Ingrid Croce: “When I was growing up, I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast.”
  • Ingrid Croce: “When I was growing up, I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast.”
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"When Jim and I fell crazy in love, we were just kids,” recalls Ingrid Croce, whose Gaslamp restaurant/bar Croce’s opened a dozen years after the September 1973 death of her first husband, singer/songwriter Jim Croce.

“When we met in the early ’60s, I was a teenager, and Jim was a sophomore at Villanova University. Music brought us together, and it was the music business that not only tested our relationship but plagued it, constantly challenging our survival.”

She and Croce were soon singing together as a duo. “Because I had suffered through my parents’ divorce and moved from school to school, I longed for stability. I recognized that playing music gave Jim confidence, and I liked the feeling of singing with him. He was a good teacher, and I was a good student. I hoped in time to become something more.” Her hopes were more than realized. They married, as well as recorded a 1969 album together for Capitol Records.

The Croces, with their son A.J. (now a successful recording artist), had recently moved to San Diego when Jim perished in a plane crash. Beginning in 1974, Ingrid helped open a new Point Loma children’s school, wrote a children’s book (Mirandome), and recorded a couple of solo albums, until tumors on her vocal chords sidelined her music career in 1984.

The following year, she launched Croce’s nightclub and restaurant, an early linchpin in downtown’s unlikely transition from sailors-on-shore-leave decadence to Gaslamp glitterati. A new biography, I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story, cowritten with Jimmy Rock (Ingrid’s husband since 1988), recently hit bookstores. “Our goal was to tell the story of Jim Croce for his fans, and for folks to understand where Jim’s songs came from.”

WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?

“Right now on my CD player in my office, I have Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series Volume 9: The Witmark Demos 1962–1964, Nat King Cole’s Steppin’ Out of a Dream, Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, the Rolling Stones’ Shine a Light, and Gilbert Castellanos’s Underground. But on my iPod, my kids and grandkids gave me all their favorites, and I run to their music every day. I like to keep in step.”

EARLIEST AMBITION?

“When I was growing up, I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast.”

DO YOU EVER MISS YOUR SINGING CAREER?

“Absolutely. I would have loved singing with Jim forever. It was like making love. Well, almost.”

SOMETHING YOU NEVER RUN OUT OF?

“Mocha mix.”

ANY FEARS OR PHOBIAS?

“Scary movies.”

FIRST RECORD YOU EVER BOUGHT?

“Either ‘Mack the Knife,’ by Bobby Darin, or ‘Rockin’ Robin,’ by Bobby Day. I was 11 or 12...[I also had] a 78 of ‘Tutti Frutti,’ by Little Richard.”

MOST UNDERRATED JIM CROCE SONG?

“This one’s hard to answer because there are several. But to name a few, ‘Box #10,’ ‘Workin’ at the Carwash Blues,’ and ‘It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way’ are all somewhat obscure, and they should be classics. They truly articulate the human condition in under two-and-a-half minutes. Not an easy task.”

EVER BEEN A CRIME VICTIM?

“Yes. Theft, rape, and fraud. And I could go on.”

WHERE DO YOU TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS?

“To Coronado and the O.B. Pier, where Jim and I spent our last night together.”

FAVORITE MOVIE BASED ON A BOOK?

Lord of the Rings. I love that story, and the movies were spectacular.”

WHO IN YOUR FAMILY DO YOU TAKE AFTER?

“My dad, Dr. Sidney Jacobson, and my mom Shirley. I’m equal parts of them both. My mom was a piano player who had her own local TV show, The Magic Lady, and I would sing for her until she died when I was 15. She was also magic at catering parties. My dad passed away when I was 19, but his humanity, work ethic, and excellence are what I strive to achieve every day.”

SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

“I’m a twin, and my sister Phyllis works in fashion jewelry at Nordstrom’s Fashion Valley.” ■

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Jay Allen Sanford Aug. 22, 2012 @ 1:57 p.m.

Outtakes: BEST DRINK AND MENU ITEM AT CROCE’S? “My favorite drink is the Ketel One mojito. Our tapas plate with Mediterranean hummus is served with roasted red peppers, garlic flatbread, cucumber, and Greek olives. The prosciutto-wrapped shrimp has a sweet and savory black fig and pistachio pesto, and the Jamaican jerk braised baby back ribs come with roasted corn polenta, mango mint salsa, and shaved fried onions.”

IN WHAT FICTIONAL UNIVERSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE? “This one.”

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