The City of New Orleans, Louisiana might be known as he Big Easy today but as in many cities throughout the country during the 1950s, members of the homosexual community in New Orleans were often victims of violence and were often arrested because of their sexuality. The “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (“Let the good times roll.”) mindset didn’t extend to the city’s gay citizens, and much like other major cities across the nation, anti-gay campaigns often heated up ahead of local elections.
In n 1958, city councilmen complained that the police were sitting on their hands while the French Quarter was being invaded by roving bands of homosexuals, allegedly from other cities since, apparently, such a thing was unheard of there, the city’s storied tolerance for sexual eccentrics in music, literature and the arts notwithstanding. One councilman complained of “men with blondined hair and awful looking people all day and all night in the French Quarter,” and wondered why police had only made 86 arrests in two years on charges of lewd behavior or wearing women’s clothing. Police Supt. Provosty A. Dayries responded, “You can’t just point to someone and say he or she is a deviate — that is one of the frustrating things about the problem.”
Amid complaints about lax police enforcement and courts that insisted that those arrested should be charged with something specific and based on real evidence, Mayor Morrison appointed his half-brother, Jacob Morrison to head a citizen’s committee to look into the problem. With pressure increasing across all sectors of city government, Supt. Dayries launched a raid against known “deviate bars,” arresting eighteen people (mostly bar employees) on charges of vagrancy, disturbing the peace, and “no visible means of support.” Thirty others were warned to stay away. While most of the charges were dropped the next day the city’s principal newspaper, the Times Picayune, would publish (their) names and address…under the heading, ‘Crimes Against Nature.
Two months later in September three Tulane undergrads wanted to partake of “time honored tradition, for fraternities” called “rolling a queer.” Fernando Rios a Mexico City-based tour guide was thier chosen victim. He was beaten and robbed in an alleyway, left unconscious on the sidewalk, and died later that day. During January of 1959, his assailants were charged but acquitted under the “gay panic” defense, and the courtroom cheered.
49 years ago on June 24th, 1973 the final day of Pride Weekend, thirty-two lives were lost when an arsonist set fire to the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The UpStairs Lounge fire is the deadliest fire in New Orleans history and now the second largest mass murder of LGBT people ever in the United States
The gay club was, located on the second floor of a three-story building at the corner of Chartres and Iberville Streets in the French Quarter and L was one of a rare few left in the French Quarter that had a wooden exterior.
That Sunday, dozens of members of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), the nation’s first gay church, founded in Los Angeles in 1969, got together there for drinks and conversation and to celebrate the fourth anniversary of Stonewall . The club hosted free beer and dinner for 125 patrons. The atmosphere was evem welcoming enough that two gay brothers, Eddie and Jim Warren, even brought their mom, Inez, and proudly introduced her to the other patrons.
At 7:56pm, a buzzer from downstairs sounded; bartender Buddy Rasmussen asked Luther Boggs to answer the door. To answer it, you had to unlock a steel door that opened onto a flight of stairs leading down to the ground floor. Boggs opened the door to find the front staircase engulfed in flames, along with the smell of lighter fluid. In the next instant, he found himself in unimaginable pain as the fireball exploded, pushing upward and into the bar.
The ensuing 15 minutes were the most horrific that any of the 65 or so customers had ever endured — full of flames, smoke, panic, breaking glass, and screams.
Metal bars on the UpStairs Lounge windows, meant to keep people from falling out, were just 14 inches apart; while some managed to squeeze through and jump, others got stuck. Reverend Bill Larson of the MCC clung to the bars of one window until he died. When police and firefighters surveyed and began clearing the scene, they left Larson fused to the window frame until the next morning.
MCC assistant pastor George “Mitch” Mitchell escaped, but soon returned to try to rescue his boyfriend, Louis Broussard. Both died in the fire, their bodies clinging together in death, like a scene from the aftermath of Pompeii.
Thirty-two people lost their lives that Sunday 45 years ago — Luther Boggs, Inez Warren, and Warren’s sons among them.
A police officer at the time dismissed the French Quarter lounge as a place where “thieves” and “queers” hung out and their was little interest in solving the case. There were no City Hall press conferences or statements of condolence from the governor, and no civil authorities publicly spoke out about the fire, other than to mumble about needed improvements to the city’s fire code. The detectives wouldn’t even acknowledge that it was an arson case, saying the cause of the fire was of “undetermined origin.”
News coverage, both print and television, made every effort to omit the fact that the fire had anything to do with homosexuals in the community, even though a gay bar and members of a gay church congregation had been involved. The stories that appeared included quotes from local citizens that can only be described as ignorant, such as a cab driver who said “I hoped the fire burned their dresses off,” and one woman who opined that “the Lord … cooked them.” Local talk radio hosts were making jokes such as, “What do they bury the ashes of queers in?” The answer: “Fruit jars.”
To this day no one was ever officially charged with the crime. The only suspect in the attack was Rogder Dale Nunez, a local hustler and troublemaker who had been tossed out of the bar earlier in the evening. Nunez escaped from psychiatric custody and was never picked up again by police, despite frequent appearances in the French Quarter. A friend later told investigators that Nunez confessed on at least four occasions to starting the fire. He told the friend that he squirted the bottom steps with Ronsonol lighter fluid bought at a local Walgreens and tossed the match.
The List of Victims
Partners, Joe William Bailey & Clarence Joseph 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, assistance pastor at MCC, died trying to save his partner, Louis Horace Broussard.
Mrs. Willie Inez Warren died with her sons, 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 (Bud) Matyi, A rising young songwriter, perfumer and singer who had recently appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. His Body was Identified and buried through the help of his personal manger and his wife. The Cornman Family of New Orleans.
Reginald Adams, Jr., MCC member, formerly a Jesuit Scholastic. Partner of entertainer Regina Adams.
James Walls Hambrick 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
Donald Walter Dunbar
John Thomas Golding, Sr., member of MCC Pastor’s Advisory Group.
Professional linguist, Adam Roland Fontenot, survived by Douglas “Buddy” Rasmussen, who led a group to safety.
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, Unknown White Male, Unknown White Male, Unknown White Male, the City refused to release these bodies to the MCC for burial because they could not be identified
Two gay bars in New Orleans. The Phoenix and The Rawhide Lounge are accusing that the state’s Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) have unfairly singled them out for citations just one week before Mardi Gras.
ATC cited us that we were in violation of some state laws. The citations were not unlike what we have seen them recently give other gay bars. We plan on attending our hearing and stating our case.
An attack on one of us is an attack on all us. We hope you stand with us…. We have been so honored to be a part of this community for more than 35 years. We love hosting the local queer groups for monthly fundraisers and special events.
As we work toward our hearing date, the entire bar is open, upstairs and down.
Michael Musa, Director of Operations at the Rawhide Lounge, told Big Easy magazine the ATC imposed “numerous fines, citations, and imposed regulations on how to operate,” after the city’s 2018 Southern Decadence celebration:
According to Musa, when The Rawhide’s lawyer asked the ATC commissioner why the citations issued were harsher than those previously given to New Orleans strip clubs charged with prostitution, the commissioner said that she “felt these violations were worse.” The lawyer then asked if she truly felt that “acts between two consenting males in a restroom” were worse than prostitution. The commissioner backtracked.
We are aware of the recent enforcement actions taken against the The Phoenix, The Rawhide and others. We stand with our LGBTQ+ residents and our LGBTQ+ owned businesses and we always will. These enforcement entities are *not* under the City’s control, but we are concerned whenever our residents feel targeted. We are actively engaging all involved and will continue to do so.
It’s estimated that about 100.000 LGBT people visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
This week on the latest episode of “Ghost Hunters”, the hit paranormal reality show on the SyFy, channel Adam Berry who joined the cast as a paranormal investigator in 2010, after winning the “Ghost Hunters Academy” competition, very matter of factly came out to the shows nationwide audience.
Adam’s intention was to make a connection with the spirits of the gay men whose lives had been lost in a fire, at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana one of the most deadly attacks on LGBT people in United States history
According to the reports, an arsonist set fire to the original building in 1973, killing 32 men who tried desperately to escape through windows without success. Because the establishment was frequented by the gay community, many families were afraid to claim the bodies of those lost in the fire. As a result, many were buried in unmarked graves. And in an attempt to connect with the deceased, Adam Berry revealed that he, too, was gay and that the spirits had nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.
Berry married his long-time lover, Ben Griessmeyer, in August of 2012. But until this week, no mention of his sexual orientation or recent marriage had been mentioned on “Ghost Hunters”.
A tweet from his Twitter account dated Sept. 20, suggests that some fans did not react favorably.
“To those complaining: I said I was gay during the show b/c I wanted 2 connect 2 the spirits that were lost. FYI been ‘out’ for a decade! LOL” says Berry.
But most fans while some expressed surprise by the announcement, congratulated him for his courage.
From Back2Stonewall.com Adam CONGRATULATIONS on your recent marriage and for so matter of factly being an out gay man on television.
The Times Picayune is reporting that nine men have been arrested for anti-gay street preaching against celebrants at New Orleans’ annual Southern Decadence this weekend and one other “preacher” was arrested for attempting to assault an officer.
Patrick O’Connell, 45, Rolando Igleasias, 31, Cesar Chavez, 22, Daniel Hoogerhuis, 26, Danny Guevera, 20, Larry Craft, 52, Montes Diego, 32 and Gary Brown, 33 were arrested on suspicion of aggressive solicitation, a city law passed last October.
The ordinance prohibits “any person or group of persons to loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise.”
Another man was arrested for attempting to assault an officer.
New Orleans police spokesman Frank Robertson said the men were previously warned not to use bullhorns, but did not comply. Casey Kolosky, a bouncer at Tropical Isle, said the preachers were making slurs against gays and also mentioned Hurricane Katrina victims
Note to the guy in orange carrying the sign: Your outfit is a sin.
Hurricane Issac made landfall off the Gulf of Mexico several days ago, yet some are blaming a local New Orleans fesitval on the storm. Each year, New Orleans has a fesitivity called Southern Decadence which to locals is commonly called “Gay Mardi Gras”. The nearly week long festivity is now being blamed as the reason the strom made landfall by “religious leaders”.
“Pastor ” Jon McTernan.wrote in his blog that there are asinine comparisons between Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Katrina happening exactly seven years apart because it took God seven days to create everything. Here’s more of his absurd proclamation:
The hurricane is scheduled to hit the New Orleans area on Wednesday, August 29 which is the beginning of an annual homosexual event in New Orleans called “Southern Decadence.”
The church, city and nation have not repented and the homosexual agenda is far worse than it was in 2005. New Orleans is still hosting Southern Decadence with open homosexuality manifesting in the streets of the city. It could be that God is putting an end to this city and its wickedness. The timing of Hurricane Isaac with Southern Decadence is a sign that God’s patience with America’s sin is coming to an end.”
This coincides with the Disturbed and hypocritical rantings of Rush Limbaugh, who made similar jests saying that President Obama somehow controlled the weather:
“What could be better for the Democrats than the Republicans to cancel a day of this?..I’m alleging no conspiracy. I’m just telling you, folks, when you put this all together in this timeline, I’m telling you, it’s unbelievable!”
Despite the “pastor’s” religious claims, the Southern Decadence festivity is still on schedule going from August 29 to September 3. Is this how the religious right explain all acts of nature because of us gays? Ridiculous.
Scott Fujita, who has been vocal supporter for gay rights in the past, spoke to reporters about the ‘Focus on the Family’ Tim Tebow ad, the NYT reports:
“The issue resonates with Fujita because he was adopted, and Fujita said he respected Tebow for standing up for what he believed in.’ The idea of focusing on the family — who wouldn’t agree with that?’ Fujita said. ‘But the means of doing so, he and I might not see eye to eye all the way.’ When Fujita was born in 1979, his biological mother, he said, was in her teens and she gave him up for adoption because she did not have the means to raise a child. ‘I’m just so thankful she had the courage and the support system to be able to carry out the pregnancy,’ Fujita said. ‘I wouldn’t expect that of everybody.'”
As for the ad’s timing, Fujita said, “The idea of doing it at the Super Bowl is going to raise some eyebrows. Do they have the right? Absolutely. Is it going to offend some people? Absolutely.”
Fujita also talked about having progressive gay rights views and speaking openly about them within the NFL:
“By and large, the players are more tolerant than they get credit for. It’s not a big issue. Some guys will think you are crazy for believing one way, but they’ll still accept you….It’s just me standing up for equal rights. It’s not that courageous to have an opinion if you think it’s the right thing and you believe it wholeheartedly.”
Scott made similar statements in an October ’09 interview in the Huffington Post: Scott Fujita rocks! A well-reasoned, insightful, thoughtful man in the NFL-who woulda thunk it?-especially in a sport where fundamentalist christianity is shoved down the players throats from their coaches on down- (ex colts coach -Mr. Dungy for example. A refreshing point of view from a man who obviously is comfortable in his own skin-an anamoly in most professional athletes
“I have no concern about [being stigmatized] whatsoever. I know who I am. My wife knows who I am. I don’t care one way or the other Dave. I imagine that when some of this gets out guys in the locker room might give me a hard time, and they always give me a hard time. They call me the Pinko Communist Fag from Berkeley. I’m used to it. I can take it all.”
And his most salient point:
“By and large in this country the issue of gay rights and equality should be past the point of debate. Really, there should be no debate anymore.”