NOTE: Today’s discussion involves some gruesome descriptions of what happened on the night of Sunday, June 24, 1973. You may wish to listen to this one when your little ones are not around.

On June 24, 1973 an arsonist set fire to a gay bar in New Orleans called the Up Stairs Lounge. Within moments fire engulfed the bar, and ultimately claimed the lives of 32 people. It was the largest massacre of LGBTQ individuals in the United States until the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016.

My guests today are Robert “Bobby” Fieseler, and Clayton Delery. Bobby authored a new book about the fire entitled, Tinderbox, the Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation.

Clayton Delery is a native of Metairie, LA just outside of New Orleans. Clayton’s 2015 book about the fire, The Upstairs Lounge Arson: 32 Deaths in a Gay Bar, was recognized by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities with a Book of the Year Award.

Join us as we talk about the fire, about life in New Orleans during that time, and about the impact of the fire on New Orleans and its citizens in the 45 years since.

Resources

Tinderbox, the Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, by Robert Fieseler, is available on Amazon and at local bookstores, including Garden District Book Shop and Octavia Books. You can also follow Robert Fieseler on Twitter (@wordbobby).

The Upstairs Lounge Arson: 32 Deaths in a Gay Bar, by Clayton Delery is available on Amazon.

Johnny Townsend's book Let the Faggots Burn was the first book published about the Up Stairs Lounge fire. His book is a great source of information about the men (and women) who lost their lives in this tragedy. You can purchase Johnny's book at Amazon.

Robert Camina produced an award-winning and moving documentary about the fire called Upstairs Inferno. You can purchase it directly from his website

Thank You

I first learned about the Up Stairs Lounge massacre many years ago.

Its been on my list of topics for the Beyond Bourbon Street podcast since we launched in December 2016, but I hesitated to tackle it. I wanted to make sure I had the interview skills to do it justice. I also wanted to find the right person or people to talk to. Thanks to my friend James Tardie I connected with Robert, and through Robert, with Clayton.

Words cannot express how appreciative I am to Robert Fieseler and to Clayton Delery for opening up to me. While I understand they have books to promote, it is obvious how personal the story is to both of them. Our discussion was difficult, but I hope it conveys to you the listener at least a sense of the tragedy itself, as well as the times.

I am also hopeful by sharing this story, it helps us all be mindful of the work we still have to do in today's world to ensure everyone is treated as equals.

I also owe a word of thanks to John Price and the Old 77 Hotel. When John heard about this topic, he quickly offered a space for us to record. The Old 77 actively supports all members of our community, and I am honored to have them as a partner.

  Sponsor: The Old 77 Hotel and Chandlery

When you're ready to make your plans to visit New Orleans, you'll need a place to stay. The Old 77 is ideally situated in the Warehouse District, just three blocks from the French Quarter. It features a variety of pet-friendly rooms, the award-winning Compere Lapin restaurant, and more.

You'll love the location, the rooms, and the food, but the details and the service are what you'll fall in love with!

To book your room, click here or use code BBOLD77 to save 25% off their regular rates.

You'll also get a bit of lagniappe, a little something extra. In this case, you'll receive a $10 credit to be used at Tout La in the hotel lobby - your stop for coffee and a quick bite to eat as you head out to explore New Orleans.

Lagniappe, part II - email a copy of your reservation to mark@beyondbourbonst.com and I'll send you my pdf guide of what to eat, see and do in the Warehouse District.

 

Want to Make Your Trip to New Orleans the Best Ever?

Of course you do!

If you’re planning a trip to New Orleans and want to cut through all the research we’re here to help. We offer a personalized travel consult. Here’s how it works:

You complete a brief questionnaire to help us get to know you and the experience you want to have in New Orleans. Next, we set up a 20-30 minute phone or video call. During the call, we get to know you a little better. We can clarify any questions and bounce a few ideas off of you to make sure we ‘re on the right track.

Finally, we prepare and deliver a pdf document with our recommendations for your trip. Depending on your needs the report will contain specific places to stay, eat and drink. It will also offer suggestions on things to do and see, all based on your budget and interests.

Sound good? Just go to beyondbourbonst.com/travel for all the details and a link to order the service.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you enjoy the show, please subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, SpotifyGoogle Play Music or wherever you get your podcasts. If you do enjoy listening, please share Beyond Bourbon Street with someone who shares our love of New Orleans.

Join Us on Facebook

We have a free Facebook group where you can ask questions, share your New Orleans experiences and engage with others who love all things New Orleans! It is also where you can get Marie's advice and see the articles she shares about fun things to do in the Crescent City. Join us by going to beyondbourbonst.com/facebook.

Contact Us

Got an idea for an episode, have some feedback or just want to say hi?

Leave us a message at 504-475-7632 or send an email to mark@beyondbourbonst.com

Thanks for listening!

Mark