Bob Logsdon, buddy of Bob Devaney, raconteur and the host of the most celebrated club of its time in Lincoln, died Monday at age 84.
His career as manager of the Legionnaire Club set standards for hospitality, good food, great jazz and more fun than anybody's had at one address in Lincoln -- probably before and certainly since.
Dapper in white suit and tie, surrounded by the smoky good cheer of a couple thousand of his best friends -- the number he served in a single night -- Logsdon made the Legionnaire Club Lincoln's answer to the great supper clubs of another era. It came later than most -- from the late 1950s into the '80s -- because Lincoln didn't have liquor by the drink until then. It more than made up for lost time.
Logsdon's pals and patrons included University of Nebraska coaches and everybody who wanted to see them, be seen with them, drink and eat with them or say they did, which included just about everybody in Nebraska during Devaney's heyday.
The Legionnaire was affiliated with American Legion Post No. 3, which claimed the world's largest membership at one time, more than 8,000 members.
A native of Tecumseh, where he apprenticed in the tavern and good cheer business, Logsdon took over the club in 1958 and moved it from where the Federal Building is now in downtown Lincoln to 5730 O St.
If ever the term lightning in a bottle applied, it was when Devaney's magic moved into the lower level of Logsdon's club. In those days, pilgrims loaded up at the Legionnaire to paint the town Go Big Red.
"I think one of those football Saturdays we fed like 1,800 or 1,900 people, and that was before we put on the second story," Logsdon recalled 10 years ago, when the club closed for good after moving to a smaller place years after Logsdon had left.
That number turned over the main dining room something like six times in one night.
"We had several years we did $2 million in business," he said. "And the food check average was not $7, and we were only open at night."
In the 2002 interview, Logsdon recalled the first time, sometime in the '60s, the Cornhuskers won the Big 8 conference.
"The coaches used to have a party room in the basement. They came upstairs, and everybody in that place was on the tables cheering. It just about brought tears to your eyes. I remember people by the hundreds, Legionnaires from outstate, came because they heard the coaches were out there after games."
The music on some of those great nights would have been supplied by Jay "Hootie" McShann, the last of the Blue Devils from Kansas City and now a saint among blues and jazz fans.
"We had the greatest entertainment in the world, and nobody ever paid a cover charge," Logsdon said.
When Devaney died in 1997, his buddies commiserated after the funeral at the Legionnaire, where the full professor of football used to drink a screwdriver, then order whatever oddball decorative beverage he saw in someone else's hand.
At the church after the funeral, Jim Walden, former Iowa State coach and a quarterback for Devaney at the University of Wyoming, said: "The party is moving more to Devaney's type of element."
He was referring to a general migration to the Legionnaire. "He wouldn't have wanted us not to have a good time today."
Logsdon was Devaney's confidant and at his funeral, a pallbearer.
"It's not fair to say one person makes the world go around, but that club operated as successfully as it did under Logsdon," said Ed Binder, former club board member and retired adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard, when the club closed in 2002. "When he left, the expertise left with him. So there was a hole there. Bob stuck around as long as he could."
When the club closed, Logsdon asked a rhetorical question: "Do you know what TV has done to the restaurant business?"
"There are so many stories," he said then. "So many you can't tell, and so many you cry when you tell 'em.
"It was a helluva store."
In 1984, the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame gave Logsdon the Clarence Swanson award, "for outstanding contributions to the University of Nebraska and the Husker athletic department through personal service, personal support of athletic department programs and dedication to the Husker football program and intercollegiate athletics."
Among those mourning his death is Don Bryant, former sports journalist and sports information director at the University of Nebraska.
"It's a great sorrow to thousands of people who knew and thought the world of him," Bryant said. "He was a tremendous personal friend.
"We for years had Friday night dinner for the media out there. He was just a tremendous leader, meeting people at the door, creative, just a wonderful guy. I saw him last week and had a minute or two with him. I'm just heartbroken. He did a great thing for Lincoln and the American Legion," Bryant said.
Logsdon was a Nebraska liquor commissioner for 12 years until last year, appointed by then-Gov. Mike Johanns, who said he met Logsdon when he was running for City Council in the late 1980s.
"I tell you what, I just loved the guy. He first reached out to me because he wanted to make sure the person he was supporting for City Council supported the police. So we just kind of hit it off.
"Bob is part of the history of our state. He rubbed elbows with Devaney and some of the great coaches of our era. Bob knew 'em all. Every time you sat down with Bob you were getting a living history lesson in Nebraska sports. Like so many people who knew Bob, my heart is breaking. I always knew I had a best friend in Bob Logsdon," Johanns said.
At Logsdon's request, funeral services will be private, but the family will greet friends from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday at Roper and Sons, 4300 O St.
Reach Richard Piersol at 402-473-7241 or email@example.com.