They do, but it ain't going to happen -- not on my watch. They try to convince me to put in AstroTurf. No way. Real grass. Real Sinatra. Real Tony Bennett.
They're always embarrassed -- "Dad, please don't do it." But I can see the grins on their faces. I hope to God they'll one day walk their kids through these properties and say, "Your grandpa built this, and that's how old I was." It's a little piece of our family history, and that's why they're there. That's my gift.
That's a sentimental thought.
I'm very sentimental. So I cry when we unveil the statues. I cry at everything. I'm a crier.
When people compare your projects to Walt Disney's work, is that a compliment?
Yes, yes! He was a great designer, a great visionary. He knew how to please his customers. He built something that has lasted. People still flock to it; it's clean, it's safe, it's interesting. So yes, I take it as a compliment. I'm sure people criticized when the Colosseum was built, when the Vatican was built. And now they're drooling. What I do is not by any means the Vatican or the Colosseum, but there's always critics. I listen to them; I learn from them.
Imagine that in 80 years, someone wants to tear down the Grove. Will the Los Angeles Conservancy be picketing to save it?
Absolutely they will, because it's part of the fabric of the community.
You don't use the word "mall," and "project" doesn't sum it up. What word describes what you build?
I don't know [he laughs]. The coined word is "lifestyle center" but I don't actually like that.
It sounds like a gym.
Exactly. If you come up with a better word, let me know. Be happy to pay a royalty!
This interview was edited and excerpted from a taped transcript.