We headed to Wynwood to meet an avid collector of guitars and cars. As lovers of fine craftsmanship and just downright cool shit, his story and collection is stuff of dreams. Bill Goldstein is energetic and engaging, despite being up late the night before hosting an event in his gallery, Walt Grace, for the watch of all watches - Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona. But that's all in a day's work for Bill.
Admit a successful career as an ad exec, one day Bill decided he's had enough. Something we've all felt, but only few have had the courage and the means to do something about. So in the way of life goals, Bill focused on his greatest passions - cars and guitars. Located in the heart of Wynwood, his gallery represents his journey, his passions and most of all the taste of a discernible collector. Visitors can play a four-hundred-thousand-dollar guitar and see cars worth even more. Whether these things are within reach or just regulars in your dreams, you'll undoubtedly be mesmerized by the workmanship in these precious objects. Bill shared his story with us and some tips on how to start collecting.
What is your earliest memory of guitars?
Oh! I know it's definitely the first time I heard KISS. I saw them holding these things that literally looked like battle axes, looking like murderous clowns. I was only five years old. I was hooked as soon as I saw them. The first listen to Alive!, and the way Paul Stanley worked the crowd, it was sexy, it was cool, it was rock-n-roll. I would sit for hours designing my own character's makeup, ready for what in my mind, was the inevitable day when I would be asked to join the band. I didn't even play guitar yet, but I sure was good at playing the tennis racquet in front of the mirror.
So what was your first guitar?
My first guitar was a very disappointing Lori acoustic guitar. I didn't know the difference between acoustic or electric at this point, but what I did know is, I wanted this (he pointed to a Gibson Les Paul electric). I remember seeing the outline of the box under the Christmas tree, and how excited I was to finally get a guitar and start my way onto Rock Stardom, but when I open the case I thought, what the hell is this? Of course I pretended to be happy, but inside I was miserable. How was I going to rock out on this thing?
Even now, parents come into the gallery wanting me to convince their kids to start with acoustic and most of the time I say NO! They should start with the guitar thats going to make the sound they hear in their head and rock their little soul.
So when did you finally get the guitar you wanted?
I had to wait until my eighth birthday to
get my first Les Paul. It wasn't a Gibson, instead it was an Atlas Les Paul copy. But that was it, once I plugged it in to a bass amp(I didn't know there were guitar and bass amps), and felt the power of my first A chord, I became a lifer.
So did you ever see KISS live?
Several times. When I was seven I went to my first KISS concert. I didn't know there were other bands, or opening acts, I must have been a really dumb seven year old. All of a sudden the lights go out, the crowd goes wild, and I’m fully expecting to see my heroes blast onto the stage. But, instead of my face being melted off by the firepots and choking on the stench of the smoke machines while KISS belted out their opener, I Stole Your Love, five guys in jeans and regular clothes come out on stage and proceed to change my life forever. What the hell is this, I thought (not unlike the first time I saw that Lori acoustic guitar)? But not a minute into their first song, I realized, WOW, it’s actually possible to do this and not wear makeup or boots. The opening band was a band called Piper.
The lead singer was named Billy Squier. This guy literally changed the course of my life. Obviously, I could never be be KISS—they were freaking super heroes—with superpowers, and I was just a mere mortal! But this guy, Billy Squier, he was just like meand he absolutely owned the room. Even at 7, before I even knew what it meant, I could just feel that every guy wanted to be him, and every girl wanted to do SOMETHING with him! It was honestly at that moment that decided what I wanted to do with my life. Funny enough, and this almost sounds made up, but fast-forward to today, and Billy Squier is one of my dearest friends.
How did you end up being friends with him?
When I was starting my career in advertising, I opened one of the first "interactive only" agencies and needed a demo to show our clients. I had all these old rare photos of Billy. We put all the content into a CD-ROM as a demo and sent over to his management's office. Months later, I get a phone call from his office saying, Billy is curious about this CD but he can't hear anything. This was early days for CD-ROM's and they were actually expecting to be able to listen much like a CD. As I tried to explain what a CD-ROM actual was, they asked me to meet with Billy to show him. I hung up the phone acting cool and thought He's coming to see me! Billy came and we started a 20-year friendship.
So how id you get started collecting vintage guitars?
I guess, indirectly, Billy got me interested in collecting vintage guitars. He was known back then and even today as one of the few rock stars that used real vintage instruments on stage. If they were good enough for Billy, they were good enough for me!
So what was the transition from ad executive to gallery owner?
After nearly 25 years in the advertising business, I found myself in desperate need of change. No matter how “successful” I was, or how great things seemed from the outside, true success and my own happiness continued to elude me. Sure, I had all the spoils of a successful career, but the further I progressed professionally, the further I was moving away from my own fulfillment.
So here I was, at 44 years old, I was healthy, had a beautiful family, an amazing home; a bunch of cars (and even more guitars), and still, with all of that, I was miserable.
Then one moment, one song changed everything for me. I was in the shower, feeling extremely down and racking my brain for what was next. And then, in an instant, everything changed, forever. A song began playing. A song about a man, who, like me, was “desperately hating his old place” and “dreamed to discover a new space." The man in the song knew that despite what anyone else thought or said, all he needed was “the will to work hard and a library card” and he could change his world. This wasn't a new concept for me. After all, this was the story of my life. I was the guy with the crazy ideas, who always believed in himself when others didn’t, and ended up (for the most part) on top.
The one thing that I didn’t think of, and this is the clincher, was that “When you’re done with this world… the next is up to you.” Pretty simple concept. Think about it for a second. We are all masters of our own universe, and if something doesn’t feel right, just change it. It really is that simple. The hard part is trusting yourself and just going for it. Don’t just settle because it’s what you’re supposed to do or, because somebody (or everybody) tells you that you can’t. Follow your heart, let passion be your guide, work hard and believe in yourself to find your submarine, and just go for it. Because when you’re done with this world, the next (really is) up to you." The name of the song was Walt Grace.
Let's shift to cars, what is your favorite brand and why?
I was born into a family of car dealers. I learned early on to appreciate cars. Porsche was always my favorite. When I was kid, our neighbor had a 911 Targa I loved. This was in the 70s.
The more I learned about Porsche and the company's culture I realized they do more of what works and less of what doesn't, they make mistakes and you move on. Evolution not revolution. That's when you look at an 80's Porsche and realize it's still a beautiful car, if you look at an 80s Ferrari, it almost embarrassing. With Porsche, when they loose, they say we'll get them next year. When they win, they say congrats to the guy in second place. Most importantly, at the end of the day the day, the product is amazing. It really is as good as you think it's going to be, and not many things are. You don't see too many Porsches outside of psychiatrist's offices. When you own a Porsche, you feel like you don't have a problem in the world.
What advice would you give new collectors?
You don't collect hoping to make money. Despite being investment pieces almost more stable than the stock market. But the right one will scream at you. It will take over your thoughts. Love what you collect.