. Thanks for everyone’s help and lets find this guy a home!

  • ATP

    Let’s find Rufus a new home!

    Thanks to Jorge Mastache for caring for Rufus all this time
    and thanks for running this story.

  • THOR

    SUPER devoted to helping this fish! He has a wisdom and spirit and his antics and playful gaze reminds me of a pet dog! lol He thinks..and feels…and you can sense it when you watch him. To think of him socializing with us all for 30 some years and then being left in a dark world of questionable fate is impossible for me to accept. Please Help this guy out! share this article and lets all do something really amazing~ Sometimes life asks we be slightly less practical and far more “heartful”~~


    • Socal Savage

      What Thor said!!!!!

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVkPdVl4ROQ Marie

    I’m excited for whoever reads this article and is able to give Rufus a loving forever home!!! Spread the word!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVkPdVl4ROQ

  • Marlene Cross

    As a Tiki enthusiast and animal lover, my heart goes out to Rufus. It will take some fish experts to help move him and hope he can get to another Tiki bar. That way he will always have friends who come to see him. Please help us save Rufus!!!

  • Finky099

    Nice write-up, Chris! I’m so glad the word is getting out there about Rufus needing a home. I will share this on my FB page, too.
    Save Rufus!

  • Miguel

    It was so hard for my family to see Bahooka close down. As an aquarist and fish keeper, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to all those innocent fish, especially Rufus!!! I will be following this story and hope for the best outcome. I think Rufus can make it in a new place but the process must be slow, taking the time to properly acclimate and gently move the guy with minimal stress.

  • maitaimojo

    This cool, magnificent fish will soon be at Damon’s, a great Mai-Tai and Steak restaurant/bar in Glendale. I can’t wait to see it!