How We Met: Jim Burba & Bob Hayes

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Meet Jim Burba and Bob Hayes, the entrepreneurial powerhouse behind the Burba Hotel Network, which develops conferences for the hotel and tourism investment community. The business and romantic partners have been together for 25 years, supporting each other through the hospitality and personal realms while always striving to strike the perfect life balance. Slated to release a Broadway show and a book about maintaining a professional-romantic relationship sometime next year, Burba and Hayes were gracious enough to tell us how it all began: over two decades and one cheesy pick-up line ago.

Out: Let’s start with the most obvious question. How’d you two meet?

Bob Hayes: Well, it’s a semi-long story. We met at a black tie dinner for the Orange County Gay and Lesbian Center. That was 25 years ago.

What were you both doing there?

BH: I had just broken up with a partner, and as I jokingly tell Jim now, I was on a man-hunt. I happened to know the chairman of the dinner and he told me he’d take me around to meet people. We were going to go table-hopping. 

Jim Burba: I was there with a group of friends who were politically active. We were just there to have fun. We were not on a man-hunt! Though we weren’t ignoring that option, we just weren’t there for that stated purpose. 

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Walk me through that evening. What were your first impressions of one another?

JB: Bob was going around meeting everybody. Afterwards, there was a party upstairs and he was with his friends and I was with my friends. I went to get some champagne and Bob walked up to me and said the classic line, Hi, have we met before? To which I said: No. I turned on my heels and walked back to my friends.

BH: He totally rejected me.

JB: Well, it was such a lame line!

BH: I walked back to my friends and said, He totally rejected me. Jim walked back to his friends and one of them persuaded Jim to walk back to me and say hello. 

JB: So I finally walked back and said hello to Bob and apologized for being rude. 

Did Jim coming over make up for the original rejection?

BH: Yes, it did, because he was sweet when he came over. I could tell he had a glass or two of champagne, so he was being a little silly and I liked that. Then I started just asking him a lot of questions, which is what I do.

JB: He knew my entire life story in a half hour! Fast forward to when we had our first date and he knew everything about me and I didn’t know anything about him.

BH: I had gone to a psychic a month before and she had told me I’d meet someone in the hotel business who drove a Mercedes. Sure enough, during my interrogation of Jim, I found out he was in the hotel business and drove a Mercedes. 

JB: Little did I know it was already pre-ordained. 

What was your first date?

BH: It was a couple days later. We went to a nice Italian restaurant. It was romantic and close to my house...but afterwards I sent Jim home.

JB: After that opening line at the party he became hard to get. 

Bob, did you do that because you sensed this could turn into something more serious?

BH: Exactly. And he told me later that if I had let him stay we probably wouldn’t be together. He would have had a different opinion of me or it would have just gone in a different direction. So I’m glad I played hard to get. 

Then I’m assuming you dated seriously from that point on?

BH: Yeah, it was a slow build up and then we moved in together after a year. Then another year later we bought a house together. 

I read somewhere recently that moving in with someone can be more life-adjusting then marriage itself. Would you agree?

BH: Perhaps. We come at it from a different perspective I think because we waited so long before we got married. We were together for 24 years and we never thought marriage equality would actually happen. We talked about what we would do in place of marriage. We set things up legally to protect ourselves. I figured we would be living in sin for the rest of our life. But when marriage became a possibility with the Supreme Court decision, we still weren’t convinced we needed to get married because we were already so committed to each other. But then we thought about all the hard work so many people have done over the years and the work we had done ourselves. We just felt that it was almost a responsibility for us to get married. That's when we decided to do it. 

How long ago was this and where was the ceremony?

JB: It was July 20, 2014. We got married in what was then-called the Nokia Theater in Downtown LA. We decided to do something big and unique, but that would be easy. We didn’t want to do a produced event like we do everyday for work. It is the largest stage in North America. It was so cool and surreal. It’s a 7,000 theater and they lit it up for us. We had our best friends there and a photographer. 

BH: We wanted to do something really simple, but in a big way. And I think we got it. It was five of us in an empty theater, it was like we were on our own little universe. 

JB: As far as we know we are the only wedding to take place on the stage, and definitely the only same-sex wedding to take place on the stage.

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That’s a cool record to hold. I know you two work together, and of course, live together. How do you balance work life with relationship and personal time? 

BH: Jim does everything I tell him to do! No, I’m kidding.

JB: No he’s not!

BH: We have a mechanism in place called our 7-7 Rule. That means no work before 7 AM and no work after 7 PM. That just gives us a break from the business talk. Jim tends to want to talk about work a lot more than I do. So this is a way to have some private time. Another way is in our business. Jim does most of the traveling and that’s a time when we get some time away from each other. 

JB: We’re fortunate that we’re each good at different things in the business. It works out well and plays to our strengths. 

If you had to give advice to your younger selves, what would it be?

BH: You definitely have to find someone who shares the same value structure as you do.

JB: You have to have respect for the other person. When you respect one another, you also respect one another's differences. 

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