The past few weeks I’ve been working to gather as many primary newspaper sources from New Orleans regarding the UpStairs Lounge fire—a fire in a New Orleans gay bar that killed 32 on June 24, 1973.
I’ve read a lot of secondary source material about the fire, which included quotes from newspaper and television news stories about the tragedy. But sometimes seeing the coverage with your own eyes is more impactful than originally thought.
There was a passage the day after the fire in the New Orleans States-Item, which was merged with the Times-Picayune in 1980, about the bar and those killed by the arsonist. The passage features quotes and paraphrased quotes from a New Orleans lead detective as to the identities of the victims of the arson. It reads:
…Maj. Morris asked that anyone who believes relatives of theirs may have been in the fire and would have knowledge of their dental records to contact Charity Hospital.
. . . “We don’t even know if these papers belonged to the people we found them on,” Morris said. “Some thieves hung out there and you know this was a queer bar.”
. . . Another police source said it is not uncommon fro homosexuals to carry false identification, which could complicate the identification procedure.
Angus Lind, Lanny Thomas, & Walt Philbin. “13 Fire Victims are Identified.” The States-Item Monday, June 25, 1973 A-1 Col. 6
So much for compassion for the victims of a mass murder.
Click the thumbnail below to view the entire first day of coverage from the States-Item.