Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Religious Archives Network - The Upstairs Lounge Fire

Religious Archives Network

The Upstairs Lounge Fire

Dramatically depicts the tragic arson fire in a New Orleans on June 24, 1973, that killed 32 persons, including many members of the MCC congregation. Looks at the impact upon the LGBT community—local as well as national.
Recipient of the 2014 Allen Bérubé Prize.

June 24, 1973

June 24, 1973 was celebrated in other U.S. cities as Gay Pride Day, the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York. In New Orleans and the Upstairs Lounge, however, it was a typical Sunday afternoon. A crowd had gathered to enjoy the weekly beer bust and many persons departed when it was over. Around 65 persons-—mostly regulars with some friends and visitors-—hung around, engaged in conversation or gathered around the piano singing.

A passerby on the street below noticed a fire in the stairway leading up to the bar at 7:53 p.m. and called the fire department. Inside the bar the buzzer from the street was ringing annoyingly, so bartender Buddy Rasmussen asked Luther Boggs to see who was at the door. When Boggs opened the door to the stairway a burst of flames blew into the room. Fire trucks were dispatched at 7:56 and arrived at 7:58. But the fire had spread quickly into an intensely hot inferno. Many patrons in the bar moved toward the Chartres Street windows but could not get through the burglar bars attached to them. A few persons escaped through the burning stairway or by jumping from a fire escape. Rasmussen led a group of about 20 survivors through the back of the bar and onto a roof leading into an adjoining building. The fire was extinguished in a matter of minutes, however, the intensely hot blaze tragically overwhelmed many persons, leading to a total of 32 fatalities.

– information from Let the Faggots Burn by Johnny Townsend and Night Club Fire report by A. Elwood Willey of the National Fire Protection Association.

Bodies burned as bar patrons tried to escape through the barred windows facing Chartres Street.
Source: AP wirephoto

A rescue worker leans heavy against a charred window at the Upstairs bar in New Orleans where 29 persons died and another 15 were injured during a fire Sunday night. The rescue worker was helping remove the bodies when apparently he couldn't face it any longer.
Source: AP wirephoto

A fire department snorkel was used to remove the body of man, one of 20 killed Sunday night when fire raced through the Upstairs, a French Quarter bar.
Source: AP wirephoto

Graphic showing the Upstairs Lounge and its patrons on June 24th and the course of the fire.
Source: The Upstairs Lounge Fire documentary by Royd Anderson. Dan Swenson, graphics reporter.

Firemen peer from the charred windows of a second story bar in the New Orleans French Quarter that [was] gutted by a flash fire Sunday night leaving 29 dead and 15 injured. The bar is located at the corner of Iberville and Chartres just a block off Canal Street.
Source: AP wirephoto

Firemen give first aid to survivors of a French Quarter fire that swept through a second story bar leaving 29 dead and 15 injured. Several persons leaped to safety before the entire bar was engulfed in flames in New Orleans.
Source: AP wirephoto

Linn Quinton weeps as he is helped by New Orleans firemen after he escaped from a fire at the Upstairs bar on Sunday night. Quinton said he was with a group singing around the piano when the fire swept through the bar leaving 29 dead [and] 15 injured.
Source: AP wirephoto

Charred remains of the main room of the bar, facing Chartres Street. Most of the victims were found at these barred windows.
Source: AP wirephoto

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