Q: I can't think of a health care question.
Q: I can't talk about finances at all.
A: Even better.
Q: How 'bout let's talk about you and your wife, Michelle, buying the Vault concert venue on Pine, which apparently isn't going to open all by itself.
A: Aw, I don't want to talk about the Vault.
Q: I hear Michelle is already talking money with the current owner.
A: My wife wants us to retire and just run a music club.
Q: And you've said your wife is in charge of things.
A: Out there, she is. Here, I have 6,000 employees who are kind of depending on me so they can make a living. I have a lot of responsibilities.
Q: They'll be fine. I'm more interested in getting a cool club in town and then getting a good-pay, low-labor job at that club.
A: Long Beach does need a good concert venue. I really miss Bogart's.
Q: I'll start crying if we talk about Bogart's.
A: And the Blue Cafe, when it was cool. There was also a great club in Signal Hill. Was it the Hillside?
Q: There was a Hillside, which was pretty cool, but you're probably thinking of the Foothill on Cherry.
A: Yeah, that was it. We saw the Blasters there. We've been to a billion Blasters shows.
Michelle and I saw a lot of shows at Bogart's and the Blue. And there are some good places now, like Alex's Bar and diPiazza's, but we need a bigger and better place to get some quality acts. But whether that's the Vault or someplace else ... One thing that's promising is the improvements they're making to the Long Beach Arena, where they can reconfigure it to a smaller size and turn it into something where you can get smaller acts, and it'll be more like a club setting.
Q: Where do you go to see live music now?
A: Well, to see good bands you pretty much have to leave town now, sadly. It's a shame a city this size can't have a nice venue. I took my daughter Antonia (she's Miss Teen Long Beach) to the Fillmore in San Francisco to see Keane, and we saw the Kaiser Chiefs at the Fox in Oakland. Those are still two great clubs.
Q: Long Beach is a tough place to get bands, because the L.A. clubs and places like the venues at L.A. Live and the bigger Orange County places like the House of Blues have exclusivity clauses that don't allow acts to play within 30 miles, which often means Long Beach. And, anyway, I sometimes have doubts that live music can even work in Long Beach.
A: Really? Bogart's and the Blue used to do pretty well.
Q: I don't know. I saw some great bands at those places and they weren't even close to full. I know the owner of Bogart's was losing money. He did better running a business that cleaned up residences after murders and suicides.
A: So, you're saying live music can't succeed in Long Beach, yet you want me to spend a few million to buy the Vault?
Q: No! No, I want you to buy the Vault. Maybe it'll work.
A: You're gambling with my money?
Q: Well, yeah, because I don't have any. Let's talk about your youth for a second. You grew up in Long Beach. Where did you go to high school?
Q: My brother! Were you born here?
A: Born at St. Mary's.
Q: My actual brother, maybe!
A: I went to Kettering, Hill and Wilson.
Q: When did you take up the accordion?
A: I don't really play the accordion. My grandmother, who was Italian, had a cousin living with her in Escondido. He played the accordion in an Italian orchestra. When he got old he couldn't play it anymore. It's a huge thing, and it just got too heavy for him. So, he wanted to leave it to a male heir. My older brother and cousin didn't want it. I was 10 years old, so I said I'd take it. I took lessons at Gilmore Music on Seventh, learned three or four songs and I played them for the old guy. I think he was deaf by then, but he died happy. Michelle had the instrument totally restored for me. It's beautiful.
(At this point Michelle waltzes into the office.)
Michelle: What do you think of a man who has this beautiful accordion and refuses to play it for his wife?
Q: My wife, and my kids, bolt from the room the second I pick up a guitar. I started to sing "You Were Always on My Mind" in the style of Willie Nelson and all I got out was "Maybe I ..." and my wife yelled at me to stop. Are you going to buy the Vault?
Michelle: I'd like to. I'd like us to retire and just have a music club.
firstname.lastname@example.org, 562-499-1256 or twitter.com/grobaty