BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) - It's been a long and winding road since he was 10 years old but Argentina's Rodolfo Vazquez, recognized last month by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the world's largest Beatles
collection, believes almost any dream is possible.
The 44-year-old owner of "The Cavern Club Buenos Aires" is about to turn another dream into reality: hosting the first ever Beatles Week festival outside of Liverpool.
Some 56 tribute bands from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela are scheduled to play at his club and other nearby venues in Buenos Aires' theater district between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14 to audition for Beatle Week 2002.
"I'd like people to gather outside my bar on the night of October 9 to sing 'Imagine' in honor John Lennon's birthday and his sister (Julia Baird) will be there," said Vazquez, as he walked around his cavernous, downtown Buenos Aires Art Nouveau-style apartment that seems more like a Beatles museum.
British culture enjoys wide popularity in Argentina where soccer clubs bear names given by British migrants and bilingual schools teach Beatles tunes from the primary level on up.
Vazquez began his collection -- now counting 5,612 albums, autographs, photos, tickets, books, posters, toys and comic strips -- at age 10 when he received "Rubber Soul" as a gift.
"After listening to 'In My Life' there was no other band that could surpass their creativity," he said. "I turned into a collector after John Lennon was shot in 1980. I probably had 1,000 objects then, including articles, books and albums but everything was incomplete," Vazquez said while matching costumes to his Sergeant Pepper mannequins.
Vazquez's collection attracted 25,000 visitors to his 1997 "30 Years of Sergeant Pepper" exhibit in Argentina's capital. Now he expects at least 15,000 people to attend the inaugural "Semana Beatle de Latinoamerica" next week.
But realizing dreams like bringing Beatle Week to Buenos Aries is not enough for Vazquez, who admits he does not know the dollar value of his collection but calls it "priceless".
"Success for me is if people enjoy the collection and The Beatles," he said. "Today's world needs a John Lennon."
In addition the festival's tribute bands and dozens of Vazquez's Beatles footage, fans may meet Beatles collaborating musician Tony Sheridan or view 700 pages of comics like a vintage Spiderman where The Beatles made a cameo appearance.
The performances and seminars are scheduled to be held at concert halls in or near "The Cavern Club Buenos Aires" (www.thecavernclub.com.ar) but Vazquez admits there is one dream that will forever remain outside his reach.
"I never met John Lennon. That's a dream that will never be realized," a somber Vazquez added, as he held an autographed 1972 photo of the Beatles member shot dead in December 1980.
"But there are many other dreams to be realized," he said.