When the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters closed on the last day of 1980, Charlie Tesar kept it’s spirit alive, both musically and physically, when he salvaged material from the ‘dillo to build the roof and front entrance at his venue Liberty Lunch.
A former faculty member at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, Tesar died Friday from cardiac arrest and complications of diabetes, his wife Marcia Lucas said. He was 66. “Charlie was passionate about everything he did,” said Lucas, who owns El Interior on West Lynn Avenue. She opened the Mexican art and furnishings shop in 1979, the year Tesar purchased the Lunch, a former wagon yard on West Second Street, from Shannon Sedwick and Michael Shelton, of Esther’s Follies.
Tesar hired music fan Mark Pratz, his son Chas’ third grade teacher, to book Liberty Lunch, which was on land belonging to the city. Early favorites at the 1,000-capacity, bare bones venue were the Lotions, who played reggae every Tuesday and Latin jazz band Beto y Los Fairlanes, who played every Thursday. The club hosted every style of music, from the rap of Run-DMC to future rock gods Nirvana and Oasis to bluegrass king Bill Monroe. Tesar put his stamp on the club’s music when he encouraged Pratz and J-Net Ward to book African acts such as King Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey. Tesar fell in love with world music while serving in the Peace Corps, where he was among the first group President John F. Kennedy sent to Africa in the early ’60s.
Tesar owned Liberty Lunch for about 15 years. The city shut down the storied venue in 1999 to make room for office buildings during the high-tech boom.
A native of Fort Worth who received his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Texas, Tesar spoke six languages, including the Czech he learned from his parents, the children of immigrants, who grew up in Shiner.
In recent years, Tesar owned an organic fruit orchard in Llano, where he lived on the banks of the river with Lucas. He was elected to the Pedernales Electric advisory board in 2008 and spent a year at that post. He was also was president of TCI, a consulting form that worked to improve the performance of government organizations.
Memorial services are pending.