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Sat Jun 25, 2016, 02:42 AM

Remembering the UpStairs Lounge: The U.S.A.’s Largest LGBT Massacre Happened 40 Years Ago Today

The 24th of June in 1973 was a Sunday. For New Orleans’ gay community, it was the last day of national Pride Weekend, as well as the fourth anniversary of 1969’s Stonewall uprising. You couldn’t really have an open celebration of those events — in ’73, anti-gay slurs, discrimination, and even violence were still as common as sin — but the revelers had few concerns. They had their own gathering spots in the sweltering city, places where people tended to leave them be, including a second-floor bar on the corner of Iberville and Chartres Street called the UpStairs Lounge.

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. It seems to have been an amiable group. The atmosphere was welcoming enough that two gay brothers, Eddie and Jim Warren, even brought their mom, Inez, and proudly introduced her to the other patrons. Beer flowed. Laughter filled the room.

Just before 8:00p, the doorbell rang insistently. To answer it, you had to unlock a steel door that opened onto a flight of stairs leading down to the ground floor. Bartender Buddy Rasmussen, expecting a taxi driver, asked his friend Luther Boggs to let the man in. Perhaps Boggs, after he pulled the door open, had just enough time to smell the Ronsonol lighter fluid that the attacker of the UpStairs Lounge had sprayed on the steps. 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.

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.

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We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. Until people recognize and confront their homophobia and heterosexism, we will not see true equality. When people make jokes about homophobes, especially male ones, as "self-loathing gays", we will only see further bigotry and hate go unaddressed. Until people recognize the struggle for equality and our civil rights is far from over, we will see people rise against us. The tragedy of the UpStairs Lounge and reactions to it let's us see how far we have come in some respects, but the Pulse massacre and reactions to it, show how far we still have to go!

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Reply Remembering the UpStairs Lounge: The U.S.A.’s Largest LGBT Massacre Happened 40 Years Ago Today (Original post)
Behind the Aegis Jun 2016 OP
LineReply .
irisblue Jun 2016 #1
JonathanRackham Jun 2016 #2
Aerows Jun 2016 #3
Ex Lurker Jun 2016 #5
LineReply .
TexasTowelie Jun 2016 #4
still_one Jun 2016 #6
Behind the Aegis Jun 2016 #12
LineReply .
ReRe Jun 2016 #7
LineReply .
In_The_Wind Jun 2016 #8
Rhiannon12866 Jun 2016 #9
SunSeeker Jun 2016 #10
brer cat Jun 2016 #11
Solly Mack Jun 2016 #13
awoke_in_2003 Jun 2016 #14
sheshe2 Jun 2016 #15
gratuitous Jun 2016 #16
Behind the Aegis Jun 2016 #17
smirkymonkey Jun 2016 #18

Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 02:50 AM

1. .

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 03:06 AM

3. I grew up and came out in New Orleans

 

The Bourbon Street Pub and Cafe Lafitte's en Exile were two great clubs.

I went on a bar tour (Yes, the French Quarter has bar tours, but I was taking along some tourist friends) and we stopped by different buildings, including the oldest bar in the US (yep, would be right in the French Quarter).

I don't remember (ha!) if I've been in the Upstairs Lounge location regardless of what the name was in my era, but there are puzzle pieces all over the French Quarter that fit into a mosaic of extraordinary culture.

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Response to Aerows (Reply #3)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 03:45 AM

5. IIR there is still a bar in that building, but on the ground floor

The area that housed the actual Upstairs Lounge is not in use.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 03:49 AM

6. I wasn't even aware of this until the last few days. Thanks

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Response to still_one (Reply #6)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 01:03 PM

12. Part of history often hidden from view.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 04:23 AM

7. .

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 04:33 AM

9. ...

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 04:50 AM

10. Horrible. 32 perished in hellish agony.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 06:24 AM

11. We need to remember,

and use those painful memories to recommit to the journey ahead. Being able to put a check mark by a milestone achieved doesn't mean the struggle is over.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 01:45 PM

13. K&R

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 07:37 PM

14. K&R

 

Like you say, we, as a country, have come a long way, and still a long ways to go. There is also needed vigilance- the other side never gives up. Just look at the fight against reproductive rights. They will try to chip away, little by little, at every victory.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jun 25, 2016, 11:48 PM

15. That picture of the Reverad Bill Larson.

Tears.

I am so sorry, I never knew.



BtA

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sun Jun 26, 2016, 12:46 AM

16. The real kick in the gut for me

Is that many of the bodies were never claimed, and three men were never identified.

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Response to gratuitous (Reply #16)

Sun Jun 26, 2016, 01:52 AM

17. I know, that tore at me too.

With this most recent tragedy, we saw it happen once; a father refused his son's remains because he was gay. We have come a long way in many respects, but then there is always something that slaps us in the face, and reminds us that more than a few people still hate us with every fiber of their being.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sun Jun 26, 2016, 03:38 AM

18. K&R

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