I was a cliff diver at Casa Bonita, the restaurant made famous by South Park. Here’s how I got the job and what it was like. – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

I was a cliff diver at Casa Bonita, the restaurant made famous by South Park. Here’s how I got the job and what it was like.

Vanna Curtis cliff diving at Casa Bonita.

Joel Giltner

Vanna Curtis worked at Casa Bonita, a restaurant made famous by South Park, in 2016.

In her job, she dove off the restaurant’s cliffs into its grotto during “dive shows.”
She also wore a gorilla suit for performances. Kids sometimes chased her down and knocked her over.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Vanna Curtis, a former cliff diver and entertainer for Casa Bonita. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Casa Bonita has a legendary reputation in Denver. The Mexican style restaurant is known for its entertainment, including its fire juggling and their cliff diving performances. 

In 2016, when I worked there, I remember thinking this restaurant is so massive and set up like a cafeteria. I always thought it had to be hard on the servers who had to walk what seemed like a mile. 

At the time, the food was bad and almost inedible, but that’s not what Casa Bonita is known for. 

A lot of people became familiar with the restaurant because of South Park but many didn’t realize it’s an actual restaurant in Denver, Colorado. 

My friends who aren’t from the Denver area just thought it was something made up for the TV show. Instead, the restaurant is legendary, and those who have gone have a lot of fond memories there.

Getting my job with Casa Bonita was pretty easy

The outside of Casa Bonita, located in Denver, Colorado.

Hyoung Chang/Getty Images

In 2016, when I was 26, I went to Casa Bonita with my roller derby team to have a bonding day. While there, I watched the divers perform and started bragging about how I used to be a diver in high school. I also told my team about how much I loved cliff jumping, too. 

Then, during that night, the restaurant made an announcement over the microphone. They were hiring for their entertainment department, which meant divers and entertainers. 

After the announcement, I told a manager I was interested and was asked to come in the next day for an interview. 

During my interview, the manager showed me around and asked to see my dives. After showing her, she said she was interested in hiring me, but there was one problem — my tattoos. 

She asked if I’d be willing to cover them up. I was surprised by the request, but after agreeing to it, I got the job. It was extremely easy.

So I began working at Casa Bonita as a cliff diver and an entertainer

The inside of Casa Bonita.

Ashley W./Yelp

My shifts were six hours long, and the first thing I did after clocking in was cover my tattoos. I wore a pair of biker shorts and a rash guard that provided more coverage than a regular swimsuit.

Then I took some stage makeup and put it on my tattooed legs. This process took me about 30 minutes to complete. 

After that, I was ready to begin. My main job was to do “dive shows” every 15 minutes. I started by going up to the little podium and hopping on the mic: “Good afternoon, Casa Bonita! My name is Vanna, and I’ll be your cliff diver this evening.”

I then climbed up onto the waterfall and performed three dives. I usually did a front dive, a swan dive, and a backflip with as many twists as I could do.

For the most part, the water was pretty warm, but sometimes there were issues with the heater and I’d have to dive into freezing cold water. 

After my three dives, I swam behind the waterfall and went into a little dressing room area for the divers. I dried off with a towel, took a hot shower, and put on a robe.

Then after 15 to 20 minutes, I’d come out and do it again.

In addition to the dives, I also played a few characters and did little shows on stage

The grotto at Casa Bonita.

Hyoung Chang / Contributor/Getty Images

We performed different shows every hour, and they took place on a small stage 15 feet above the water.

I played three different characters: a princess, a pirate, and a gorilla. Depending on the character, you might have to jump into the water while wearing your costume.

Playing the pirate was my favorite. Her name was Black Bertha (or, if you were a male diver, Black Bart). As Black Bertha, I performed a monologue alongside a costumed sheriff. We battled each other at the waterfalls and it ended with him pushing me into the water. 

My least favorite character was definitely the gorilla. I had to wear a gorilla suit, which was heavy, stinky and uncomfortable. A gorilla handler would come out and put chains around me, then I’d break free from my chains and run around the restaurant creating havoc. I also did cartwheels and beat on my chest too.

It was fun, but the mask was hard to see through. The mask (and so the eye holes) moved around, so I could never really see where I was going and I’d run into things. 

Sometimes, kids chased me down while I was running around the restaurant. One time I had about 50 kids swarm me unexpectedly. They began to kick me and I fell over. The gorilla handler had to help me up. 

He thanked the kids for catching me and said he’d take it from there. When I got backstage, I took off my mask and thought, “Well, that was crazy.”

The restaurant closed down in 2020, but recently reopened

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the animated television series “South Park.”

Araya Doheny / Contributor/Getty Images

It was threatened with permanent closure during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the creators of “South Park” bought the restaurant in 2021 and renovated it.

To get in, you have to be on a guest list. I have friends in Denver that have been on the waiting list for months and haven’t gotten in yet. 

Those who work at the restaurant now are paid $30 an hour, but it’s a flat rate with no tips, which might not be the best. As someone who has worked as a bartender elsewhere, I know you can sometimes make a lot with cash tips. 

Back when I worked at Casa Bonita, $30 an hour would’ve been great. I would’ve been super pumped to be paid that much. But I usually worked two days a week and was paid $12 an hour without tips.

It was definitely an exhausting job, but it was fun, too. I know Casa Bonita created many fond memories for a lot of people and it very much has a legendary reputation.

If you have a fun, unique job and would like to share your story, email Alyshia Hull at [email protected].

Read the original article on Business Insider
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