The C.I.A. domestic management program known as the "Up Stairs Bar, " was launched by agency program operative Phil Esteve on October 31, 1970, with assistance from his C.I.A. associate, agent Buddy Rasmussen, whose cover as a bartender in the club allowed him to manage its day-to-day affairs and the agency priorities.
Their work of infiltrating the nascent homosexual-rights movement originated somewhere in an agency netherworld, outside of the "white-hat" office part of efforts to anticipate, and possibly redirect social movements, such as similarly infiltrated the African-American, Native American, and Women's Rights movements, always with the best of intentions, of steering any cultural dislocation that arose toward beneficial outcomes--as the agency defined them, if not the groups themselves. Nor does the agency's "black-hat" division, which designs, executes, or supports such negative works as the Manson Family project, and Patricia Hearst and her little band of S.L.A., seem likely to be solely responsible for the death and destruction caused by a so-called fire, which did end the operation after three years, which is the usual length of time for a C.I.A. tour of duty to end around the world. The use of destructive force to thwart a cultural shift needed some general agreement that the movement was viewed as dangerous enough to warrant such action, which the Youth and Hippie Movements were, but a different dynamic held sway on the issue of homosexuals and their rights.
Homosexuals have always been present, with a wink and a nod, at high levels in corporate affairs and government service, where they might use their loosely organized covert influence as best they good. For instance, some agency help was extended, off the record, to Rev. Troy Perry in founding the Metropolitan Community Church, which account for the local relationship with the Up Stairs Bar. The effort to create an overt spiritual home for openly homosexual, middle-class Christians, who were denied such a home everyplace else, could be viewed as doing a societal good by making the minority more socially respectable.
But it was dangerous ground to step into the precincts of the countervailing force, made up of religious extremists, who didn't take homosexuality seriously as a sin if it was kept secret, since they saw its existence, not its eradication, as a useful tool for themselves to control the ruling elites. Not only did they hypocritically tolerate it, if it kept out of sight, they even encouraged it, where practicable, since the maintenance of a clandestine environment such as ones homosexuals operated in, was identical in many ways to the structure under which covert intelligence agencies do their business. All share an overall dependency on the use of special licenses and secret contracts to get things done and move up a notch
The development of a single-sex Turkish bathhouse industry in American cities during the last quarter of the 19th-century didn't result from some sudden robust masculine desire for cleanliness and hygiene, since it occurred nearly simultaneously with the introduction and improvement in indoor domestic plumbing, which simplified those concerns. Rather, it acknowledged the physical and sexual charges men could feel for one another when alone together outside the presence of women, and created a place of recreation where they could indulge themselves. Spurts in its development always seem to follow wars, when men spent long periods being isolated together. Distinct political overtones can be located within bathhouse culture as well. The Tubs in Albany, New York was a famous locus for bachelor politicians and journalists, and married men away from their families for periodic sessions of government. Everard's Baths in New York City was built by James Everard, who was a sizable power behind political thrones. Everard's is said to have "gone gay" in 1920, following World War I, but 1919, and 1920 were years when reports of vice raids at Everard's were published, although such reports in other bathhouses in New York go back to 1903. One bathhouse couldn't get a reputation as gay-friendly, or gay-tolerant over any other---all it could get is a reputation for being gay-exposed. 1920 was also the year a new owner of the Everard doubled the original investment to modernize the facility, so the bad publicity didn't seem to hurt the business plan. One didn't encounter inverts in bathhouses, but working-class youths who were already being paid to rub down your nude body following your 3 a.m. swim
What Anderson-Mitchell calls "the miscreant," Rodger Nunez, who staged a fight with "the regular," Michael Scarborough, in order to provide a motive for an arson that was supported by only 8-ounces of Ronsonol Lighter Fluid were both insider assets, who had been of utility long before the fire. The agency was able to keep its promise to Nunez that it would keep him safe from arrest and prosecution, but not from the form of involuntarily applied suicide that was an agency speciality, in one or two cases even, for its chief executive. Or maybe the joke's on us, and Nunez was provided with a corpse with which to fake his suicide the way he faked a responsibility for arson.
That Nunez was an alcoholic is undoubted. I found a reference to a Roger Dale Nunez, age 18, in a May 1, 1962, Lake Charles [LA] American-Press, page 24, Sulphur Resident Fined $135 for Drunken Driving,
The slight spelling change to a "Rodger D. Nunez," as seen on his tombstone in an image that accompanies the Advocate article is another little specialty of the alphabet agencies. The tombstone also reveals that Nunez was a veteran Vietnam.
That the working class Nunez was also a hustler who exchanged sexual favors for money is also undoubted. It was central to the utility he provided to the agency. Anderson-Mitchell claims it was a sexual advance Nunez made to Michael Scarborough in the bathroom that caused Scarborough to lose his temper and sock Nunez in the jaw. This was the last straw, and Scarborough enlisted the aid of Rasmussen, who forthwith banned Nunez from the club permanently, which is treated as some sort of death sentence by the chroniclers.
Anyone familiar with male hustlers knows that if you ask a hustler what it is he does for his money, he will tell you, "the least I possible can." The whole story sounds ass-backwards to me. Nunez was "the regular," and it was his very regularity that makes his presence in the happy social swirl of the Up Stairs Bar suspect, since he didn't fit in, while Scarborough was the "the miscreant," by throwing the first punch, and it was he who should have been banned from the venue.
Anderson-Mitchell mentions a gloryhole in the stall in the bathroom on the second floor, but the diagram of the interior published by NOLA.com doesn't indicate where the bathrooms were located, but Anderson-Mitchell doesn't mention what another source does: that at least one of the three apartments on the third floor was used by prostitutes for turning tricks. This source also implies that the mother with the two gay sons who were all together in the club at the time of the fire and who all died there, in fact, worked as a pimp for both of her sons, which would at least explain her presence there, while Anderson-Mitchell's calling her "pre-PFLAG" certainly does not. I wondered when I read this claim, about who would be denigrating the dead this fashion, but now I'm not so sure.
Other agency agents or operatives working in the Up Stairs Bar at the time of the fire, were its cocktail pianist David Gary, who was obviously high enough up in agency affairs that his survival necessitated the radical substitution of him as the usual entertainment on the night if the fire, by a fill-in, cocktail pianist George Stephen Matyi, who normally worked at the nearby Marriott. Friendly, and apparently unsuspicious by nature, Matyi deign to fill-in for the piano player as a personal favor to an otherwise indisposed Gary. Matyi didn't know that his death would be a fill-in for Gary's life, since the design of the explosive device meant to destroy the club would not allow for escape by anyone sitting in the vicinity of the grand piano, located near the site of ignition at the entrance stairwell.
Filmmaker Royd Anderson, spent six years (or exactly two agency tours of duty) making a film about a fire in a bar, as part of an information management effort. (David O. Selznick made Gone With the Wind in under a year. I suspect both men earned about the same amount of money .)
The most damaging fact to make its way into Diane Anderson-Mitchell's Advocate article was
"Bartender Buddy Rasmussen led about 20 people to safety through a back door behind a stage," Anderson says. "But investigators found he unintentionally trapped the remaining bar patrons when he locked the fire escape door to prevent the fire from spreading."Anderson and Anderson-Mitchell (just a coincidence....hmmm?) appear to be playing a game by suggesting that anyone fleeing a burning building would stop and lock the door through which they'd exited to prevent the fire from spreading outside too, but the salient fact made it into print nonetheless. Combined with a second salient fact:
...the UpStairs Lounge had served as the MCC's temporary place of worship for [only] months because the church had been set ablaze three times...makes the truth clear---
- that Rasmussen possessed private knowledge of a hidden exit.
- that the overt fire exit near the bar was not only not marked as such, it was locked to prevent the escape of those who were being targeted for execution
- that Rasmussen deliberately chose a select group to survive, probably just C.I.A.-insiders and assets, who normally mingled with the incidental bar patrons
- that it was the MCC Church members and leaders who were targeted for death, to "send a message," not to mix homosexuality with religion
- that Rasmussen deliberately locked the door through which his group had exited (escape is too strong a word) to prevent the possibility that anyone else might do likewise
They discovered 28 dead bodies piled up in grotesque mounds atop each other at the bathroom door, the fire escape door, and the windows, any place they could have hoped to escape. Four more people would die either en route to or at the hospital. In all, 32 people were killed that day, and though a few might have been straight, like that pre-PFLAG mom and the friendly substitute pianist,The news coverage I'm aware of has consistently stated that 29 bodies were found in the building, with three people dying later in the hospital, to make 32, but I've never before seen a reference to someone dying "enroute." This indicates to me that that one person had some situational awareness of what had taken place, had escaped out a window or elsewhere, and was murdered in the ambulance while on the way to the hospital to prevent disclosure.
In a separate blog just posted, Is Andrew Boyd Doing Us a Service?, I make a point about an image of Linn Quinton, a Houston resident, who was one of the few survivors quoted by name in the newspaper, which reported he had squeezed through narrow burglar bars installed in the windows, which had blocked the exits of many others---or least one other--- the MCC pastor Bill Larson. I make the observation that Quinton's appearance doesn't suggest he underwent such an ordeal to me--at the very least the bars wouldn't have been dusted in years!
Quinton, was the source, for the meme: "small people seemed to get through the window, but the bigger people just couldn't get out." Quinton said he was the slimmest, but he also said he was the first to exit. The caption accompanying the image reads:
LINN QUINTON weeps as he is helped by firemen after he escaped the blaze at the UpStairs Lounge. Quinton said he was with a group singing around a piano when the blaze swept through the bar.Quinton could never have made it from the opposite end of the bar to be first one out. He may have popped out of a panel truck when it was convenient to be photographed---and that's assuming at least one news reporter was on hand in the early minutes after the flash fire, and its equally flash extinguishment, who was not beholden to the covert contract that undergirds so many in that profession, as well as in the fire department, and government agencies that allows for really big lies to be sustained.
There were no burglar bars blocking the windows, but something else did, which prevented an exit for even the most petite. There was one steel bar per window, placed horizontally 18-inches above the sill, from were mounted window air conditioners, like the one we see in the side window, as shown in an uncropped version of the image of merry partymakers, which the Advocate article opens. It is out of this airconditioner opening in the center window, which Reverend Perry struggled to flee, but where he died, and where he is already resurrected.
The entire meme of only the skinny squeezing through bars to survive was fabricated from whole cloth to account for Pastor Larson's unplanned-for public appearance. Any other possible evidence that once existed was destroyed by the New Orleans Fire Department colluding with journalists making the record.
Remarkably, the entire scenario was repeated less than four years later in the Everard Bath's fire in New York City, which also was an example of state-sponsored terrorism against a gay population who were relaxing unaware in a gay venue; where the arson itself was executed by a criminal member of the city's fire department; where all the windows had been bricked up or otherwise blocked off, leaving occupants with no emergency route to safety; but where gays with a will to live struggled against an impossibly fast-moving fire to remove a through-the-wall air-conditioner and flee; and where they died, but at least not before making it out into the street to die a public death; and where the state's apparatus could successfully spin away all the facts down a memory hole, and tell a monstrous lie to posterity instead of the truth. If that ain't an example of a resurrection, nothing is.
November 15 2013, The Advocate, Remembering the Worst Mass Killing of LGBT People in U.S. History, by Diane Anderson-Mitchell,
Above: For patrons of the UpStairs Lounge, the place wasn't just a bar. It was a theater, a place of worship, and a community center all in one; most important, it was a place for folks to call home when the rest of New Orleans wasn't so welcoming.
When Duane Mitchell was 11 years old, he and his 8-year-old brother, Steve, loved visiting their dad, George, then a divorced beauty supply salesman in New Orleans. The Big Easy in the 1970s was a different world compared to where they lived with their mom in northeast Alabama. Though the divorce was amicable, it was always hard for the boys to get enough time with their dad during the school year.
Sunday, June 24, 1973, started out like any other day for the boys, who were eager to see a Disney movie, The World’s Greatest Athlete, starring Jan-Michael Vincent as a Tarzan-like runner over a decade before his TV series, Airwolf, would make him a household name. George Mitchell dropped the boys off at the theater like he often did. Despite the recession, gas shortage, and racial tensions that dominated that summer, it was still a more innocent time. Kids could go to movie theaters alone with a handful of cash for popcorn, candy, and sodas, armed only with the admonition to stay there until their parents came back to pick them up. Dad was going to hang out wherever it is that adults hang out, with friends and his roommate, Horace, a barber. Duane gave it little thought — until the movie was over. And over again.
Photo: George Mitchell (left) and his boyfriend, Horace Broussard, in happier times. George initially escaped the fire but went back in to save Horace; the two died together. George's son Duane didn't know his dad was gay but calls him a hero today.
Duane says he and Steve watched that movie seven times and Dad just never came back. Finally, George’s landlady picked the boys up that night, and the next day a neighbor took them to the airport to fly home to Alabama, all the while not telling them the ugly truth of why Dad never returned.
How do you tell an 11-year-old that his father was burned alive, his body wrapped about his boyfriend, the two men charred and clinging to each other, lovers in life and death, while trying to escape the worst mass killing of gays in American history?
GAY PRIDE IN THE 70S
It was the swelteringly humid last day of gay pride in the South’s most tolerant city, and the fourth anniversary of New York’s Stonewall Riots — an action thought unnecessary in New Orleans. As Clayton Delery, author of the upcoming book Nineteen Minutes of Hell, told The Huffington Post's Gay Voices, "Things on the surface weren't as bad as they had been in New York in 1969. It had been several years since there had been a mass raid of a bar or a gathering place. Gay people lived in relative peace. So, in some ways, people were comfortable."
At right: Pianist George Matyi wasn't a regular performer at the UpStairs Lounge, but the night of the fire he took the gig as a favor to a friend. He left behind a daughter and two sons who only recently learned the truth of his death.
But that night and ensuing weeks would prove the city was anything but comfortable with gays.
The UpStairs Lounge was always hopping on Sundays. There was a beer bust each week, and $1 admission got you unlimited free pitchers of beer. The jukebox rotated everything from rock star Elvis Presley to opera star Enrico Caruso. Cocktail pianist George Stephen Matyi, whose regular gig was at the nearby Marriott, was there playing his signature mix of show tunes and ragtime, filling in for a friend, and possibly leading bar patrons on a sing-along to one of their favorite anthems, the Brotherhood of Man's 1970 hit, "United We Stand."
Phil Esteve opened the bar nearly three years earlier on Halloween with help from a friend, bartender Buddy Rasmussen, according to author Johnny Townsend, the only person to fully document the tragedy with survivor input in his book Let the Faggots Burn. Townsend writes that because the club was outside the gay area of the French Quarter, the men worked extra hard to draw people in with dancing, singing, and live piano by popular cocktail lounge musician David Gary. The place had red wallpaper and almost-girly curtains, creating a sanctuary that was both homier than modern bars and more welcoming than many of the patrons’ homes. There was an extra space in the bar, a theater of sorts, where they staged "nelly plays" and musicals. Esteve also let members of the Metropolitan Community Church, the only LGBT-affirming Christian church in the nation, use the space.
At left: Bartender Buddy Rasmussen (right, with a friend) led 20 people to safety but inadvertently locked the door behind them, closing off the only escape route.
It was a happy place for the members of MCC, the mainline Protestant church founded by Rev. Troy Perry in Los Angeles in 1968. As the denomination spread nationwide, fledgling MCC congregations formed in places like New Orleans where religion was a cornerstone of community life. Though the Christian worshippers were as devout as any flock in the South, a church run by gay, bi, and transgender people wasn't wholeheartedly welcome in the local community. In fact, the UpStairs Lounge had served as its temporary place of worship for months because the church had been set ablaze three times, including, according to Townsend, a fire that destroyed its headquarters January 27, 1973.
But Esteve and bartender Rasmussen liked having churchgoers at the lounge. They added to the friendly environment of the club, a place where at least two patrons, brothers Jim and Eddie Warren, felt comfortable enough to bring their mother, Inez.
Above: Rodger Nunez, the main suspect in the mass killing, pictured in life and in death.
On Sunday June 24, 1973, more than 100 people attended the MCC service, and dozens stuck around to plan an upcoming fundraiser for what then was called Crippled Children's Hospital. Esteves gave them all free beer. It was a night like any other. Oh sure, there were vagabonds, says filmmaker Royd Anderson, whose documentary The UpStairs Lounge Fire details that night and the aftermath. But there were also doctors, poets, actors, intellectuals, and hustlers.
Harold Bartholomew was driving past the bar with his kids when they noticed flames shooting out of the building. He rushed to help but was useless. He told Anderson, “People were at the window cooking — that’s the only way to describe it," pieces of flesh literally landing on the sidewalk below in a scene so terrible, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
“Bartender Buddy Rasmussen led about 20 people to safety through a back door behind a stage,” Anderson says. “But investigators found he unintentionally trapped the remaining bar patrons when he locked the fire escape door to prevent the fire from spreading.”
George Mitchell, 11-year-old Duane's dad, was the MCC's assistant pastor then. He was one of the few people who managed to escape the fire, but when he realized his boyfriend, Louis Horace Broussard, was still trapped inside he rushed in to rescue him. The two were found dead, bodies wrapped around each other, together forever, a gruesomely romantic scene.