Thursday, August 14, 2014

Queerty, Vimeo,



Queerty, LGBT HISTORY MONTH, Out Of The Past: 32 Killed In Horrific Firebombing of Gay Bar (1973),

October is Gay History Month. All throughout the month we'll revisit stories that shed light on lesser-known moments in LGBT history.

June 24, 1973 marked a lively summer day at The Upstairs Lounge, a second-floor gay bar in New Orleans’ Gay Triangle. The Lounge had just hosted its regular services for the gay-friendly Metropolitan Community Church, after which the bar held a free buffet for 125 people. By that evening, about 60 patrons were in the bar enjoyed David Gary’s piano playing and discussing the bar’s upcoming MCC fundraiser for Crippled Children’s Hospital.

At 7:56 pm bartender Buddy Rasmussen heard the downstairs buzzer and asked Luther Boggs to go check the door. Normally cabbies would ring the buzzer to tell people that they had arrived to pick people up, but when Boggs went to answer the door, he found no cab driver. Instead he found the flames of a Molotov cocktail engulfing the wooden staircase and climbing towards the bar.

Rasmussen led about 20 or 30 people out through an unmarked exit, where they emerged onto the roof. The group and hopped from rooftop to rooftop until they found a way down.

But the 30 others remaining in the lounge ran confusedly to the barred windows where they tried to escape. One man managed to squeeze through the 14-inch gap between the bars and the sill—he jumped onto the street, his body engulfed in flames, and died on impact. The Reverend Bill Larson clung to the bars and slowly burned to death grasping the window frame, where his charred body remained visible for hours after.

MCC assistant pastor George “Mitch” Mitchell escaped, but when he realized that his boyfriend, Louis Broussard, was still in the bar he went back to save him. Wworkers would later find their bodies huddled together among the charred wreckage.

The fire only lasted 16 minutes but killed 29 people—and three more who died from their burns later, including Boggs, the man who had answered the door. New Orleans had never seen such a death toll from fire nor had the U.S. seen such a large attack on gays and lesbians. It remains the largest LGBT massacre in this country yet, to this day, few know of the Upstairs Lounge fire.

NOTE: The next page includes an image of a burn victim that might upset some readers.

Initial newspaper reports left out any mention of homosexuality and delighted in grisly details about the fire workers “knee-deep in bodies… stacked up like pancakes” and “literally cooked together." One paper quoted a cab driver who said, “I hope the fire burned their dresses off,” while radio talk-show hosts joked, “What will they bury the ashes of queers in? Fruit jars.” National television networks covered the fire for one night and never mentioned it again.

Four of the victims' bodies were never identified; some thought their families were too embarrassed to come forward and claim them. (They were buried in paupers’ graves.) Of the city’s public officials not one made a statement about the fire and only one religious leader, Episcopalian Reverend William Richardson, held a memorial service.

Sometime during the investigation, police picked up a troubled hustler named Roger Nunez, who had been tossed from the Lounge earlier that day for starting a fight. There were allegations that, after being ejected, Nunez went to Walgreens, purchased lighter fluid, doused the stairs and then set the bar aflame. Nunez was questioned about the crime but went into convulsions and was taken to the hospital. While there, he escaped.

One year later, Nunez killed himself. Five days after, a friend told an investigator that Nunez had drunkly admitted several times that he had started the fire.

Though the main tragedy was the terrible loss of life that night, the city’s response further dishonored the victims by keeping their deaths unacknowledged.

In 1998, New Orleans Councilman Troy Carter lead a jazz funeral to the site of the blaze where mourners laid a memorial plaque at the foot of the building and placed flowers commemorating each of the 32 dead.

May God rest their souls.


John Hintz3 months ago
Rault Center.the Howard Johnson Shootings. The Upstairs Lounge Fire.. Bad Karma With plenty of bad Gris Gris to spare...I Read the US Fire Administration Reports on these..and i Come out with more grey hair then I went's that spooky.. Has more than 40 years make you ask more Questions?!.... My wife is a fire Police agent and ive been fighting fires since the early 80's..I'm Spooked every time and I've talked to my Gay Friends and they are Haunted just like me..I keep asking and I just can't hold back the Anger..I retired last year with a Department in a large Florida city..i Love Nawlins I never stopped..

John Wolf6 months ago
It was an insurance job that went wrong, no one was suppose to die but Reggie did not care 

Roger Clemons8 months ago
Whether it was arson or intentional murder seems to be undetermined. The idea the local and national media were treating this like a pet tiger at the zoo died is not true. Back in the day, these kind of stories made news for one or two days and it was on to the next big news story. The only stories that remained on the front pages for more than 2 days were if a serial killer was on the loose. Whether 29 school teachers or 29 postal clerks had died, it would not have kept this story in the headlines beyond two days. Few if any newspaper editors were gay at the time and it was rare for anyone to openly advertise they were gay back then, so the idea this story was sidelined because some of the victims were gay is preposterous. Read more

lzambeni1 year ago
Horrific tragedy and reprehensibly bigoted aftermath and treatment of the victims. RIP innocent souls. I'm glad their story is finally coming to light. I hope from now on there will be memorial services or some sort of remembrance of this massacre and its victims during PRIDE.

Darnell Lanier1 year ago
in reply to John Wolf
it was a guy by the name Rodger Dale Nunez that was a prime suspect he admitted to it and year later committed suicide

loqtusofborg1 year ago
As we come to the 40th anniversary of the death of those 29 + people I sit here and reflect on my grandmother and two uncles who died in the fire yes the 2 men were gay my grandmother was not she loves her 2 sons and I still feel that she was proud of them even with such hatred and bigotry obviously in the city of New Orleans at that time they will not be forgotten any who would like to say their words of peace and love be there at the 40th anniversary of this great tragedy this year

Thomas Collingwood1 year ago
Rasmussen immediately led some thirty patrons out of the back exit to the roof until the group could climb down from another building's roof to the ground floor. Some thirty others were left inside the second-floor club, and some attempted to squeeze through barred windows in order to escape.

Thomas Collingwood1 year ago
] At 7:56pm a buzzer from downstairs sounded and Bartender Buddy Rasmussen asked Luther Boggs to answer the door, anticipating a taxi cab driver. Boggs opened the door to find the only staircase for regular entrance engulfed in flames initiated by the lighter fluid[1].

sparkplugsf1 year ago
At the time of the airing, 29 had died, but 3 more later succumbed to their injuries. There's much more extensive information on the Wikipedia page "UpStairs Lounge arson attack".

morgug3 years ago
the times-picayune newspaper had a front page photo of a burnt person trying to get out of a bared window [in vain] , I remember hearing sirens of the fire trucks that night watching t.v.

shaynelandon3 years ago
I just heard about this for the first time 3 days ago and it just made me sick how ignorant the reporters and radio spokes persons could be with their hateful comments and sick way of thinking . Have they identified all of the victims ?

Nathan Major1 year ago
RIP to those people that lost their lives in that fire

Thomas Collingwood1 year ago
At the time of the evening fire, some 60 people were listening to pianist David Gary's music[2] and discussing an upcoming MCC fundraiser for the local Crippled Children’s Hospital. The UpStairs Lounge was a temporary home of the MCC, the nation’s first gay church that had been founded in Los Angeles in 1969.[3

Thomas Collingwood1 year ago
At least 29 people died in the 16-minute fire, with three others (including Boggs) dying afterwards from their wounds. 15 were injured.

Renee DuBose1 year ago
This tragedy is well documented in Troy Perry's book "Don't Be Afraid Anymore" - chapter 6 (In Memoriam) where the pastor of the MCC in NOLA died along with numerous members of the MCC congregation. The chapter of that book is a shocking reminder of just how hateful people were back then...

Thomas Collingwood1 year ago
MCC assistant pastor George “Mitch” Mitchell managed to escape, but then returned to the fire in order to attempt to rescue his boyfriend, Louis Broussard; both died in the fire, their remains having shown them clinging to each other.[4] George "Bud" Matyi also escaped, but returned to bring out more patrons from the fire; his charred remains were embracing those of two other victims under the piano.[5]

ChristineCAlb11 year ago
Just read about this in the latest issue of TIME magazine. I had never heard this story before, and I'm usually "on top" of true crime/disaster stories. Very sad. For me the worst part is the family members not wanting to identify/claim the bodies....*sniff*

BeingOStupid1 year ago
I like how the idiot being interviewed says it wasn't necessarily murder but it was intentional. I would call it murder.

revdrjoan2 years ago
I am an MCC clergywoman and I teach a course on Queer His/Herstory for prospective new ministers in MCC. I have included a link to this video in my online course documents. Thank you so much for putting it here, so anyone can see how we were treated back in the day.

Thomas Collingwood1 year ago
On Sunday, June 24, 1973, a group of members of the Metropolitan Community Church, a pro-LGBT Protestant denomination, had held services inside the club located on the second floor of a three-story building at the corner of Chartres and Iberville Streets, after which the club had hosted free beer and dinner for 125 patrons.

ryan wynne1 year ago
I was in that building 2 days ago

Sleekcartim .sleekcartim1 year ago
Ghost hunter show is investigating this haunted bar. ...RIP

John Wolf1 year ago
Reggie Murrello did it

Sleekcartim .sleekcartim1 year ago
You would have thought being gay was more accepted in New Orleans. They died on my birthday :(

Redro19821 year ago
Watching ghost hunters episode, never heard about this. It's sad that families couldn't put aside their differences and claim their family. Sad, R.I.P.

gray732 years ago
in reply to wesinalabama
I bought it and read it. I actually managed to contact the author by posting something one of his friend's websites. Johnny said someone else is working on a documentary but it isn't out yet.

kimn kennedy1 year ago
wow did anyone seem to think it was arson a club full of gay people, and not all gay people use fake id really people

lzambeni1 year ago
in reply to John Wolf
Who is Reggie Murrello? Are you from NO? And where did you hear this info. Is this guy still alive?

John Wolf1 year ago
in reply to lzambeni
It was an insurance Job, no one cared about the victims because of their lifestyle. Look at who owned the building, also look into Nick Carno's background. I am pretty sure it was an insurance job, that's all.

Erik Stone3 years ago
In This Clip, From 1:20 To 1:40, It Was NBC News' NBC Nightly News' Report On Upstairs Lounge Fire On Monday Evening, June 25, 1973.

wesinalabama2 years ago
Finally a book has been published on this case. The title is "Let the Faggots Burn" and you can find it on Amazon under that title or as an e-book. And no, not all victims were identified and some that were, the families refused their remains.

ThoughtProcess2 years ago
Hi, where did you find this footage? do you know who owns the footage? Please inform as I would like to license it.

RToltschin1 year ago
I vividly remember this horrific hate crime. It's very 'recent' to actually hear anyone within mainstream media companies actually speak without the bent language used for decade after decade when 'We The Gays' were the Story. An underlying disgust, variations with facts, cold, clipped and all rather causing a desire to slap the shit smirk off of their face.

Darren Mitton1 year ago
We're treated equal, huh? FUCK YOU, UNCLE SAM.

Thomas Collingwood1 year ago
One man managed to squeeze through the 14-inch gap, only to fall to his death while burning. Reverend Bill Larson of the MCC clung to the bars of one window until he died, his charred remains being visible to onlookers for hours afterwards.

Thomas Collingwood1 year ago
I loved my father, Luther Thomas Boggs very much, had not seen him since 1963, and will never get to. I still miss him and somehow am waiting for him to come to dinner with mom and me.

Greg Whipple1 year ago
in reply to BeingOStupid
wow. really?? the guy you call an "idiot" was more than likely a survivor of the fire, gay, and completely petrified of speaking out against whoever did it because obviously the public at the time would have sided with the perp since being gay in 1974 was no doubt considered by many to actually be a worse offense than burning 32 innocent people alive.

Sebizzar3 years ago
So depressing :( I'm glad the world is less homophobic now, even though there are still hate crimes towards LGBT :'(

Erik Stone3 years ago
In This Clip, From 0:00 To 1:18, It Was CBS News' CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite's Report On Upstairs Lounge Fire On Monday Evening, June 25, 1973.

checotahkid4 years ago
In 1973, I had been honorably discharged from the USAF. I came to New Orleans, and I was sharing an apartment with " Doc " Holiday ( Phillip Halliday) in the 800 Block St. Charles, we lived above the Hummingbird Bar & Grill. Doc worked @ The Fairmont Roosevelt, and I worked as a bartender. The Union sent me to the Up Stairs Lounge, I'll never forget it, there was a picture of Queen Victoria on the wall, with a caption that said even queens get VD, and there was picture of Mark Spitz.

checotahkid4 years ago
Part 2 Mark Spitz was in his swimsuit, Olympic Medals around his neck. I was so knieve, so green about worldly ways, I did not put 2 and 2 together. I really wanted the job, as the Play Boy Club was across the street, and there was a young lady that worked there, I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, I did not get the job, nor the young lady, Doc was packing getting ready to go back home to Oklahoma, I left also, got my degrees,I have wondered about that young lady.

June 24, 2013, Queerty, R.I.P. 40TH ANNIVERSARY, Memorializing The Victims Of Horrific Firebombing At New Orleans' Upstairs Lounge: "You Know This Was A Gay Bar",
On June 24, 1973, the deadliest LGBT massacre in American history happened in New Orleans.

At 7:56 PM, an unknown assailant set ablaze the stairwell leading to the Upstairs Lounge, a second-floor gay bar. 60 people were trapped inside. As the flames spread, some were able to escape through an unmarked exit. But others — panicked, confused, and unable to see through the smoke or escape through the barred windows — weren’t so fortunate.

One man managed to squeeze through the 14-inch gap between the bars. He jumped to street, his body engulfed in flames, but died on impact.

Another man, George "Mitch" Mitchell, safely made it out of the burning building, but when he realized his boyfriend, Louis Broussard, was still inside, he went back to save him. Their bodies were later found huddled together in the wreckage.

Reverend Bill Larson burned to death grasping the barred window frame. His charred corpse remained visible to onlookers from the street for hours afterwards.

These are only a handful of stories of the 32 men and women who parished that day in the fire.

The tragedy went largely unreported by the media at the time. No elected officials issued statements of sympathy or mourning. Nor was it throughly investigated by the New Orleans Police Department.

Major Henry Morris, chief detective of the NOPD at the time, dismissed the need for one, claiming it was too difficult to identify the victims. He argued that many of the deceased weren’t carrying IDs or were likely carrying fake ones, a claim that was entirely speculative.

In an interview with the States-Item, Morris said: “We don’t even know these papers belonged to the people we found them on. Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar."

As a result, four bodies were never identified, and the city refused to release the remains for burial. Instead they were placed in mass graves at Potter’s Field, New Orleans’ pauper cemetery.

No one was ever charged with the crime, and it remains unsolved to this day.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the fire. New Orleans Pride is hosting an official memorial June 24, which will include a street side ceremony at the location the tragedy occurred, and the premiere of Wayne Self’s new musical Upstairs.

Self is a playwright and composer from Louisiana. He now lives in Orange County, California. Queerty chatted with him about the musical, what inspired him to write it, and how he hopes to connect the audience to the tragedy.

What inspired to write a musical about the 1973 Upstairs Lounge arson attack?

It began as an initial fascination with a story that I had never heard, despite being gay, having grown up in Louisiana, and having spent a lot of time in New Orleans. But the more research I did, the more fascinating the victims and survivors became. It seemed that each had a story that deserved to be told, and that we could all benefit from hearing.

Why hasn't the firebombing gotten as much attention as some of the other major events in LGBT history?

There are many reasons: politicians at every level avoided this tragedy. News coverage was dismissive or, in a well-meaning attempt to avoid salaciousness, mentioned only fleetingly that the bar was a gay bar. The gay community in New Orleans wasn’t looking for a public fight, as gay communities in other cities were. And the lack of an arrest or a clear suspect led many to fear that this was a gay-on-gay crime perhaps best left forgotten.

Why/how do you think the story is relevant today?

The story is relevant because, as the Supreme Court weighs the legal merits of our relationships, we should remember the stories that remind us: our relationships have always been bigger than mere legalese. Even when we were at the margins of society, we were loving each other, literally, through fire and flame. The Supreme Court can rule on our legal recognition, but it’s not within their power to affirm or deny the goodness and strength of our relationships. We do that as a community, and we do it, in part, through the stories that we tell.

What do you hope audiences gain from seeing the musical?

I hope they learn something about the character, dignity, and capacity to love that has always been present in our community, from the very start, even when we were maligned as immoral or sick. I hope they see the consequences of our ongoing struggles with internalized homophobia. And I hope they have an opportunity to consider how we respond to the outbreaks of mass violence that still plague us as a nation today, and how our way of responding as a culture might not be the most beneficial to ourselves and our communities.

What are your plans for the musical after its premiere in New Orleans?

I’d love to see this play tour small venues indefinitely, if we can find a producer, so these stories continue to be told. So far, things have fallen into place, so I hope that continues.

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June 24, 2014, Queerty, Survivors Of Largest Gay Mass Murder In History Recall Tragedy On 41st Anniversary, by Matthew Tharrett,

On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to a gay bar in New Orleans called the Upstairs Lounge, killing 32 gay men and women in what has gone down in history as the largest gay mass murder in U.S. history.

Today is the 41st anniversary of that tragedy, which has been documented by Robert L. Camina in the new film “Upstairs Inferno”. According to the first official teaser trailer below, the horrific event led to even more reprehensible acts in its wake – several bodies from within the club were never claimed by family members, those survivors featured in the news went on to lose their jobs and livelihoods, and the New Orleans police department lagged its feet and attempted to cover up the deadly crime.

To this day, no one has ever been charged with setting fire to the Up Stairs Lounge.

The documentary began as an Indiegogo campaign, raising more than $17,000 of its initial $12,500 goal. Camina says he’s always been passionate about sharing the story of the “Upstairs Inferno”, and has rounded up some of the most compelling witnesses to tell their version of events:
I’m very proud of the progress of the film and I know you will be too. UPSTAIRS INFERNOis poised to be the most comprehensive and authoritative film on the fire. Interviews with survivors and witnesses to the aftermath have been heart wrenching and insightful. Some of the people we interviewed haven’t discussed the fire until now, especially on camera. I'm thrilled to say that many granted us exclusive on-camera interviews. UPSTAIRS INFERNOwill be the only documentary about the fire to feature these pivotal players in one place. I'm sure you can already see how moving this film will be.

Check out the trailer below, and stay up-to-date with the film’s Fall 2014 release on Facebook and Twitter.

Out Of The Past: 32 Killed In Horrific Firebombing of Gay Bar (1973)
Memorializing The Victims Of Horrific Firebombing At New Orleans’ Upstairs Lounge: “You Know This Was A Gay Bar”

Upstairs Inferno - Vimeo,


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