Upstairs Lounge Fire

The 1973 arson attack at the Upstairs Lounge killed 32 people and was the largest massacre of LGBTQ individuals in the United States prior to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016. The disgraceful reaction of the media and most New Orleanians galvanized the LGBT community as they mourned those lost to the deadliest fire in New Orleans history.

Upstairs Lounge Fire, 1973: 32 Deaths

June 24, 1973 seemed like any other night at the Upstairs Lounge. The Metropolitan Community Church had just finished a worship service and was hosting a social event with free beer and food for about 125 people. As the night went on, this number…

Upstairs Lounge Fire, 1973: News Coverage

National press coverage of the Upstairs Lounge fire was rather light and short-lived considering the scale of the crime. Coverage in New Orleans was insensitive and callous; newspaper reporters described “bodies stacked up like pancakes” and…

Upstairs Lounge Arson, 1973: Aftermath

Thirty-two people died in the Upstairs Lounge Fire, making it the deadliest fire in the history of New Orleans. In the fire’s aftermath, many New Orleans residents revealed prejudice against LGBT people and culture. Survivor Stewart Butler recalls…

Upstairs Lounge Fire, 1973: In Memoriam

The Upstairs Lounge had served as the home of a religious denomination, the Metropolitan Community Church; however, no church would allow a prayer service for those who died, except for the pastor of St. George’s Episcopal Church. Father Bill…