“Million Dollar Party” offers cautionary tale about hitching hopes to Nebraska football
Robert and Susan Ihrig, of Parker, Colo., have written “Million Dollar Party” as a cautionary tale to those who dream of owning their own bar or restaurant. Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Gazette
PARKER, Colo. — Robert and Susan Ihrig, former McCook and Culbertson residents, don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. But they wrote their book, “Million Dollar Party,” in hopes of, at the least, drawing a cloud over all the bright shiny expectations of TV’s “Cheers” and Toby Keith’s song, “I Love this Bar.”
Susan tells Bob when he says he wants to write a book to warn people of the pitfalls of bar ownership, “Very few will be dissuaded from their dreams. You knew the facts and still jumped in.”
“Million Dollar Party” tells how the Ihrigs’ jumped in, stumbled and fell after opening and investing tons of money in the dream they called “Bob’s Gridiron Grille and the Pigskin Bar,” a restaurant and bar in Lincoln whose popularity, Bob discovered too late, rose and fell with the win-loss record and coaching staff changes of the Nebraska Cornhusker football team.
Million Dollar Party is a beautiful look at the life running beneath the surface of one’s work.
Million Dollar Party by Robert Mark Ihrig and Susan Jean Butherus Ihrig is an engaging memoir about opening, running, and closing a restaurant, and how that enterprise changed the way that the Ihrigs thought about themselves.
Concentrating primarily on Robert, the Ihrigs’ compelling story begins at the end: their restaurant is closing for good, and their staff has gathered for one last raucous time together. The opening scene details each person in attendance, giving a sense of the authors’ care for people and knack for characterization.
From there, the narrative goes back to Robert Ihrig’s childhood. The book continues to alternate between present day, in the aftermath of the restaurant’s closing party, and flashbacks from earlier, until the two streams join to form a coherent picture of Robert Ihrig and the story of his restaurant.
This is far from a tell-all account. Instead of exhaustively gathering details, the book weaves a well-rounded picture of Ihrig’s life, concentrating particularly on notions such as how parents shape a person’s dreams and identity, or on how one event may build on another fluidly, right up to the point of an unexpected junction, or a break, that opens the floodgates to something new.