The Upstairs Lounge Fire

Your Comments

Send us your thoughts on perusing this exhibit or your memories of the Upstairs Lounge tragedy and we will post them here.  All submissions will be screened before posting.

Ferris LeBlanc was my uncle. He is the one identified victim whose body was never claimed. Ferris had disappeared from our family in about 1970 due to shame and guilt, we think, over monies that his then-partner had taken from family members and perhaps others. He split from his partner and we never heard from him again or anything about him. I just found out what happened to him and about the fire last week. His being gay was never a problem for anyone in his family, we all accepted him for who he was not what he was. If anyone in his family had known what happened back then, we would have brought his body home. He was one of 13 children of which a brother and 2 sisters are still alive, one being my mother. Now that we know what happened to him we are going to New Orleans this spring to hopefully find some answers to the many questions we now have, and to try and do something about his burial situation. I now hope to tell his story so that he is not remembered as the only victim left alone by his family.
Skip Bailey, Arizona
January 15, 2015

I think this is so neat. I'm learning so much from different sites I have been going to. My dad George Stephen Matyi (Buddy) was in this fire. I wish I could say he made it out but I can't. I was told he had so much talent which I will never know how much. I was told he had a wonderful heart. I was told he had many friends. I have just learned how big this event was when I started doing research. My mom just told me he died in a fire with 32 people. That was all. This is so much bigger than this. I wish I could have gotten to know who the real Buddy Matyi was. Thanks everyone for keeping this alive and thanks for teaching me. If you want to contact me at anytime please feel free.
TinaMarie Matyi, Conrad, IA USA
September 4, 2014

Glad to see that gay people have taken up the call of those killed in the arson fire in N.O. in '73. I was out for at least five years at the time of that fire, and in a long term relationship that lasted until 1995 when my partner died from AIDS complications. I worked for CBS-TV in Philadelphia and New York at the time of that fire. I remember being shocked, saddened and scared by the fire story, but I did not know that other networks had not aired the story. Although I have to say of the big 3 networks at that time, CBS was the true, well respected, original fair and balanced news, along with being very liberal, as I worked with many gay people at CBS. I never heard one word of hatred from any of the fellow TVites I worked with during the 12 years spent working as a film editor with the CBS network. I count myself very fortunate to have worked with great, talented people for a great company, little did I know it at the time, how lucky I was. From the day of the fire and even now, I am always aware of my surroundings especially when in a confined space. The early 70's bars and nightclubs were secluded and in dark alleys where anything could happen and could end up like that tragic fire. Thanks for your work keeping the story of that tragic evening in front of young gay people who need our history presented to them. Even though the situation for most gay people has improved, it's still important to remember those who died while have a good time with friends, that everyone should be careful of their surroundings. Our gay world isn't perfect yet.
Bill Longen, San Francisco, CA USA
November 18, 2013

Hi, As far as you know has anyone eliminated the possibility of identifying the three unidentifieds through DNA, a forensic artist or all other possible means? I know a fourth victim that was never claimed was buried with them. I also know the city wouldn't turn over the bodies to the church. Has anyone since then seriously looked into doing right by those four men? Johnny Townsend's book Let the Faggots Burn even list several possibilities for the unclaimed.
Ray Fleming, Jackson, MS USA 
November 17, 2013

Thank you for creating a place that is perfect for students. Not only is this site extremely interesting and easy to follow, it has a depth that will allow many young people around the world to write about the Upstairs Lounge Fire as part of assignments.  THAT'S how we get remembered.
Stu Maddux, San Francisco, CA USA
November 15, 2013

I received an inquiry asking where Rev. William (Bill) Larson was buried and determined that his ashes were interred at the St. Roch Cemetery #1, 1725 Roch Avenue, Orleans Parish, New Orleans. 
Lynn Jordan, co-curator, San Francisco, CA USA
November 6, 2013

I had the honor to know a survivor of the fire, Courtney Craighead, who escaped across the patio/roof to an adjoining building. What is often forgotten is why so many people; especially from the Metropolitan Community Church were in a bar on a Sunday afternoon. They had gathered to stuff envelopes and do other organizational work for an upcoming fundraiser for The Children's Hospital in New Orleans. While they were there the fire bomb was thrown in the stairwell and the fire exploded into the bar separating the front and rear portions of the bar in a jet of flame; where you stood when that door to the stairs was opened determined whether you lived or died. One side had access to an escape route the other did not. Courtney was in the rear of the bar and was able to get out; good luck, Divine Intervention, whatever; it was something he lived with for the rest of his life. Courtney died just before Katrina in 2005. As a fellow member of the Metropolitan Community Church of New Orleans Courtney strove to keep remembrance of the event alive; without dwelling on it, or preventing himself, the Church and the community from moving forward and healing. He was my friend, and made the people who died that day real; so much like all of us; they wanted so much to live, to be treated with justice and equality and to be respected. I hope I do them justice in my work for these goals.
Mike McDonald, New Orleans, LA USA
October 14, 2013

I'm deeply grateful for this exhibit. It is crucial to remember events like this—both so that we can learn from them to feel more deeply—and so that the victims' stories can continue to be told. I'm grateful for the time and effort you all have taken to create this memorial. I'll do what I can to urge people to explore it. Thank You
Joseph Ross, Washington, DC USA
October 13, 2013

I found the website to be very informative, with a touch of sensitivity and not sensationalism. Very well done. Even though I was not here when it happened, I heard about "the fire", but this exhibit provides much more depth and a broader perspective. Thank you.
The Rev. Gail Minnick, New Orleans, LA USA
October 12, 2013



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