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David Asbell

Paul Wellman

David Asbell


The S.B. Questionnaire: David Asbell

Leader of the Lobero on Bo Diddley, Fear of Failure, and Friends with Boats


When I approached David Asbell to answer the Proust Questionnaire, the executive director of the Lobero Foundation replied, “Sure, but I’m pretty boring.”

David, who has successfully run one of Santa Barbara’s performing-arts jewels for years before recently spearheading its renovation, is self-deprecating and low-key, but I would never call him boring. He’s passionate about the arts in our city, and many nonprofits in our culturally sophisticated town are indebted to his devotion and commitment. One of my personal highlights of running the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for the past decade has been to call this patron of the arts my friend.

Below, this humble hero answers our questionnaire.

What is it you like most about your job?

It seems so central and important to our community. I have always worked in the arts, and this particular job gives me a sense of accomplishment like no other job I have had.

What is the best thing about the new Lobero?

The best physical thing is our new entryway, the Esplanade. It is a much nicer space to meet and gather before and during a performance.

What’s your all-time favorite memory about the Lobero?

Having a drink after the concert with Bo Diddley in one of the upstairs dressing rooms. He was getting on in life, was really tired, and just opened up to me. We didn’t talk about anything all that important, but I felt I got a sense of him as a person and he had lived this incredible life. Very special.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness, for me, would be the contentment that comes with being at peace with my place in the world. It would entail all of the emotions in balance both joy and sadness, achievement and failure, being content, yet pushing my limits.

What is your greatest fear?

I fear failure the most. Not living up to my expectations, or letting others down, particularly the ones closest to me.

Who do you most admire and why?

I really admire a friend of mine who didn’t have anything to start with, no formal education, but who faced life full-on, defeated her demons, and created a prosperous and happy life. As she enters her senior years, she is self-sufficient and content. I think it is quite an accomplishment.

What is your greatest extravagance?

That would be baseball and the Dodgers. No real explanation for this absurd attachment, but probably goes back to Sandy Koufax.

What is your current state of mind?

California, with time off for good behavior.

What is the quality you most like in people?

A sense of humor. It makes up for a lot of bad qualities in people and is always easy to be around.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Intellectual laziness. I know that I hate that in myself. The herd mentality has done a lot of damage in our history.

What do you most value in friends?

Friends who actually enjoy life and are thoughtful with a capacity for good conversation. Also, friends with boats.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I probably talk too much.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Avoid clichés like the plague.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d like to be able to see the future. That, or I’d like to learn from the past.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I could certainly be more empathetic towards my fellow man. Or woman. See, I did it again ….

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I once built a grand staircase with an artist friend of mine. It was the centerpiece for a large house in North Carolina and was built out of steel and wood. It took about a year and still stands today, fortunately.

Where would you most like to live?

Santa Barbara, California. Right now.

What is your most treasured possession?

My wits.

Who makes you laugh the most?

My wife, Denise, who is also my best friend.

What is your motto?

Never leave your wallet backstage.

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