LGBTQ* History You (Probably) Never Heard Of
New Orleans, the Fire and the Eraser
* Trigger Warning: murder, arson, homophobia, church refusal
The (arson?/fire?) made the newspaper on one day. After details were shared the day after the fire, the story never made New Orleans’ print again.
Filed by Jesse Monteagudo
On June 24, 1973 an arsonist started a fire that consumed the UpStairs Lounge, a second-floor gay bar in New Orleans’s French Quarter. The UpStairs Lounge Fire was both the deadliest fire in the history of New Orleans and the largest mass-killing of gay people in the US.
Among the 31 men and one woman who died in the fire were members of the local Metropolitan Community Church, who frequented the Lounge after services for its Sunday “beer bust.” (One particularly grisly photo was of MCC Pastor William R. Larson, who burned to death while trying to escape through a window.)
The UpStairs Lounge Fire showed New Orleans at its homophobic worst as many families refused to claim the victims’ bodies and most local churches refused to conduct their funerals. MCC founder Troy Perry and other activists rushed to New Orleans to help bury the victims who, as many locals thought, “got what they deserved.”