On september 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy challenged America to win the space race as a matter of principle. "We choose to go to the moon...not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard," Kennedy said. It was the type of bold, challenging, go-for-broke leadership that fascinated young Eric Danziger.

JFK has been Danziger 's inspiration ever since, in a career that has taken him from bellhop at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco to president of Starwood, Carlson, and Wyndham hotels to his current position as CEO of ZipRealty, an online real estate brokerage in Emeryville, Calif. Now 51 years old, Danziger says he's read every book ever written about JFK; watches and listens to tapes of his speeches; and tries to emulate his drive, charisma, wit, and penchant for big dreams. He's also a Kennedy collector. As a kid he wrote to the White House to get a presidential letter, and from that beginning he's built a collection that now includes pins, buttons, posters, dolls, stamps, and Life and Look magazines. A few years ago, Danziger paid more than $50,000 at auction for a pair of JFK's gold cuff links and his tortoiseshell sunglasses.

Danziger doesn't consider himself a particularly political person, and he tends to vote Republican. Nor does he fetishize Kennedy's peccadilloes or get caught up in assassination conspiracies. (For the record, though, he doesn't think Oswald acted alone.) Rather, Danziger is fascinated with the idea of a man who could reject the counsel of his top military advisers during the Cuban missile crisis, take on the Big Labor of the steel industry, foster the civil rights movement, and lead the country on the path to the giant leap for mankind.