Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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"

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.

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