Monday, June 24, 2013

The Upstairs Lounge Remembered

On the eve of June 24, 1973 the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans was firebombed. The resultant blaze killed 32 people. Today is the 40th anniversary of this cruel tragedy. The bar had been used as a temporary meeting place for the Metropolitan Community Church. There had been a get together for free beer and an all you can eat dinner. Afterwards some of the congregation of the MCC stayed. There was a buzz at the door and when it was opened flames engulfed the place. Someone had set fire to the wooden stairs that lead up to the door. As if the action itself wasn't bad enough there were jokes made about the victims and churches in the area refused to let the families have memorial services. This all came about only four years after the Stonewall Riots showing that change would be slow to come.

In Memory . . . here is a list of the victims of the Upstairs Lounge fire.

~ Partners Joe William Bailey & Clarence Josephy McCloskey, Jr. perished together. McCloskey's sisters and two nieces attended the Memorial Service. His niece, Susan, represented McCloskey in the Jazz Funeral.
~ Duane George "Mitch" Mitchell, assistant MCC pastor. He had escaped through the emergency exit with a group led by bartender Douglas "Buddy" Rasmussen, but ran back into the burning building trying to save his partner, Louis Horace Broussard. Their bodies were discovered lying together.
~ Mrs. Willie Inez Warren of Pensacola later died from burns suffered in the fire. Her two sons died inside the bar, Eddie Hosea Warren and James Curtis Warren.
~ Pastor of the MCC, Rev. William R. Larson, formerly a Methodist lay minister.
~ Dr. Perry Lane Waters, Jr., a Jefferson Parish dentist. Several victims were his patients and were identified by his x-rays.
~ Douglas Maxwell Williams
~ Leon Richard Maples, a visitor from Florida.
~ George Steven Matyi
~ Larry Stratton
~ Reginald Adams, Jr., MCC member, formerly a Jesuit Scholastic. Partner of entertainer Regina Adams.
~ James Walls Hambrick, who had jumped from the building in flames, died later that week.
~ Horace "Skip" Getchell, MCC member.
~ Joseph Henry Adams
~ Herbert Dean Cooley, UpStairs Lounge bartender and MCC member.
~  Professional pianist, David Stuart Gary.
~ Guy D. Anderson
~ Luther Boggs, teacher, who died two weeks later. Notified while hospitalized with terrible burns that he had been fired from his job.
~ Donald Walter Dunbar
~ Professional linguist, Adam Roland Fontenot, survived by his partner, bartender Douglas "Buddy" Rasmussen, who led a group to safety.
~ John Thomas Golding, Sr., member of MCC Pastor's Advisory Group.
~ Gerald Hoyt Gordon
~ Kenneth Paul Harrington, Federal Government employee.
~ Glenn Richard "Dick" Green, Navy veteran.
~ Robert "Bob" Lumpkin
~ Four men were buried in Potter's Field: Ferris LeBlanc (later indentified), and three persons only identified as Unknown White Males. The city refused to release these bodies to the MCC for burial.

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