Friday, October 15, 2010


Late Night: He’s seen ‘em all, so has the Byers duo

Kansas freshman Xavier Henry, right, dances during a skit at last year's Late Night in the Phog.

Kansas freshman Xavier Henry, right, dances during a skit at last year's Late Night in the Phog.


Back in October of 2008, in a fit of braggadocio, I asserted that I was assuredly the only person to have attended each of the season-opening Late Nights in Allen Fieldhouse.

My reasoning?


• Considering there have been three different Kansas University head basketball coaches and four athletic directors in 2 1/2 decades, there’s no way any KU athletic-department official had made each of the 23 — now 25 — Late Nights.

• Considering the actual hoops scrimmage tipped after midnight from 1985 until 2005, and deadlines being what they are, there’s no way any other media member ventured into the Phog for ’em all.

• As far as fans, I theorized it’s highly unlikely any KU zealot has witnessed every Late Night, considering both the “lateness” of the event for so many years and the fact it sometimes was held on a weeknight.

Folks have to work and also send the kids to school. You get the drift.

Well, whatdyaknow?

Two years later, I am proud to add two more individuals to the “Been to Every Late Night Club” — a group that now totals three (and counting?)

Drum roll please ....

Lawrence’s Bonnie and Bob Byers have been to all 25 Late Nights in the Phog.

I learned this recently by accident.

In checking archives for 2010 Late Night in the Phog research, I came across a reader comment from Bonnie Byers on my Oct. 16, 2009 opinion piece:

“Didn't see the first story about going to every Late Night but you have at least two others in that company — my husband and myself. We have not missed a Late Night,” Bonnie Byers reported, adding ...

“The basketball has always been great but I could have done without the concert in one of the early ones (1989). The Late Nights that had volleyball games were great as well as the year with the Halloween costume contests (1992 when Greg Ostertag dressed as Frankenstein’s monster).

“It's fun to see the players performing in areas that aren’t as natural as running the court and making baskets. I think the first one (1985 with Larry Brown) was one of my favorites. A bunch of people who were interested in watching the team play. Not like some of the years when the Fieldhouse emptied out when the scrimmage started.”

In the true spirit of full disclosure, Bonnie clarified the Byers duo’s perfect attendance mark in a recent e-mail exchange:

“Bob has been to every Late Night. I have been in the building for every Late Night. I have worked for the concessions company for the past few years. For many of those years, I was able to join Bob for the skits. Hopefully I can start joining him for the whole thing this year,” she said.

Bonnie and Bob Byers have been in Lawrence since 1977, when Bob began grad school.

“We got student tickets that first fall. I think the tickets cost $15 each. You could get a student ticket for your spouse and any children. It was cheaper to get a ticket for our son than to pay for a babysitter,” she said.

“Bob would camp back in the day when camping for the good seats meant really camping. They would get in line the day before and camp in line all night. The athletic department would let them stay in the building on the really cold nights. For many years, our seats were seven rows behind Max Falkenstien’s head. They were great seats when the game was on the north end of the court. On the other end, the foul pole blocked the goal.

“We had student tickets for many years,” Bonnie added. “Bob was a student for two years, then I went to school for my undergraduate and graduate school. I think that standing is the best way to see the game. I am not very tall so it made it easier to see especially if my seat was next to an aisle.”

I don’t know about you, but I find Bonnie’s memories fantastic, pardon the pun.

“Beginning with Danny Manning’s junior year, season tickets were getting close to selling out,” Bonnie wrote. “Because we were afraid they would be gone when we could no longer get student tickets, we bought a pair for a year or so along with the student tickets. We had them for many years. Unfortunately, the cost became too high, and we couldn’t renew them. For a few years we worked before and after the basketball games for the concession company. Our pay — tickets to the games.”

Admission, of course, is free for tonight’s Late Night as it has been for all but one — that 1989 experiment gone sour with two bands on hand. You are asked, however, to bring nonperishable items to help stock area shelters for the upcoming holidays.

BTW, my offer still stands to everybody not named Bedore or Byers. Email me at if indeed you have been to each and every Late Night. This club is willing to take on more members.


callawaybruce 7 years, 7 months ago

The 89 Late Night was my first. I was 15 and my dad took me. I think Shooting Star was one of the bands playing. I remember walking in to use the restroom and their were two guys with leather jackets and long hair smoking a illegal substance. As we walked out my dad laughed and said that will be the only basketball practice you will ever see those two at! We went together for the next eight before my father's health failed and he was not able to go anymore. I have lots of great memories from those times in the fieldhouse. I have not been since my dad was not able to go in 98. When he passed away I vowed not to go until I could bring my son with me. My son is 17 months old and I can't wait until he gets old enough to take him so we can start a new LATE NIGHT TRADITION!

KU_FanSince75 7 years, 7 months ago

callawaybruce---nice story! I guess since our football team can't beat teams from our own conference, it's time to bring on the basketball articles, Gary. Bring them on!

mikehawk 7 years, 7 months ago

When I attended KU, there was no such tradition established yet. Never mind how long ago. My son, wife, and I follow it every year on, We keep saying, "one of these years." For you there, go and enjoy, and recognize how important a tradition it has become. Just looking at the incredible list of recruits who are there and who could be somewhere else tomorrow night, reveals the power of the event. Have fun, and hopefully I will get to see it live one of these years.

jayhawker1980 7 years, 7 months ago

I remember going back in the early 80's, back when it started at Midnight. They brought in one of the hottest talents at the time - Larry Bud Melman from the Late Night Show. He was treated like a Rock Star. Lot's of good Late Night memories.

Bill Skeet 7 years, 7 months ago

This article brought back some great memories... I think Larry Bud Melman was at the 86 or 87 edition. I wish I could have attended all of the late night events... I did attend the first three and then a couple in the early 90s when I returned for my graduate degree..

I still need to get to a Bill Self Late Night-- Last year I was in Lawrence on the day of Late Night, but had to fly out that night.

This might be a bucket-list item.

Bill Skeet 7 years, 7 months ago

BTW- someone should post pics of the T-Shirts for Late Night through the years... They also bring back some memories. (I don't wear mine anymore... figure it is a relic)

Bill Skeet 7 years, 7 months ago

BTW- someone should post pics of the T-Shirts for Late Night through the years... They also bring back some memories. (I don't wear mine anymore... figure it is a relic)

jaybate 7 years, 7 months ago

"The jaybate interview with Hugh Revisor, Ph.d., Professor of The Awesomely Developed and Endowed Chair of Basketball History, The University of Kansas"

jaybate: Dr. Revisor, it is truly an honor and a pleasure to have you sit in on Late Night Day.

Revisor: I wish I could say the same. Chancellor Bernie made me come. If it had been up to me, I would be continuing my important work of ordering the KU Basketball archives for all future generations and for the good of The Legacy.

j: Well, I'm still happy you're here, even if you're not.

R: (Yawn.) Get on with it.

j: What is the single most important fact about the history of Late Night that most KU fans probably do not know?

R: It didn't start with Larry Brown and his assistants.

j: What?!

R: The first Late Night, actually then spelled Late N-i-t-e, occurred on October 15, 1916, of the 1916-1917 season. Head Coach W.O. Hamilton's wife actually thought of it. I forget her name right now, but it is of course documented in the KU Basketball Archives I should be working on instead of being here with you.

j: Are you pulling my leg, Professor?

R: I never joke about history, especially basketball history. To reiterate: Late Nite started under W.O. Hamilton on October 15, 1916. It lasted one season. As I said, it's all documented.

j: But, but...

R: But what?

j: This is astonishing. I'm utterly flabberghasted. I thought I knew a heck of a lot about KU basketball history and I've never heard of this! Please...tell us more.

R: Mrs. Hamilton was sick of everyone wishing Phog Allen would return, even after he had been gone seven years, at that point. The fans were as fickle then as they are now. They had complained mercilessly about Allen, when he had coached Kansas, and then as soon as he left they wanted him back. Mrs. Hamilton felt her husband, W.O., had done a wonderful job (and he had) and that he was not getting due credit (which he wasn't and never has). Mrs. Hamilton felt that a new ritual was needed to energize students and fans and separate once and for all the Hamilton era of KU basketball from the Allen era--the first Allen era, I should say.

j: What was that first 1916 Late Nite like?

R: If you take away the giant scale of Allen Field House and the spectacle of lights and amplified sound and the digital scoreboard and so on, the actual activities were identical. Skits. Speeches. A scrimmage. Mrs. Hamilton got it all right the first time. It was even called: Late Nite with W.O. Hamilton. They even had a long forgotten Vaudeville comedian do a schtick at the center circle. Mrs. Hamilton was far, far ahead of her time.

jaybate 7 years, 7 months ago

j: What was the comedian's name?

R: I've never been able to track down his real name, but his stage name was Mel Larriman. It is a striking coincdence of similar sounding names, isn't it? Mel Larriman...Larry Bud Mehlman from the first modern Late Night...

j: Its incredible!! But, but...what happened to Late Nite with W.O. Hamilton? It only happened once, right?

R: Right. US entry into World War One and the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 to 1920 intervened.

j: Uh, could you expound on those just a bit for those in our audience that may not be quite as familiar with early 20th Century history, as you are, Professor?

R: You mean for you?

j: (looking down at his Addidas) Yeah.

R: The USA declared war on the Central Powers--Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey--on April 2, 1917, after Wisconsin Progressive Senator Bob Lafollette had recently stopped President Woodrow Wilson's request for permission to wage an undeclared, unrestricted naval war against the Central Powers.

j: Good job, Bob, IMHO.

R: I find myself ashamed to say I agree with you on something, jaybate. Senator Lafollette's little known service to his country meant the private oligarchy, which had in 1913 just sponsored the formation of the privately owned Federal Reserve Bank, perhaps to help it finance the coming World Wars (but who can say now?), had to respect the Constitution and seek a formal declaration of war. His doing that, when he did, probably kept the USA out of several undeclared wars during the 1920s and 1930s, and probably limited several undeclared banana republic wars prosecuted anyway during the same period, and forced the private oligarchy to have to seek a formal war declaration for the second World War, also. Alas, the private oligarchy eventually did overwhelm the constitutional requirement of war declarations for prosecuting foreign wars, starting after WWII, but heroic deeds don't last forever. Good men keep having to step forward. Like Minnesota progressive Senator Paul Wellstone, for instance, though he was rather less successful and though he suffered from a not infrequent political condition among progressives called "light plane crash."

j: But at least it points the way back away from undeclared wars for the USA republic, doesn't it?

R: Yes, it does. Perhaps you are less stupid than I thought.

j: Thanks...I guess.

R: You're welcome.

jaybate 7 years, 7 months ago

j: We've ranged pretty far from the original subject.

R: Yes, we have. I do apologize. It is a short-coming of mine. My students call me Dr. Digression.

j: Well, then let's get back to why Late Nite with W.O. Hamilton ended. It only lasted one year, right?

R: One year, yes. At the beginning of the following season, the 1918-1919 season, the university administration thought it would be insensitive to stage the irreverent Late Nite with W.O. Hamilton in October of the 1918-1919 season, when the harrowing losses of the Great War were becoming real to Americans. So: thinking the war that was supposed to make the world safe for democracy and its futile carnage would surely be ended by a peace treaty by the next season, the Chancellor apparently told Coach and Mrs. Hamilton that Late Nite would be cancelled that season and resumed the next. Apparently everyone understood that they had a potential new tradition on their hands from the very beginning and were looking beyond the tragic difficulties of that moment...If I may add parenthetically, fortunately today, our administration understands the wisdom of carrying on modern Late Night despite the on-going undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

j: Er, uh, that's a little too political for this kind of interview. uh, what happened next? Why didn't they stage it again the following year, that would have been the 1919-1920 season?

R: Well, the Great War went slower than expected and all the leaders refused to negotiate a peace for many complicated reasons, not the least being who got the colonial oil fields. And just when the war looked particularly grim, some US troops at Fort Riley reputedly being given experimental injections to vaccinate troops for diseases "over there" contracted the first cases of the Spanish Flu in March 1918. Don't get me started on what may have been in those injections, okay?

j: Sure, go on.

R: Well, the Spanish Flu quickly turned into a global epidemic--probably accelerated early on in part by the movement of troops--and then a pandemic that killed 17 million persons in America alone...and an estimated 50 million persons world wide...supposedly about 3% of the world's population at the time.

jaybate 7 years, 7 months ago

j: Incredible. What a horrible tragedy!

R: That's putting it rather mildy. Add in somewhere between 9 to 16 million total dead during WWI, and you have a very morbid period of human history...and human history is rife with acute episodes of morbidity and mortality. In fact, there is a journal called Morbidity and Mortality Weekly. Oops, there I go again...digressing.

j: This may be getting a little, shall I say, heavy for our audience.

R: Facts are facts.

j: So let's get back to the facts of why Late Nite with W.O. Hamilton was ended.

R: Well, WWI ended in 1919, but the Spanish Flu pandemic did not end officially until June, 1920. Hamilton retired perhaps somewhat disillusioned with life in 1919, what with the war, the epidemic, and people still wanting Allen back, and Phog Allen was rehired the same year. Allen apparently wanted nothing to do with Late Nite with W.O. Hamilton and the idea was relegated to basketball history's ash heap. Had it not been for my work on creating the KU Basketball Archive, I would never have uncovered the original Late Nite with W.O. Hamilton as revealed in several of Mrs. Hamilton's letters to her sister in Larned. No other records of it exist to my knowledge.

j: Thank you for this incredibly enlightening interview, Professor Revisor. You are truly a basketball gentleman and scholar.

R: You are not either, of course, but thank you anyway.

j: Will you be attending Late Night tonight?

R: Wouldn't miss it for the world, jaybate. If we learned anything from the Late Nite with W.O. Hamilton episode, it is this: Never suspend, or defer, your important rituals, holidays, constitutional processes, and especially not your constitutional rights, for a war--any war--declared or undeclared. The only justifiable reason for fighting any war, if there is one, is so that a nation's persons can continue their best traditions come what may.

j: Rock Chalk, Professor, Rock Chalk!!!

(Note: All fiction, but for the stuff about Wilson, Lafollette, WWI, The Fed, and the Spanish Flu epidemic, all of which are reputed by some to be accurate. No malice in any regard. Rock Chalk to another season starting.)

jaybate 7 years, 7 months ago

Post Script: How many died in USA and everywhere else varies a lot. Upwards of 500,000 is often estimated for USA by some and estimates range way up into the millions for USA. The number in the spoof of 17 million USA dead could be wildly exaggerated. 17 millions is more likely for India.

The entire Spanish Flu epidemic is shrouded in considerable mystery, uncertaintly, and unfounded, unscientific claims. The best cite about the Spanish Flu epidemic I have seen is from the CDC at:

Even the CDC estimates 50 million to 100 million dead world wide.

The CDC does not profess that it started with US troops at Fort Riley. It says there were three waves of the epidemic, its origins cannot be determined, and that it affected both humans and swine.

Thank heavens for Late Night.

Jared Grillot 7 years, 7 months ago

Totally wild! These two were my mom & dad's best friends in college! I've known them since I was 3 years old. They were in the stands then, and they were in the stands when I was at KU, and as you can see, they are still in the stands now! Way to go, Bonnie and Bob! Keep it up!

AsadZ 7 years, 7 months ago

Is there any link to watch late Night On Line

Mike Bratisax 7 years, 7 months ago

A good article and an even better history lesson..Thanks J.

Gary Bedore 7 years, 7 months ago

There's gotta be more than 3 of us who have been to every Late Night. Right? Cmon folks. Find 'em and let me know who they are. gb

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