Thursday, August 28, 2014

Vieux Carré Commission Evaluation: 141 Chartres St. (604 Iberville)


141 Chartres St. (604 Iberville)
Square: 33 Lot Number: 11186-A

Vieux Carré Commission Evaluation:

[Pink. One in a row of three, 3-bay, 3-story brick commercial buildings, no later than 1848. A January, 1849 act of sale cites "A certain three-story brick building."] [N.B: Squares in the 100 block of the French Quarter (those that front Canal Street and back on Iberville Street) are not part of the original Vieux Carré and have never been evaluated by the Vieux Carré Commission. Rather, their historical status is the domain of another city agency, the Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC). The c. 1965, color-coded architectural evaluation square maps for these squares found in the VCS binders were most likely executed by architect Sam Wilson, but they are obviously not official, as the HDLC was not even in existence then. The official color ratings given here have been taken from the HDLC's current maps.]
Pink Portion of Building: Main Material: Masonry
• Note: HDLC: Red
Dimensions (Dimensions run CCW)
Frontage: 21' 10" 0'''
Side 2: 57' 2" 0'''
Side 3: 21' 10" 0'''
Side 4: 57' 2" 0'''



Title: Sanborn's Insurance Maps
Date: April 1876
Negative Number: N-1279
Courtesy of: Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Sanborn
Provenance: Howard-Tilton Library (Tulane University)




Title: Sanborn's Insurance Maps
Date: April 1876
Negative Detail Number: N-1279D33
Courtesy of: Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Sanborn
Provenance: Howard-Tilton Library (Tulane University)




Title: Sanborn's Insurance Maps
Date: 1896
Negative Number: N-2387
Courtesy of: Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Sanborn
Provenance: Howard-Tilton Library (Tulane University)




Title: Squares 33 & 34 (survey)
Date: 04/03/1813
Negative Number: N-1408
Courtesy of: The Historic New Orleans Collection has been unable to identify or contact the current copyright owner. Publication may be restricted.
Provenance: Original map collection of Samuel Wilson, Jr.,




Title: Luisiana, 1792. Ciudad de N. Orleans (Squares 33 & 34)
Date: 1792
Negative Number: N-612
Courtesy of: Clerk of Civil District Court, Notarial Archives Division, New Orleans LA. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Carlos Trudeau - City Surveyor
Provenance: Annexed to Notarial Act of Theodore Seghers, N.P., June 3, 1826, Vol. 1/146,




Title: Squares 31, 32, 33, & 34 (survey)
Date: 11/23/1805
Negative Number: N-564
Courtesy of: Clerk of Civil District Court, Notarial Archives Division, New Orleans LA. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Barthelemy Lafon - Deputy Surveyor
Provenance: Annexed to Notarial Act of Michel de Armas, N.P., August 7, 1819, Vol. 18/6,




Title: Plan of the ground ceded to the city corporation for Exchange Place (Squares 33 & 34)
Date: 10/03/1831
Negative Number: N-769
Courtesy of: Clerk of Civil District Court, Notarial Archives Division, New Orleans LA. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Joseph Pilié - City Surveyor
Provenance: Annexed to Notarial Act of Felix de Armas, N.P., Nov. 3, 1831, Vol. 34/728,




Title: DPM Square 33 square map w/lot numbers
Date:
Negative Number: 2-033-001
Courtesy of: City of New Orleans. Publication may be restricted.
Provenance: City Hall Department of Property Management,




Title: VCS Square 33 architectural ratings color-coded square map
Date: 11/18/1965
Negative Number: 2-033-002
Courtesy of: The Historic New Orleans Collection. Publication may be restricted.
Provenance: Vieux Carré Survey,




Title: 'Plano figurativo de la posesion da da al Soguero Eilias Winters de un terreno de 100 pies de frente con 600 pies de profundidad' (Squares 31, 32 & 33)
Date: 07/23/1791
Negative Number: N-794
Courtesy of: The Historic New Orleans Collection has been unable to identify or contact the current copyright owner. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Carlos Trudeau - (original) surveyor
Provenance: Copy of July 23, 1791 plan by Carlos Trudeau; in collection Samuel Wilson, Jr. [original in Spanish Archives?]




Title: Map of New Orleans (Squares 33-41 & 62-66)
Date: [between 1859 and 1875?]
Negative Number: N-2264
Courtesy of: Louisiana Division/City Archives & Special Collections, New Orleans Public Library. Publication may be restricted.
Provenance: Original map (MaM 000-21) in NOPL,




Title: Map of New Orleans (Squares 33-41 & 62-66)
Date: [between 1859 and 1875?]
Negative Detail Number: N-2264D33_34
Courtesy of: Louisiana Division/City Archives & Special Collections, New Orleans Public Library. Publication may be restricted.
Provenance: Original map (MaM 000-21) in NOPL,




Title: Plano que Manifiesta la parte de la Ville de Nueva Orleans consumida en el incenudio de 8 de Diciembre de 1794
Date: 12/10/1794
Negative Number: N-1
Courtesy of: Archivo General de Indias (Seville, Spain). Publication may be restricted.
Provenance: Archivo General de Indias - Seville, Spain,


______________________________________________________________________________

Chain of Title

141 Chartres St. (604 Iberville)
Square: 33 Lot Number: 11186-A

Last Update: Monday, October 19th 1981


Friday, January 11th 1974
Record Source: COB
Volume: 723
Page: 398
Record Type: [sale?]
Authority: B. E. Loup (Notary)
Authority Date: Not Given
From: Anthony Guarino To: Henry L. Granet
Brief Description: [Lot designation changed from 11186 to 11186-A to differentiate it from adjacent lots with the same designation.]


Thursday, July 13th 1944
Record Source: COB
Volume: 531
Page: 645
Record Type: [sale?]
Authority: J. H. Wiener (Notary)
Authority Date: Not Given
From: Cosmopolitan Realty Co., Inc. To: Anthony Guarino
Brief Description: Property with buildings and improvements on it.


Monday, January 4th 1932
Record Source: COB
Volume: 464
Page: 514
Record Type: [sale?]
Authority: J. H. Wiener (Notary)
Authority Date: Not Given
From: Abraham Hellman To: Cosmopolitan Realty Co., Inc.
Brief Description: Three lots of ground with buildings and improvements.


Thursday, May 10th 1923
Record Source: COB
Volume: 361
Page: 305
Record Type: [sale?]
Authority: F. J. Dreyfous (Notary)
Authority Date: Not Given
From: Max Miller To: Abraham Hellman
Brief Description: Three lots of ground with buildings and improvements.


Wednesday, May 3rd 1922
Record Source: COB
Volume: 351
Page: 58
Record Type: [sale?]
Authority: Edgar Grima (Notary)
Authority Date: Not Given
From: Thomas Hunt To: Max Miller
Thomas Hunt
Julia B. Hunt
Edward L. Hunt
Robert Hunt


Thursday, October 13th 1921
Record Source: COB
Volume: 338
Page: 547
CDC#: 138870
Record Type: succession
Authority: Civil District Court (Court)
Authority Date: Not Given
From: Carleton Hunt To: Thomas Hunt Robert Hunt E. L. Hunt
Brief Description: To his legal heirs.


Tuesday, January 12th 1915
Record Source: COB
Volume: 270
Page: 261
CDC#: 110669
Record Type: succession
Authority: Civil District Court (Court)
Authority Date: Not Given
From: Louise L. Hunt
succession of To: Julia B. Hunt Agent/Single Party Act/Other: Carleton Hunt
Brief Description: Julia B. Hunt is put in possession of estate on waiver of Carleton Hunt to qualify. A three-story brick building on Lot A and two three-story brick buildings on Lot C.


Saturday, January 13th 1849
Record Source: COB
Volume: 47
Page: 297
Record Type: [sale?]
Authority: Louis T. Caire (Notary)
Authority Date: Not Given
From: Henry Carleton To:
Carleton Hunt
Dr. Thomas Hunt [Dr.]
Louise Hunt
Julia Hunt
Brief Description: To Dr. Thomas Hunt (his son-in-law) in behalf of his minor children, Louise Hunt, Carleton Hunt and Julia Hunt. A certain three story brick building at the corner of Chartres and Custom House, now occupied as a book store by Mr. Gaston Bruslé and standing in part of a lot of ground bought by Henry Carleton from Ferdinand Lioteaux (a colored man) on Aug. 6, 1821. ["Liotau" in many other records.]


Wednesday, December 20th 1848
Record Source: Unknown
Record Type: [sale?]
Authority: Louis T. Caire (Notary)
Authority Date: Not Given
From: Henry Carleton To: Julia B. Hunt
Brief Description: Julia B. Hunt acquired 1/3 property from Henry Carleton by act of "dation en paiement" and registered in COB 17/197. [COB Vo.l. 17/197 missing] No record could be found on Ferdinand Lioteaux. ["Liotau" in many other records.]

________________________________________________________________________________


The website, thejimani.com, named for the long-running drinking establishment with quarters below the Up Stairs social club, has a page The History of the Building, with only the following paragraph to account for itself. Instead of half-heartedly getting into the memorialization business, they should stick to stacking beer:

The Earliest Sale of the Building that we could find was Dec 20 1848 when Julia B. Hunt acquired 1/3 of the property from Henry Carleton by act of "dation en paiement" (DATION EN PAIEMENT, civil law. This term is used in Louisiana; it signifies that, when instead of paying a sum of money due on a pre-existing debt, the debtor gives and the creditor agrees to receive a movable or immovable. 2. It is somewhat like the accord and satisfaction of the common law. 16 Toull. n. 45 Poth. Vente, U. 601. Dation en paiement resembles in some respects the contract of sale; dare in solutum, est quasi vendere. There is, however, a very marked difference between a sale and a dation en paiement. 1st. The contract of sale is complete by the mere agreement of the parties the dation en paiement requires a delivery of the thing given. 2d. When the debtor pays a certain sum which he supposed he was owing, and be discovers he did not owe so much, he may recover back the excess, not so when property other than money has been given in payment. 3d. He who has in good faith sold a thing of which he believed himself to be the owner, is not precisely required to transfer the property of it to the buyer and, while he is not troubled in the possession of the thing, he cannot pretend that the seller has not fulfilled his obligations. On the contrary, the dation en paiement is good only when the debtor transfers to the creditor the property in the thing which he has agreed to take in, payment and if the thing thus delivered be the property of another, it will not operate as a payment.)
________________________________________________________________________________


The Vieux Carré Commission Evaluation Citations (Specific to this address) link has a sampling of early news articles from the States-Item and the Times Picayune, which include two photographer's names, Philip Ames and Robert T. Steiner, which hadn't surfaced in the flurry of media acknowledgments around the double-vigintennial anniversary of the disaster. Library holdings for the Times-Picayune and the ten-year run of the States-Item from 1970 to 1980, are quite extensive, so no need to worry there, but I can't wait to get my hands on, and then disseminate these neglected morsels of semi-authentic history. But even the titles are informative: "Bar Not Inspected in 2 Years," and "Fire Victims: 26 'Possibles'."




________________________________________________________________________________




June 25, 1973, The Times-Picayune, page 1,

June 25, 1973, Times-Picayune, page 1, 29 Killed In Quarter Blaze; Arson Possibility Is Raised, by John LaPlace and Ed Anderson, [Continued page 3]
June 25, 1973, The Times–Picayune, page 1, Scene of French Quarter Fire Is Called Dante's 'Inferno, Hitler's Incinerators; Victims Reported Burnt to Death Fleeing Spreading Blaze, by John La Place, [Continued page 2]

June 25, 1973, Times-Picayune, N.O. Tragedies Go Rolling On,
______________________________________________________________________________


June 25, 1973, States-Times, Fire at Up Stairs Lounge - 604 Iberville St., by Angus Lind, et al.
[(photo: G.E. Arnold) w/photo/caption "Scene of French Quarter fire which claimed 29 lives"]

June 25, 1973, States-Times, Fire Bares the Grisly Face of Death, by Angus Lind,
[w/photo/caption, photo: Philip Ames, "A rescue worker leans heavy against a window..."]

June 25, 1973, States-Times, Fun... Drinks... Song... with Death at the Piano, by Lanny Thomas,




June 25, 1973, AP- State-Item, page 1A, N.O. Lounge Fire Kills 29 Persons, [Continued Page 4-A]

June 25, 1973, AP - States-Item, page 1A, Quick Searing Blast; French Quarter Fire Is Probed,

[Sidewalk First Aid -- 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. --AP wirephoto]


June 25, 1973, AP - The State-Times, page 1B, Brief Fire Fatal to 29 In Quarter, by Ed Tunstall,

June 25, 1973, AP - The State-Times, page 1B, Barred Windows Prevented Victims From Fleeing Fire,

June 25, 1973, The State-Times, page 1B, 13 of Dead Tentatively Identified,

June 25, 1973, The State-Times,  page 1B,


June 25, 1973, The State-Times (Advocate) [Baton Rouge, LA] page 1A,


June 26, 1973, Times-Picayune, Black, Empty Windows Stare, by Chris Segura,

June 26, 1973, Times-Picayune, Worst Fire in History of New Orleans, by Chris Segura,

June 26, 1973, Times-Picayune, Devastating French Quarter Fire Probed by 3 Agencies, by Chris Segura, [w/photo/caption (photo: Robert T. Steiner) "A spectator peers into the stairwell of the burned out Up Stairs Lounge..."]

June 26, 1973, AP - Times-Picayune, Fire Protection Needed -- Carter,

June 26, 1973, AP - Times-Picayune, Preventive Bill Failed in Legislature,

June 26, 1973, States-Item, Fire Victims: 26 'Possibles',

June 27, 1973, Times-Picayune, Gay Leaders Plan Aid for Victims of Bar Fire, by Vincent Lee,

June 28, 1973, Times-Picayune, Fatal Fire Probe Continues,

July 1, 1973, AP - Times-Picayune, Bar Not Inspected in 2 Years, by Eric Newhouse,





Where Are the Gay Activists in New Orleans?
E Martinez - New Orleans Vieux Carrê Star, 1977
Cited by 2 Related articles Cite Save Try again? More Fewer




New Orleans Times-Picayune,
29 Killed in Quarter Blaze
J LaPlace, E Anderson,

New Orleans States-Item
First the Horror—Then the Leap
W Philbin

Vieux Carré Courier X,
After the Fire Up Stairs, by Bill Rushton,

'







________________________________________________________________________________


Title: 135-139, 141 Chartres
Date: 10/23/1963
Negative Number: N-1407
Courtesy of: The Historic New Orleans Collection. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Dan S. Leyrer
Provenance: Dan S. Leyrer - Photographer - 726 St. Peter St.
Full Property Record,


Title: 135-139, 141 Chartres
Date: 10/23/1963
Negative Detail Number: N-1407D
Courtesy of: The Historic New Orleans Collection. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Dan S. Leyrer
Provenance: Dan S. Leyrer - Photographer - 726 St. Peter St.
Full Property Record -




Title: 135-139, 141 Chartres (Frame 10)
Date: 1977
Negative Number: 2-033-015
Courtesy of: The Historic New Orleans Collection. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Tulane School of Architecture
Provenance: Vieux Carré Survey
Full Property Record -
See more at: http://www.hnoc.org/vcs/property_info.php?lot=11186-A#sthash.WVDPbLdV.dpuf



Title: 135-139, 141 Chartres
Date: [after Aug. 1977]
Negative Number: 2-033-016
Courtesy of: The Historic New Orleans Collection has been unable to identify or contact the current copyright owner. Publication may be restricted.
Provenance: Un-credited
Full Property Record,




Title: View Down Chartres (Frame 23)
Date: August 1977
Negative Number: 2-033-004
Courtesy of: The Historic New Orleans Collection. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: Tulane School of Architecture
Provenance: Vieux Carré Survey -
See more at: http://www.hnoc.org/vcs/property_info.php?lot=11186-A#sthash.VAjoaZfh.dpuf




Title: 141 Chartres corner (604) Iberville
Date: 01/10/2011
Negative Number: 2_033_char_141
Courtesy of: The Historic New Orleans Collection. Publication may be restricted.
Creator: John Watson Riley
Provenance: © The Historic New Orleans Collection 2011
Full Property Record,

Evelyn's Place



The 18th-century maps below were downloaded from Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc., whose proprietor has been consistently generous over time in sharing high-quality images of his material online, which has been a great boon to my understanding unfamiliar topics.

1720



1744



1757



1761



1770



1856


1860


1873


1878



1891




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

November 15 2013, The Advocate, Remembering the Worst Mass Killing of LGBT People in U.S. History, by Diane Anderson-Mitchell,


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 .)

FACTS

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
Another fact in the article states that
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.

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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.


At left: Duane Mitchell (left) looks at photos of his dad, George, with filmmaker Royd Anderson. Duane was 11 years old at the time of George’s death.

One of those miscreants was Rodger Nunez, a 26-year-old hustler who often became aggressive and mouthy when he was drunk. This night Nunez began to harass one of the regulars, Michael Scarborough, through an adjacent stall in the bathroom. Who knows why Nunez was acting out then? There was a glory hole in the restroom, but Scarborough didn't want anything to do with what Nunez had to offer. When the altercation turned physical, Scarborough gave the guy a right hook to the jaw, and when that didn't stop him, he complained to Rasmussen, who sent Nunez packing. As he was escorted out, Nunez spouted off a threat of revenge typical of someone being kicked out after a bar fight. The hothead was posturing, the patrons probably thought; good riddance.

At 7:52 p.m. the doorbell, located down a stairwell at the first-floor entrance to the second-floor bar, began to ring. Rasmussen assumed it was a taxi driver, as it usually was, so he sent a regular named Luther Boggs down to open the door. It had been more than a year since the last gay bar raid, but you could never be sure, hence the added security. Boggs probably had no idea what hit him. He was dead instantly.

A flash of fuel hit the landing and then a fireball swept up the stairwell into the bar, flames quickly engulfing the place. More than 60 people were still there, and the fire spread so quickly that panic was unavoidable. The oxygen from the door had created a backdraft that swept the fire along the hallway blocking the main entrance, and it sped along the walls rapidly. Those curtains, flocked wallpaper, and, even the lone poster of the famous Burt Reynolds Cosmopolitan centerfold that had been tacked up were all gone in seconds. There was no emergency exit sign. People clamored to get out, some pulling their clothing over their mouths in hopes of breathing through the smoke. Glass shattered everywhere as patrons tried to escape through the windows; few were skinny enough to do so, because the windows all had 14-inch security bars.



At right: MCC pastor Bill Larson, trapped in the window bars, where he remained for hours during the investigation. He was promoted to reverend posthumously.

The pastor of MCC, Bill Larson, was caught in the bars, the upper half of his body stretching for an impossible escape as he burned alive, his agonizing wails heard by onlookers on the street. "Oh, God, no," he screamed as horrified onlookers watched the man die.

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.



Above: Victims of the UpStairs Lounge fire on June 24, 1973

Firefighters — including Terry Gilbert, a rookie only two weeks on the job — arrived quickly and had the fire contained within 16 minutes. No matter, though. 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, this tragedy still remains worst mass murder of LGBT people in U.S. history.

The grisly fire was just the beginning of the tragedy that would affect New Orleans's LGBT community for years to come. All of which raises the question: Why have so few people even heard about this?


THE AFTERMATH

"Louisiana does a pretty good job of keeping its tragedies a secret," says Anderson, who became an expert on the killings when he spent six years filming his award-winning documentary The UpStairs Lounge Fire, which aired this summer on television in New Orleans and continues to tour festivals and universities. Next up is a November 21 showing at New Orleans's Loyola University and then a collegiate screening tour that'll take Anderson to Penn State, Louisiana State University, Yale, and Princeton.



The Cuban-American filmmaker has produced documentaries about several forgotten Louisiana tragedies: the 1976 Luling Ferry disaster (the worst ferry disaster in U.S. history, with 77 fatalities), the 1977 Continental Grain Elevator explosion (the deadliest grain dust explosion of the modern era, with 36 fatalities), the 1982 Pan Am Flight 759 crash (the worst aircraft crash in Louisiana history and the fifth worst in U.S. history, with 153 fatalities). The UpStairs Lounge fire fits among them: It remains the deadliest fire in New Orleans history.


At left: Filmmaker Robert L. Camina in front of the plaque memorializing the UpStairs Lounge massacre.

"All of these tragedies, in addition to the UpStairs Lounge fire, aren't in textbooks," he says. “Plus, a lot of LGBT history is not that well publicized in the Bayou State. There's a small plaque on the sidewalk outside of the former door of the UpStairs, commemorating the victims. If you're not looking down when you're walking, you won't even notice it. Thousands of tourists step on it every day and don't realize it's there.”

Anderson learned about the fire as a kid. His dad, a French Quarter tour guide, would take Anderson on long walks in the Quarter, and he would point out the building and tell the story.

“Being a social studies middle school teacher, I thought it was imperative to remember this forgotten tragedy and lost history,” he says.

The teacher-turned-filmmaker is not alone. Gay author Townsend, who wrote about the tragedy two decades ago, was able to talk with many survivors of the fire, no easy feat, says Anderson, who admits getting people to talk about it today is difficult.

“Most of them didn't want to get in front of the camera and talk, due to mental strife,” Anderson says. “Also, many folks from that generation don't want to be known to be gay to the public; the peer pressure is still evident today.”

Toni Pizanie, who authors a column called Sapphos Psalm for Ambush, the local gay paper, wasn't at the UpStairs Lounge that night but says it happened while she was still in the closet and it made an impact on her. “I refused to attend the memorials,” she writes. “I told gay acquaintances, I didn't know anyone that died. Why attend? The truth is that I was frightened. There was my great job as department head of accounting for a national firm. And, I was purchasing my first house. I didn’t want my being a lesbian to mess up my future.”

THE FUNERALS

“Sadly, the gay community was used to being ostracized. It was a way of life back then," says Anderson of the atmosphere after the fire. “The early 1970s were dripping with homophobia. Homosexuality was removed from the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in December of 1973 — six months after the UpStairs Lounge fire. Louisiana had a Crime Against Nature statue passed in 1974, making sexual acts between gay couples illegal."

It was amid this atmosphere that LGBT people in the city had to grieve and bury their dead, something that became difficult in the days after the tragedy.

Rev. Troy Perry flew in from Los Angeles, reeling from the fact that the fire had decimated the local congregation of his church. He was joined by Morris Kight from the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center, Morty Manford from New York’s Gay Activists Alliance, and two other MCC leaders, John Gill and Paul Breton. Their appearance in the city marked the first time national gay leaders gathered to mourn a tragedy, something that could have been galvanizing or healing.

They were turned away by every church in the city, however, and finding a place to hold memorial services was a unexpected battle.

“I was shocked at the disproportionate reaction by the city government,” says Robert L. Camina, writer and director of the upcoming feature film Upstairs Inferno. “The city declared days of mourning for victims of other mass tragedies in the city. It shocked me that despite the magnitude of the fire, it was largely ignored. The city didn't declare a day of mourning. They were silent. I was also shocked at the religious response. Some said the response revealed the moral bankruptcy of churches. I can't imagine a church, much less several churches, turning away mourners or victims. I was also sickened by the callous nature in which the press covered the fire, if they covered it at all.”

Indeed, as Perry and others searched for a church to hold services for the 32 victims, the LGBT community looked to local politicians, the mayor, religious officials, and civic leaders to at least recognize the tragedy. None did. The CBS Evening News was the only national mainstream news outlet to cover the story (The Advocate’s following issue featured the tragedy on the cover, with reporting from New Orleans).




"This was before the 24-hour news cycle and the advent of social media," says Wayne Self, writer and composer of the musical about the killing, Upstairs, which made its debut in New Orleans last summer.

"Today, there is simply more airtime to fill. I talked to people who had actually covered the fire and the sense I got was that they wanted the coverage to be on par with any coverage of any fire, which was a fair-minded approach. But that approach failed [to take] into account the social ramifications and the larger context of this particular fire. Of course, this early in the LGBT movement, I think it’s understandable that the media would seek fairness in coverage over a social context that was barely visible to anyone."

New Orleans local media covered the story on day one without mentioning that the lounge was a gay bar. When that fact was discovered, the reporting turned ugly at times.

One local radio jockey joked, "What will they bury the ashes of queers in? Fruit jars." The joke was retold countless times around "respectable" offices in the city. The newspapers printed quotes from ordinary citizens riddled with homophobia, including “I hope the fire burned their dress off,” and The Lord had something to do with this."

Police say they did their jobs, but even the chief detective on the case, Henry Morris, told the local States-Item newspaper there wasn’t a lot of hope for identifying the victims, saying, “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.”

It was true some gay men did carry false identification at the time — that way, if they were arrested their real names wouldn't go on the public record, something that would get you fired — but almost all the victims were identified in the following weeks.

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At left: Author Johnny Townsend (left, with filmmaker Royd Anderson) wrote about the fire 20 years ago. Because of the age of many survivors, Townsend is thought to have been the last person to really record many of the survivors’ stories.

And they were mourned. While Baptist, Catholic, and Lutheran congregations refused to allow memorials to be held in their churches, a closeted gay rector at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Father Bill Richardson, allowed a small prayer service be held there. It nearly cost him his job, as the local bishop forbade him to hold further services for these (mostly) gay victims. Eventually, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church allowed an official memorial service, which attracted about 250 people, though many LGBT people were too afraid to attend.

"From what I've been told by people who lived through the horror, the aftermath of the fire was very difficult,” says Camina. “Friends of the victims and community members could not grieve openly. They would risk outing themselves. Not only could they lose their job and their home, they could lose their family. Their thoughts were, Look what happened to these victims. If a parent could abandon their child even in death, what will my family do to me? The list of the victims expands far beyond those who were in the bar that tragic night. The fear it generated caused many people to stay in the closet, permanently altering their lives. The extent of indirect pain and damage caused by the fire is immeasurable.”

Self says, “The New Orleans gay community, though it was growing in numbers and political awareness, was not ready to turn this into a Stonewall moment. The tragedy was too swift, deadly, and profound to have it spun immediately into activism.”

Like others, Self argues that straight New Orleans had come to a “quiet acceptance of homosexuality as just another sin in Sin City, but was not yet ready to see LGBT people move from the back room to the streets.”

That is perhaps why civic leaders remained mum.

"The deplorable actions of the local politicians at the time was disgusting,” Anderson says. “Gov. Edwin Edwards and New Orleans mayor Moon Landrieu made no statement of public sympathy for the victims. They chose politics over what was right.”

Self concurs: “The government’s silence was more problematic [than the media’s].” He says that Clay Delery’s upcoming historical book about the fire and its aftermath, The UpStairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-two Deaths in a New Orleans Gay Bar, June 24, 1973 (McFarland Publishing, 2014), “carefully compares state and local government reactions to the UpStairs Lounge Fire with their reactions to other fires or similar disasters that occurred that same summer. It’s a pretty damning portrait of a city government that had no interest in mourning the loss of its LGBT citizens. That has certainly changed. The city was a great ally in memorializing the victims this year, in conjunction with New Orleans Pride and with us.”

THE REVOLUTION THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN

Self, the man behind the musical, Upstairs, first learned about the tragedy while working as a music director for the Metropolitan Community Church.



"I was reading MCC founder Troy Perry’s book Don’t Be Afraid Anymore," Self recalls. "His book is pretty critical of the community's response — not just the government, but also the gay community. When you're from a place like Louisiana, your first instinct is to defend it against critics. So my first reaction was disbelief, not that the fire had happened, but that the community had reacted the way it did, and that I had never heard about it. So I started to read and to research. It wasn't until later that I started to feel a real sadness and a real drive to create something expressive around this tragedy."

Robert Camina, whose first film was the award-winning Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, felt that way too, so he raised money for Upstairs Inferno with the help of a Kickstarter campaign and began the emotional task of talking to survivors, families of victims, historians, local politicians, and other experts. He got a boost by the fire's 40th anniversary memorial services, held in the city last June. So did Anderson, who spent six years on his documentary; Delery, whose book is eagerly awaited; and Self, the man behind the musical Upstairs, which was perhaps the most controversial of all the recent related projects.

Telling this story, rather memorializing this story of the worst mass killing of gay people in the U.S., had to be told through theater, says Self, who collaborated with director Zachary McCallum (who directed both the February San Francisco Bay Area workshop and the New Orleans premiere in June).



At right: Scenes from the musical tragedy Upstairs, which opened to rave reviews, even though many in New Orleans had concerns about the tragedy being turned into musical theater.

“Theater has a separate function that has to do with activism, recreation, and catharsis,” he says. “Theater incarnates. It brings ideas into a very present, fleshy, intimate reality, without the distance of film or the analysis of history. For that reason, this project, premiering as it did on the 40th anniversary of the fire, became equal parts theater, community activism, and memorial. Some people said they felt like they were watching history. Others said they felt like they could finally say goodbye. We had the children of victims there. The friends of victims. We had survivors there, in that small venue, watching us re-create the night of the fire. It was humbling and frightening and deeply rewarding. And it’s something only theater can do.”

Many locals were angry to hear of Self’s musical, many expecting some exploitive light theater piece like The Sound of Music. Once they saw the almost-operatic musical tragedy he created, people changed their minds.

“People contacted me with blunt questions about why I want to bring this old tragedy up at all," he says. "In the face of such a stunning, graphic, and potentially politically outrageous loss of life, I think there is an understandable impulse to forget it and move along. To people with this impulse, any art or scholarship around the fire is seen as exploitative or morbid or insensitive. One longtime member of the gay community in New Orleans swore he’d be there opening night and would stand up and stop the show as soon as it was disrespectful. I’m told he left in tears at the end."

Perhaps that’s because “Upstairs isn't like most musical theater; it’s a requiem with dialogue. It’s a passion play set to music, and the music is organic to the setting.” After all, he says, New Orleans is one of the most musical cities in the world, and the UpStairs Lounge was a cabaret bar — plus one of the victims was a classical pianist who had been featured on national television and another was a local jazz pianist.

THE PROBLEM WITH RECOVERY

Bouncing back from a tragedy like this isn't easy for anyone. Although most of the victims were identified (four remain unnamed), some victims were never claimed by family members, generally out of shame and stigma, and buried in unmarked pauper's graves. Some of the survivors had repercussions in their lives after local newspapers published their names, essentially outing them to their families and employers. According to Time magazine's Elizabeth Dias, one man, who later died of his injuries, was fired from his teaching job while he was still in the hospital, and others “had to go to work on Monday morning” — the very next day — as if "nothing happened.”


At right: Mourners gathered outside the bar for the 40th anniversary memorial last June.

Some say police bungled the investigation, or worse, didn't bother to investigate much because it was a “queer bar.” Local officials disagree; at one point 50 officers were assigned to the case. Either way, a suspect was never caught or punished, though Rodger Nunez, that hustler who was booted that night, drunkenly confessed to friends on more than one occasion that he started the fire. There was even some circumstantial evidence that pointed in his direction.

As he was booted from the building, Nunez shouted a threat, though the exact wording has been reported different ways over the years, so knowing exactly what he said is difficult to ascertain. This year Timemagazine reported that he said he would “burn this place down,” while the local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, reported that he said, “I’ll come back and burn you all out.” Either way, most agree that Nunez had threatened the patrons and bartender Rasmussen, who fingered Nunez from his hospital bed the next day.

Police knew early on this was a case of arson, started with a small can of lighter fluid that was probably purchased from the nearby Walgreens moments before the fireball shot into the building. The Walgreens clerk could tell police the buyer was a gay man who seemed distraught, but couldn’t identify him clearly. Nunez’s alcohol abuse continued unabated after the fire. When he was drunk he would talk about the killing, the fire. Sober he'd deny it. A year after the UpStairs Lounge fire claimed 32 lives and ruined countless others, it claimed yet one more: Rodger Nunez killed himself.

Camina says that from the people he’s interviewed, it’s clear that some gay people “were embarrassed or ashamed” in the days after the fire. “The fire did not launch a revolution, and the little activism that was spawned from the tragedy fizzled out very quickly. Also, you have families that didn't claim their dead children. As a collective community, that is shameful and embarrassing. You also have a prime suspect who is a member of the LGBT community. Evidence points to the fact that this horrific crime was committed by one of our own. Furthermore, there isn't any official closure. Police weren't able to charge anyone with the crime. While the evidence points to Nunez committing the crime, there is no justice. Lastly, I think few people know about the story because it is still too painful for people to talk about.”

Indeed, Duane Mitchell, now a grown man in Rainsville, Ark., who calls his dad a “hero” for going back in to save his partner, says the fact that no one has ever been charged with the killing makes this a tragedy without closure for many of the families of the dead — and no doubt for the few living survivors.


At left: George Mitchell dressed up as Queen Victoria, in happier times.

"It was very emotional, sitting across from this gentleman who experienced such immense trauma as a child,” says Anderson, who showed Duane photos of his father he’d never seen before, including one of him dressed as Queen Victoria.

"Duane called his dad a hero — that was so poignant to me," Anderson says. "A son acknowledging his father's last selfless act, in a time when too many people turned their backs and walked away."

If the lovers entwined, dying in a blaze together doesn’t gut-punch you, it’s the stories of the victims’ children, many who didn’t know what had happened to their fathers until recently. TinaMarie Matyi lost her dad, Buddy (George) Stephen Matyi, that affable and handsome piano player.

"I just recently found out the whole truth about what happened to my own dad,” Matyi wrote on Back2Stonewall. “He was asked to play by one of his friends. It really upset me on how someone can kill someone. My dad was trying to provide for his family and be a part of his friends. Was he gay? I don't know and if he was I really don't care. This jerk took away my dad. My dad had two sons and myself. We have lost our dad, my grandmother lost a son, and my mom lost her husband. I pray every night that nothing like this happens to my son because he is gay and I could not be prouder.”

Thanks to the anniversary media coverage, people like Matyi are connecting with others like Mary Mihalyfi, who lost her favorite uncle, Glenn R. Green, in the fire. Skylar Fein's haunting art installation,Remember the Upstairs Lounge,which was acquired by the New Orleans Museum of Art this year, riveted people with a 90-piece exhibition that included a reproduction of the bar and faux artifacts, along with photographs and video about the tragedy. It helped others grieve in public, something no one could do in 1973.

An episode of Ghost Hunters on Syfy even tried to connect the living with the dead by visiting the bar, now named Jimini Lounge. All the recent media attention has combined with work by New Orleans’s LGBT community, which hosted an anniversary memorial in June, to increase the visibility of the fire far beyond the recognition it mever got in 1973.

The stigma and horror of it all, says Self, surely held folks back in 1973.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEZBW6oHwho



"Shame cuts both ways, and shame is an important theme throughout the play,” Self says. “Were the unidentified victims a lesson for gays and their families on the perils of the closet? Or did the reaction of some of the more hateful people in the community only serve to make people feel even more ashamed? The community as a whole was victimized and abused by the fire and its aftermath. The emotion surrounding the fire, these 40 years later, is a testament to the fire’s impact on the city.”

"I think a lingering issue that is rarely talked about is the mystery surrounding the unknown victims,” Camina says. “These men went missing and no one claimed them? I can't wrap my head around it. It's unfathomable. I grieve for the unidentified victims of the fire. I don't believe they have found peace yet. I am shocked and sickened that the families never claimed them and that their bodies were dumped into a pauper's grave.”

Even each of these men — Self, Anderson, Camina — who have worked on the projects surrounding the UpStairs Lounge massacre have been profoundly affected, with a sort of creative PTSD that may never go away.

"I think a lingering issue that is rarely talked about is the mystery surrounding the unknown victims,” Camina says. “These men went missing and no one claimed them? I can't wrap my head around it. It's unfathomable. I grieve for the unidentified victims of the fire. I don't believe they have found peace yet. I am shocked and sickened that the families never claimed them and that their bodies were dumped into a pauper's grave.”


At left: Upstairs writer-composer Wayne Self says the story of the fire will never leave him.

Looking into people's eyes as they experience pain and anguish did not come easy, Camina says. “When I stood outside the bar on the morning of June 25, I stared at the building and tried to imagine what it must have been like 40 years ago, the morning after the fire. I imagined the smell of soot and death in air and the suffocating amount of grief. I got chills. When I returned to New Orleans in September, the site was no less chilling. My tour through the bar was equally as emotional. I stood at the second-story window and peered down the fire escape to the pavement below. This was one of the last sights people saw before they died. I stood next to the infamous window: the one which Reverend Larson got wedged in and was burned alive. I was standing in the footprints where these people died. It was heart-wrenching. We walked through the rear exit door where Buddy led the few survivors to the roof. We were walking in their footsteps. It was surreal. You can't help but cry.”

For Anderson, six years of his life devoted to documenting this story, the tragedy still lingers. “There was one photo of a dead patron deceased underneath a couple of barstools, with his T-shirt pulled up, showing his stomach,” he recalls. “He probably was using the shirt to cover his mouth from the smoke. The look on his soot-covered face was awful. It's a disturbing photo, one that can't be erased from my memory.”

Making the musical Upstairs was a challenge unlike anything he’s ever faced says Self, a GLAAD media spokesman as well as a playwright and composer: “I’m still affected by it, to the extent that I’m not yet working on anything else. In order to treat the topic fairly and sensitively, I had to face the victims head-on and try to know them as best as I could.”


At right: Varla Jean Merman (right) and Charles Romaine in Upstairs, the musical.

His play doesn't trade in the morbidity of the night, as would be so easy to do, but the people, the victims, the horror is there in the subtext. As with Camina, his ride is just beginning. The musical will be playing in conjunction with Acadiana Pride in Lafayette, La., next June, the city’s inaugural Pride festival.

He’s in talks with various theaters around the country to have them produce and present the play and he’s fundraising to put on a national tour. It’s the love of the people of New Orleans, their desire to see this story come alive, that has kept him going.

"It's not often that you get to work on a project that has such political, social, and emotional resonance with people,” he says. “This is the sort of work that a lot of us got into theatre to do, but rarely get to do. It fulfills that promise, and allows us to share something with a whole community.”

The show focuses tightly on the night of the fire and its relatively immediate aftermath. The themes are broad and relevant to the LGBT experience today: pride, shame, alienation, acceptance, forgiveness, rage, religion, family, survival, and death. The fire and its victims speak to us today because their experience presages our own experience with family struggles, with spiritual struggles, with AIDS, with a long, slow march from shame to acceptance to public celebration of our relationships — a march that saw a lot of losses along the way. Yes, the mayors and religious leaders would comment today, and nearly all of those comments would be supportive and kind. And we owe it to those who didn’t live in these conditions to remember them and celebrate their contributions.

Camina looks forward to 2014, but knows he'll never stop thinking about 1973.

"The story and the victims will always be a part of me," he says. “These people are more than statistics and more than plot points. The people that were there were sons, dads, brothers, uncles, moms, sisters. I will never leave them behind. I want to do all I can to help educate future leaders and find a way to turn this tragedy into teachable moments. We should never allow ourselves to forget them — again.”

Editor's note: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Religious Archives Network has a comprehensive digital exhibit on the UpStairs Lounge fire with personal essays, old photos and media clippings, and excerpts from Townsend's compendium.

Even each of these men — Self, Anderson, Camina — who have worked on the projects surrounding the UpStairs Lounge massacre have been profoundly affected, with a sort of creative PTSD that may never go away.

Source URL: http://www.advocate.com/crime/2013/11/15/remembering-worst-mass-killing-lgbt-people-us-history

Links:
[1] http://www.advocate.com/
[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wayne-self/UpStairs -lounge-fire_b_2567541.html
[3] http://www.amazon.com/LET-THE-FAGGOTS-BURN-UpStairs/dp/1614344531
[4] http://www.facebook.com/upstairsloungefire
[5] https://www.facebook.com/upstairsloungefire
[6] https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/490574314383502
[7] http://www.ambushmag.com/is1103/sappho.htm
[8] http://www.UPSTAIRSINFERNO.COM
[9] http://exhibits.lgbtran.org/exhibits/show/upstairs-lounge-fire/gallery?early-gay-activism
[10] http:// http://www.upstairsmusical.com
[11] http://www.back2stonewall.com/2013/06/june-24th-1973-orleans-upstairs-lounge-arson-attack-kills-32-people.html
[12] http://www.acadianapridefestival.com
[13] http://exhibits.lgbtran.org//exhibits/show/upstairs-lounge-fire
[14] http://www.advocate.com/topics/louisiana
[15] http://www.advocate.com/topics/new-orleans

Where Is Mother? Pauper's grave is near for Lou Ann





July 7, 1966, AP - Lake Charles American Press, page 8, Where Is Mother? Pauper's grave is near for Lou Ann,

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Two policemen---who think they can do their job better "by letting everybody cry on our shoulder instead of just going around being tough and making lots of arrests"---are trying to help a bistro owner play the Good Samaritan's role.

Patrolman J. H. Suitt and P. F. Sanderson, partners in prowl car 13, asked today for aid in locating Lola Shand "somewhere in California."

Here's why they want to find Mrs. Shand:

"You see," said Suitt, "there's this woman that owns a bar in our section of the French Quarter. It's a tough area. A lot of seaman go there and it's not like the places on Bourbon where the tourists are.

"She had a barmaid known as 'Candy' working for her. On June 16 the girl died. She was just 23. She choked to death after getting sick on a combination of drugs and alcohol.

"We found out her name was Lou Ann Darlene Bond. Her body's still in the morgue. The state's going to put her in Potter's Field if somebody can't claim the body.

"The bar owner, her name's Wanda Long. She can outcuss most of the sailors who come around her place but she's got a heart bigger than her head. You know, like a pot of gold.

"Wanda wants to give the girl a decent burial, with a good casket and everything. She's taking up a collection and she and Bill Keller---who owns a bar across Iberville Street---say they'll put up the rest of the money. They need $600, even if they have to pay $400-$500 outta their own pocket."

Officer Sanderson, a 16-year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department, interrupted his younger partner.

"But Wanda can't do her good deed it we can't find Lola Shand."

He explained that under Louisiana law the morgue cannot release a body unless permission is given by a relative. If a permit isn't signed, then the body goes in a pine box to Potter's Field for a pauper's burial.

"It's just a bare patch of ground," said Sanderson. "No tombstones. No flowers. Just weeds."

Sanderson said they learned that Mrs. Shand is the mother of the dead young woman. "We've found addresses for Lola Shand at Santa Barbara, Oxnard, Berkeley and Alameda in California. But we can't find her.

"Wanda Long has called all over California to sheriff's offices at her own expense trying to find this Lola Shand. And we've tried to find her. Maybe Associated Press can help us," said Sanderson.

Suitt says he's persuaded the coroner's office "not to bury the girl in Potter's Field until we try some more to find Lola Shand.

"But they're gonna go ahead and put her out there if we can't find that woman in another day or two.



I'm too jaded to judge the emotional legitimacy of this Associated Press account other than as a precursor, and strange premonitory in the handling of corpses to Philip Esteve's ostensible three-year run as an off-Bourbon barkeep. It reads like a short Carson McCullers story and I wonder who was doing whom a favor here. The whole burial fetish feels like such a weird focus down in Louisiana, where the watertable can pop a casket right out of the ground.

As for "Candy" choking to death on her own vomit at age 23, it reminds me of a scene from This Is Spinal Tap, where a band member (I think it was the second drummer to die in similar fashion to Candy,) chokes to death, but ON SOMEONE ELSE'S PROJECTILE VOMITING!

As for the sentiment, no matter how carefully wrought---it's not believable in this context. In clipping and transcribing articles from the period, I came across many things like the story below. In an end-of-year ranking, it came in at number seven in newsworthiness in 1973:



December 30, 1973, The Sunday News and Tribune [Jefferson, MO] Top ten news events of 1973, No. 7,




I understand economists work to keep America's unemployment rate from falling below a certain point, otherwise enough young people wouldn't be forced into a career in the 'voluntary' military, since other opportunities usually are better in the long run. Unadulterated Capitalism regards working-class youths, boys and girls, most highly for their primary economic value as sexual commodities--not that there's anything especially wrong with that. However, the era before gay liberation as seen in these little studies feels Satanic compared with today. I remember the 70's for its delightful laissez faire quality, which began to change noticeably with President Reagan's election. Today's hard-bitten edge must mean things have only gotten worse. In any event, it's incumbent upon all people of good spirit to transform this game of economic exploitation and social control, which is at the heart of gay projects like Esteve's and Troy Perry's---initiatives which went awry in exactly the same fashion as Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple grassroots project did, just with larger numbers of annihilated Black Americans than gays. Then, there are the special actors:


Dream Comes True for Lad; Charles Manson's Going to Boys Town, by Robert Newell,




The public appeal the Associated Press sent out establishes some of the basic facts of Wanda Long's former proprietorship of  "a bar in [a] section of the French Quarter [that's] a tough area [with a] lot of seaman [...] there and it's not like the places on Bourbon where the tourists are"---which is also to say the places gay people go. With "a heart bigger than her head" it's no wonder she wanted out, but why did Philip Esteve want in? Big question: Did he have any experience with the mafia? Any gay bar of the era, but certainly one catering to hustlers, would have had to pay for those sorts of professional accommodations.

Wanda Long listed two bars for sale, the space upstairs at 604 Iberville, and the street level "Wanda's 7 Seas Bar," at 608 Iberville.

[Source material LGBT Religious Archives Network] September 17, 1970, The Times-Picayune,




The space upstairs was as large as the two drinking establishments which sat underneath it---numbers 139 and 141 Chartre, plus a third again more, comprising the address numbered 135-137. Moreover, since this corner had been constructed originally as three separate dwellings above commerce on the ground floor, which were unified by a common overall design, there was no way to access the third floor in the other buildings except through space Esteve had leased. Even if the third floors were utilized only for dead storage, they had to figure in the cost of the lease.

More importantly, a small tavern that attracts a small crowd makes for a comfortable scene, but as a startup, with no local connections in the business or out, and with a shitload of competition---only a handful of patrons would be lost in a triple-sized venue, which sounds like the antithesis of conviviality.

In the AP Wirephoto of unidentified workers removing body bags by way of a snorkle, we see that directly next door to the unburned awning advertising the 'Up Stairs,' is a small bar called the Midship, and beyond that something Hideaway, and further down a pool hall. All of these businesses would have fit in The Upstairs, with room to spare for more.
Esteve Prepares to Open "The Upstairs"

oops
Source: October 11, 1970, The Times-Picayune, Public Notice, Liquor License Application,


A tell-tale sign Esteve didn't know what he was doing, or didn't care about making the operation rewarding to him, since his hustler bar was providing the carrot on the agencies dime. is the lack of attention he paid in branding his start up. He applied for his licenses under a name The Upstairs, but then his single sign, on the printed awning, announced the venue as Up Stairs. This is why the first news accounts varied so wildly in reporting its proper name, nobody knew what to formally call the venture. So they used the Upstairs Bar, The Upstairs Bar, the Upstairs Lounge, The Up Stairs Lounge---eventually landing on the 21st-century, web-ready address of The UpStairs. A real businessman would pay close attention to branding, and a gay businessman would lavish attention on the graphics. A staircase marked simply Up Stairs would have to rely solely on word of mouth because it would get zilch walk-in traffic.

Proving Esteve didn't have a lock on an inability to name something effectively, is Johnny Townsend's book,
Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs Lounge Fire. Phil's foray into bar management really begins on page 11:
So Phil began looking in the ads. He found a bar on the second floor of a building at 604 Iberville. There was a flop house on the third floor with a couple of rooms for rent. The bar was owned by Wanda Long and had been a gay bar before and at another time had been a merchant seaman bar. Nicky Gristina. a bartender who worked at Wanda's when the place was pretty much a hustler bar, said that Wanda was into witchcraft and would sometimes wipe a special ointment onto the bar to get customers. Wanda had a reputation as a "big crook." but she was always nice to Phil, though she did have a "vulgar mouth." She asked $15,000 for the bar, but Phil didn't want to spend his entire inheritance. He offered $7,500, and Wanda accepted, probably because she knew she had lung cancer and wanted to start taking care of her affairs.
The UpStairs had been closed for a year when Phil took over. Of course, he knew nothing about running a bar, so he went to several bars to observe how things were done. He felt pretty confident, though. You sell liquor and people drink it. It couldn't be that hard
I guess Townsend and his editor spent their energies making the narrative plausible instead of attractive, because it is not. Now, every gay man does not have to have the decorator gene, especially since this bar was meant to cater to men who had sex with other men, but who might not necessarily identify themselves as being gay. Still, it takes taste to avoid the pitfalls in a masculine environment. See how they assembled the decor, from conception to realized interior:
The bar counter was covered with a pink-orange formica, and Phil and Buddy put up a red, flocked wallpaper along the walls. They set up a new wall against the Iberville side of the room behind the bar, covering two more of the windows, leaving four windows out of ten in the two rooms unobstructed. This new wall was brick and had a waterfall in the center. A bit gaudy, perhaps, but still rather nice, especially for this neighborhood. Some plastic lace tablecloths with some plastic roses in vases had been left on the tables by Wanda, but they looked so awful that Phil and Buddy threw them out, putting instead big, teardrop-shaped candles on each table. At least there were no longer phones on the tables. Back when the earlier bar was in business, each table had a phone. Someone would see someone else he liked and phone over to his table to introduce himself. Phil didn't want this to be a cheap pick-up bar, though.
Intra-table telephoning is seen as cheap? I think that's a great idea in a noisy, crowded room---evocative of the old El Morocco club on East 54th Street even. I have already referred to the imposing brick backbar they installed as designed in the style of neo-kiln dwellers, but in Townsend's book they don't even know what its name is, saying they "set up a new wall against the Iberville side of the room behind the bar," when the back bar is the locus of the entire bar business. It's where liquor is displayed and where the cash register sits, and hopefully, goes ca-ching.
The UpStairs Lounge opened on Halloween of 1970.
At first, there weren't many customers. Sometimes, hustlers would bring their tricks from Wanda's (not the same Wanda who had previously owned the UpStairs) and have their johns buy them drinks. But no one was allowed to go about asking people to buy them drinks. If either Phil or Buddy saw any of that, they threw the guy out of the place.
Well, that doesn't sound like much of a launch party. Not a word expended on what should have been pages of gushing plaudits, kudos and hosannas, when an opening night could set a tone, or at least the buzz, that can make or breaks an endeavor. By the desultory sound of it, nobody, from the bar operators, to the writer spinning the tale, has the slightest clue what they're doing.

I don't want to sound like a snob in these matters, but my grandmother owned a tavern for most of her adult life, in Rock Island, Ill., which in the mid-20th century was known as 'Little Chicago' for the loose rules governing the recreation hours of farm-implement manufacturing workers who supplied the bread. By the time I was a toddler, my much-married grandmother owned the building and lived above it with a new husband and had set about making another family, which is why I have aunts younger than myself. I remember she said she always kept a vodka bottle in the rack filled with water because customers would insist they buy her a drink, and she didn't like to drink, but it would be rude to decline the offer.

There was a kitchen in the back at Grandmas (a detail overlooked in the all-you-can-eat-and-drink Sunday beer bashes at the Upstairs) and us kids would be allowed, at most, in the afternoon into the very last booth to eat. I can't remember now, but either the cook was from Chili, or she made excellent chili, or maybe both. She had a yapping Chihuahua dog that I hated and would gladly have eaten in a stew.

Corner taverns were so ubiquitous in that town authorities stopped issuing new permits sometime in the 1940's and it took a couple of decades before the surplus capacity was absorbed. But my grandmother and her husband (in business under the name Bud & Mary's Tavern,) were both sociable and jocular (Her favorite joke ended: "Nurse, Nurse! I told you to prick his boil, not boil his prick! and a belly laugh,) which is an essential virtue in a bar owner, gay or straight.

Townsend writes, "Phil Esteve went into the bar business to make money. But he made more than that. He made friends..." adding that, "When Phil had Christmas dinner at his house, for instance, almost all the guests were customers from the bar."

My mother has spoken to me of her disappointment as a little girl, when her mother annually invited tavern regulars who didn't have families to join them for large holiday meals---notably Thanksgiving day dinner. These men, alcoholics one and all, would be freshly shaved, stuffed stiffly into unfamiliar jackets and ties, and on their best, formal, behavior, while my mother sat yearning for her imaginary National Velvet version of reality. She didn't appreciate the act for its grace, or its good business sense.


Still any small business person knows not to mix making money with making friends, and I doubt Esteve did either, if Townsend's grammar is spot on, "When Phil had Christmas dinner at his house---once!"

In the photo below he looks rather  like a taciturn Ichabod Crane stoned on Rorer 714's---so dour he couldn't even manage to smile when his picture was taken. I get the strong impression he has a lot on his mind, which he is entirely unwilling to share with the rest of us. Not good.


Picture of Philip Esteve, owner and manager of the Upstairs Lounge bar.
Source: Johnny Townsend Collection

While Buddy Rasmussen on the other hand, seen in a photograph taken during the late, flamboyant period of the bar's 32-month run,  four months before its apocalyptic ending, looks like he can handle a joke. This is the only image I know that shows the bar room's front windows, where we can see, there's absolutely  nothing blocking them.


Bartender Buddy Rasmussen and the interior bar area of the Upstairs Lounge, Mardi Gras 1973.
Source: Johnny Townsend collection


Photo 1: Stanley Plaisance, Gene Davis, and two unknown bar patrons.
Source: Johnny Townsend Collection

The middle room, or disco as my mental picture has it, had its short wall facing Chartres, with its three large windows, completely sealed up in a permanent construction, with an air-conditioning unit mounted high up in the former window opening. This was the only wall with windows, so the space had no natural light, but probably wasn't used much in the daytime, and when it was the dimness was prefered.



Photo 2: Mardi Gras costume contest, 1973.
Source: Johnny Townsend Collection


The following picture is captioned:
Audience gathers in theater before show. Persons identified: Bill Larson (back row seated, 2nd from right); Ricky "Mother" Cross (back row, 4th from right); Francis Dufrene (across from Bill Larson); Reggie Adams (to left of Dufrene); Courtney Craighead (eyes shaded in background); and Mike Scarborough (standing, bottom left).
Townsend spent many years, not just in collecting images like these---seizing would be the more accurate term---his job was to scour all the records pertaining to both extinguished and surviving members of the inner circle. The assembled collection is held in some central archive under a ruling narrative holder's control. After 40 years or so, enough time has passed to be fairly certain the knowable facts are now mere slaves, without the potential to wield a bullwhip. A half dozen or so personalities are currently on the creative team tasked with disgorging the homogenized  'memory' of the events from June 1973---which, coming 38 years after the near total silence on the subject, with no journalistic interest, few publications and absolutely no footnotes, has the same lack of proportionality as an Israeli incursion into Gaza.



This honey-toned image depicted above represents the Ur program, but one hard to reconcile on a sociability level with the scenes of rummies drinking away their afternoons. The level of excitement seems way too high for them to be anticipating a Victorian, "I can't pay the rent! You must pay the rent! I'll pay the rent!" melodrama. Even the normally glum Bill Larson has distinct mirth lines lifting the corners of his mouth. Mike Scarborough, who breaks at the hip, is owning the room in a too-knowing pose. He's the one who supposedly broke Roger Nunez's jaw five minutes before everything went poof! And I don't mean, sashay, chanté, poof....I mean, third-degree burns to 95 percent of an arm, or a back---and what kind of burning napalm dripping from ceiling tiles would lead to such horrible burn injuries?

With my one track mind, Courtney Craighead, standing in the back, and the smiling homme noir, Reggie Adams, shielding their eyes, means they're high-level secret agents. They remind me of that famous photograph taken at a supper club in Mexico City with all the laughing Cuban operatives, one of whom holds up a napkin to coyly veil his face from photographic capture. I can't remember any of their names and that's a tough nut to put into Google expecting it to do all the work.


Tee, hee, hee. I'm really very good at what I do.



I used to think that Porter Goss was so hot, but that's a very long time ago.

I don't know yet how completely in the thrall of intelligence agencies the Rev. Troy Perry was during the founding years of the MCC. I haven't read his 1991 autobiography yet, but it's only a penny on Amazon, and I'll know with perfect clarity the instant I do. I've heard it criticized for the beaucoup faux pas detailed in it---so much so I read Rev. Perry quoted as saying his written version of the events surrounding the military-grade chemical firebombing (my terms) "was all made up." It wouldn't be the first or last time. Reggie Adams sure looks happy in these pictures. It can't have been easy to be the only black person in the room in 1973 New Orleans. He must have a very good job title, AND a big dick.



Photo 2: Mike Scarborough, Ginny Lynch and Reggie Adams waiting for show to begin.
Source: Johnny Townsend Collection


Photo 2: Rick Everett as Connie Francis in "Where the Boys Are."
Source: Johnny Townsend Collection (photo 2)


Photo 1: Tad Turner as the heroine Pauline and Adam Fontenot as the hero Harold Trueblood in production of "The Rise and Fall of Sir Jaspar Hardmaster." Source: From Henry Kubicki (photo 1)


Newspaper announcement of melodramatic production at the Upstairs Theater.
Source: The Times-Picayune, May 15, 1971.



The following diagram was part of A. Elwood Willey's NFPA Fire Investigations, Night Club Fire (The Upstairs Lounge) New Orleans, LA, June 24, 1973,  published in the NFPA Journal in 1974.

The graphic below it was the work of Times-Picayune graphics reporter Dan Swenson, and was based on Willey's NFPA diagram, as well as "The UpStairs Lounge Fire" documentary by Royd Anderson, which is an odd chain of credibility for a newspaper of The Times-Picayune's stature to be following. There are serious deficiencies in both attempts to explain the tragedy.

Neither diagram indicates two raised platforms that were constructed by the new owner. One was a dance floor in the lounge, it was built along the Chartres side of the room, 20' wide and about 12' deep.Willey also doesn't indicate by his use of three symbols that the windows in this room were permanently enclosed by wooden construction, although he notes the fact in his written narrative.

In the bar, sharing the wall with the lounge dance floor, a raised platform, 2' high, was built on which was elevated the grand piano--but God only knows why. It is in the nature of a piano bar that people sit around it on stools as close as possible. If they had to build something why not a conforming ledge for patrons to set their drinks and ashtrays on, and spare the instrument's finish. This platform had fire safety implications in that it blocked the bottom two feet of the right window, which was the portion of the frame in the middle window out of which Bill Larson tried, but failed, to escape. If you note that the symbol E indicates this window was the only one out of five through which no escapes were made.

A very grave lapse on Willey's part is his failure to indicate the status of all the fenestration along the Iberville facade. The two original windows behind the back bar were bricked up, either fully or nearly to the top, and Willey doesn't even note their former locations, although he does so with the three windows in the lounge. Perhaps there's a technical distinction between wood and masonry in-filling. In fact, the news accounts are replete with stories of victims having to batter their way through thin plywood  sheathing that obscured windows---that is if one know a window existed behind the decorative treatment.

The last oversight is extremely grave, as it impacts directly on the fire narrative in the several forms it's taken, and seems to represent a conspiracy on the part of Willey, Swenson and Anderson to deceive an honest understanding and analysis of the conditions which led to such an enormous loss of life.

Neither the graphic nor diagram indicate the location of the bathroom, or bathrooms  that serviced the establishment.


In Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs Lounge Fire, by Johnny Townsend, it says only,
The restroom, just to the left of the entrance, mostly needed cleaning. It was 5'4" wide and 6'11" long, big enough. From the restroom to the edge of the bar was about 8'7", with an 8 foot high window in between, plenty of room to move about without feeling crowded.
Willey indicates swinging doors to two spaces which could conform to the dimensions of the bathroom just stated. One, over the entryway (which is where I believe the bathroom was located,) and another space to the left, under the staircase leading up to the third floor, which may be a closet, but inside of which it's indicated two people died, with two other people dying just outside the bathroom door. Willley's great failure was in not noting that the bathroom, or the space directly over the entrance contains an original window 12-feet high, and over three feet wide.






One of the few clues that the bathroom was located over the entryway is this passage in the Townsend book:
That was a pretty big if, though. The neighborhood was fairly sleazy, with a hustler bar in the next block. Since Phil had no intention of owning a sleazy bar, he'd have to work hard to create a different atmosphere at the UpStairs.

"Ugh," said Buddy as he took his first look at the four-foot wide stairwell leading to the bar. Ugly plumbing jutted out everywhere, creating anything but a good first impression. Something definitely had to be done about that. No one wanted to go someplace that was ugly. They went to bars to escape. "I know," he said. "I'll cover the plumbing with fabric. I'll drape it over the pipes all the way down along the ceiling and walls." It might look a little strange, but better to create an odd first impression than an ugly one. Fortunately, they thought, there was a window at the top of the stairwell. They could leave that open to let the air flow, so it wouldn't get stuffy in the stairwell.
The pair could have draped the exposed plumbing in the entrance with tulle and called the place The Tulle Shed.

Swenson indicates in his graphic that a fifth window, symmetrical aligned along the Iberville facade, is positioned directly over the entryway, but he fails to indicate that this location is even accessible---at least in the first two panels of his triptych. What could well be a slanted wall might also mean to indicate a door swing, but only into the room under the staircase leading up to the third floor. In the third panel, two fatalities are located inside this place, and two other fatalities are positioned mid-threshold in a doorway which has suddenly appeared to swing open over the entryway. In all three panel, Swenson is giving the floor plan for the second floor, but in the first panel he places a gray arrow pointing inward, marked  "Entrance From Ground Level, as of this excuses his failure to indicate a second-floor bathroom over the entryway. This would not be kosher in a student's draft work let alone in a published graphic that rises to the level of significance which record-breaking, historic loss of life represents.

Moreover, Swenson places a fatality directly inside of the window that leads to the fire escape! How could that be? What was the status of this window opening? Barred, boarded, burglar-proofed or bricked up? Regardless if it were properly marked or not (The exit sign was missing from the exit at the rear of the building, behind the stage, while the status of the other exit signs couldn't be determined in Willey's seven-page study.) the presence of the exterior fire escape meant if not a point of emergency egress, than it was one of emergency access, for anyone descending from the floor above.


The constant inconsistency of the chief spokespeople who fed raw information to the news reporters that was really rancid was a deliberate muddying of the waters. Take this paragraph from Townsend:

The bar, 28'4" in length and 2'2" in width, came 6'4" out from the Iberville wall and ran parallel to it, with 22 chrome stools with padded red seats. There were seven windows in that first room, all from the floor almost to the ceiling, and three windows like this in the second room. The three in the second room were covered with plywood, but what about these in the first room? My God, thought Phil, what if someone fell out of the windows? Think of the lawsuits. But on closer inspection, he saw that the windows all had bars covering the lower portion. They weren't burglar bars, spaced too far apart for that, but they would alert people that there was a window there and that they'd better not walk out into empty air. Yet the windows wouldn't stay open, anyway, he discovered. The ropes connecting them to the counterweights had rotted, so the windows would slide shut when opened unless propped open with a stick.
So, if the bars on the front windows were more akin to child safety guards then regulation burglar deterrents why did the headlines trumpet that deaths had occurred because victims were prevented from fleeing due to burglar bars or other forms of impedimenta at the front windows? Were their burglar bars in the rear windows, but not the front. Why do so many reports state the lucky few who escaped out the windows had to first tear their way through plywood walls that sheathed them? Why did the story circulate that only the skinny had escaped out barred windows, when several of the earliest eyewitnesses stated a 300 pound man rushed out, and fell to the sidewalk with his clothes on fire?

Why does the copy available online of the official NFPA Fire Investigations, Night Club Fire (The Upstairs Lounge) New Orleans, LA, June 24, 1973, by A. Elwood Willey, state that "All non-NFPA photographs have been removed from this document." How can anyone outside of the closed ranks of their profession attempt to recreate their analysis and arrive at the same conclusions they did without the same material they had to work with? Instead, they prefer to stand behind some obscure nicety of copyright, which doesn't suit men who are in the business of death. The little gem of an image below is from the title page of the report, and clearly a NFPA approved photograph, since no one can make any sense out of it. To the degree I can, it seems clear there was an intent to obscure my recognizing the presence of the diagonal line of the exterior fire escape, disguised as if by a digital smoke blast. (But this is a good image to note the relationship of the new Marriott to the corner.




I have begun to assemble the primary news record of the fire from 1973 but it is very difficult going. One group, the pretentiously named  LGBT Religious Archives Network, has the best online collection, and utilizes some nifty software for organizing and displaying clipped articles, but it is still a piss-poor effort. The essential local record from The Times-Picayune and The State-Times in Baton Rouge is nearly absent online beyond the first day's coverage. The national gay bi-weekly, The Advocate did some of the most comprehensive reporting on the fire in the weeks and months that followed (if the tidbits available online are any indication) but most of that is also missing from digital access. Why is that? One would think that a gay publication would have a vested interest in getting their history straight, but they're as skittish as the Washington Post.

June 25, 1973, AP - UPI

June 26, 1973, UPI - AP

June 27, 1973 - November 5, 1973, AP - UPI

1974 - 1977, The Times-Picayune

The Advocate

June 25, 1973, New York Times,

Pre-1973 Fire Articles

Perhaps it's because, like the LGBT Religious Archives Network, who thank the same small cast of characters whose long involvement in the quietus of the issue now makes them the new facilitators for the sudden, unnatural, pretended interest in reclaiming a so-called lost gay history, but what was lost is still very much lost.

The LGBT Religious Archives Network, for instance, thank Johnny Townsend, the "New Orleans writer who single-handedly collected stories and personal photos of persons related to the Upstairs Lounge fire over many years, [and] generously shared his photo collection with us which brought a critical personal dimension to this exhibit."

Yes, a dozen images will have that effect on anyone who's existed for 40 years in a desert of truth, but the dearth of facts is Johnny's doing. Ask him to release his entire holding of material as a public good---for holding is exactly what he has done with with his work

His page at Kirkus reviews calls Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs Lounge Fire,  an 'unpublished' work, so maybe his 2011 bootlocker release is technically counted as a bootlicker, but even if he did make an effort to disseminate his junk work it was decades too late. It certainly carries no prestige. The pages I've sampled online are an appalling example of lies, dodges, feints and asslicking; even his grammar is insincere. He is a fiction writer who should not cash his final government check, and stick to writing about Mormon underwear. The title of the book is especially obscene given that Townsend himself works to protect the occult perpetrators

Diane Anderson-Minshall's article in last November's Advocate was very good, in fact---too good. She needed to have the most comprehensive grasp on the truth in order to so skillfully dodge it as she did. But she did a great public service by revealing that Buddy Rasmussen, the hero bartender, had locked the outside door behind him when he left the second floor by way of an exit hidden behind some stage scenery, which was unknown to the others. His act of dotting the I's and crossing his T's with a key had the effect of insuring no unplanned escapes or rescues could be made, which can't be called "inadvertent,"  but speaks to some murderous internecine struggle that went on during the absurdly brief moments on the second floor.

Apparently this damning fact about Rasmussen was established long ago by official inquiry but was judged too sensitive for public release. (Like Lyndon Johnson saying the world would cease to exist if it were revealed he ordered the assassination of President Kennedy.) I for one am very interested in the process by which a fact like this made its way into the light 40 years afterward.

I saw that buffoon Royd Anderson on video still defending Rasmussen, somehow claiming the bartender's action was in defense of the common interests of worthy persons, but that's the typical illogic of a creative fiction writer. Rasmussen's is a profound manifestation of the diabolical, where an evil perpetrator in secret is lauded in public as a virtuous hero---and all for the selfsame reasons!

My Current Shit List

Johnny Townsend
Royd Anderson
Robert L. Camina
Jim Downs
Skylar Fein
Frank Perez
Wayne Self
Clayton Delery-Edwards,
Sheri L. Wright


Here is a photo showing the bathroom window that nobody ever mentions.




Here's a test to see how deep your knowledge of all thing UpStairs Lounge goes...

Well known is the middle-aged mother, who along with her two sons died in the fire. Was she the only female victim of the fire?

It took that as an article of faith until recently, when I learned of Jean Gosnell, the most seriously wounded of the survivors. She desire for cards and letters, "particularly from women," is infinitely touching.

Jean Gosnell: U.S. Public Health Services Hospital, New Orleans; serious. Girlfriend of one of the victims of the fire, she has one son in New Orleans and is in the most serious condition of all the survivors. Cards and letters, particularly from women, are especially needed. She is 36.
August 15, 1973, Advocate, Issue 118, page 2, New Orleans officials still silent on fire, by Bill Rushton,
In addition to her anomalous role as sole female survivor, and "the bitch who took it the hardest, and only asked for more," when firemen arrived within minutes of the small fire being noticed at the foot of the stairs, resulting in an instantaneous building-wide carnage, Gosnell was found perched on the fire escape---either alone, or with four or five other Iberville-side survivors. They say that women are smarter than men and I think this proves it. How sensible. How normal. I still haven't figured out how she did it.