Robert Harry Lovejoy did not suffer a long and painful death. There he was joking and laughing one day, and poof! … gone the next. His friends and family can take comfort in that. Yet his death has brought a large void into this world, especially in our Santa Barbara community.
I met Bob in the mid-’80s while I was a bartender at Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens. He had come in with a couple of gals after they’d played in a coed softball game. A few drinks later, Bob went to the restroom, and when he returned, his friends had left, sticking him with the bar tab. He had no money and promised to return the next day to pay. Next he asked if he could borrow $20 for a cab ride home.
This man, whom I had never met, wants to run a tab and borrow 20 bucks? Yet there was something about this guy that I thought to myself, “Go ahead.” Of course he was back the next day to pay and added a handsome gratuity. He became a regular at Jimmy’s and entertained us all with great stories and stale jokes.
One of my favorites was about Bob and his grandfather working together on a project. His grandfather stopped for a minute, looked at Bob, and said, “Bobby, you couldn’t put an asshole on a hobby horse with a power drill!” I borrow that line repeatedly when confessing my own mechanical shortcomings.
After more than 30 years as a successful tile contractor, Bob realized one of his dreams: to open a deli with his son, Clay, and partner, Bob McCourt. They opened Three Pickles in 2006, and Bob was very pleased to be just across the alley from his favorite hangout. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Jimmy’s was closing in about a month, but he was one of the first people I entrusted with this secret.
Jimmy’s was sold to the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. They were receiving several calls weekly about leasing the bar. After moving his deli to the old Jimmy’s dining room, Bob, a dreamer and a risk-taker, somehow got his foot in the door exclusively to open his bar. It was completely gutted, and they started all over, converting the space back to its original state. The finished product was awe inspiring, and the business was an instant success. It was Bob’s masterpiece.
Bob had been recruiting me for almost a year, and I finally decided to run his bar for him. He told many that “the success of this business depended upon Willy,” but he would’ve done well without me.
He was generous with not only his heart, but his wallet as well. During our recent fires, Bob was donating sandwiches to the fire crew at Station 1. The deli also fed Forester baseball players and UCSB basketball players. He was generous to a fault when sitting in his usual spot at The Pickle Room, where he would buy drinks for many.
It has been my extreme privilege, and the privilege of many, to have this man as a friend. He was honest, loyal, and funny as hell. There is no replacement for you, my friend. I wrote a song for Bob, but he only got to hear it a cappella on the golf course one day. This is the last verse, sung to the tune of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher”:
If you’re ever in the mood
For a drink or a beer
Get offa your couch
And come on down here
We’ll listen to some tunes
Maybe knock a couple down
Cause Lovey brought the joy
Back to Chinatown
Thank you for everything. You are well loved, and you treated me like royalty.