EMERYVILLE, Calif. (Rob Roth/KTVU) - At Trader Vic's in Emeryville, it is getting near last call, for the restaurant's grand lady and longest lasting employee.
After 57 years as maitre d', Claudette Lum is planning to hang up her trademark gardenia on New Year's Eve. At the age of 80, years old she will head into retirement.
"It's a very bittersweet departure. Because my heart will always be here with every single person who walks into Trader Vic's," said Lum
Lum says she truly loves the customers, and they certainly seem to love her back.
"Her incredible sense of grace. And she was always so welcoming with the biggest smile on her face every time," said customer Chris Watson.
Lum began her career in 1960 at Trader Vic's in San Francisco. She stayed on when the restaurant moved to the East Bay.
She's a people person.
"No, I've never been shy," she said with a laugh.
Lum has seated her share of celebrities. Perhaps none bigger than Queen Elizabeth who came in one day with First Lady Nancy Reagan.
"When I got there they said you ad to curtsy. I've never curtsied in my life. So i went to the ladies room, got in front of the mirror and started practicing. But actually I thought I did a good job," said Lum.
She wouldn't seat baseball legend Pete Rose until he put on a tie. That was policy back then.
"I said excuse me sir, I do have a tie for you to borrow."
Her co-workers say it won't be as easy or as much fun without Claudette.
"Everyone she meets she remembers their children, how old they are. The grandkids. It's really incredible," said Raquel Rodriguez.
Lum plans to spend more time with her eight grandchildren.
"All the people who have touched my life and heart at Trader Vic's will forever be with me.
Now it is getting emotional, because I love them all," she said.