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The Largest Mass Murder of LGBT People in U.S. History Was 40 Years Ago Today: VIDEOS

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In June 1973, a fire broke out in a gay bar in New Orleans' French Quarter. The fire at the Upstairs Lounge took 32 lives — bodies burned beyond recognition. Approximately 20 people escaped the blaze, which was set by an arsonist. The likely suspect was a customer who had been thrown out of the bar the night of the fire.

Upstairs1Press coverage of the fire, which was the worst in New Orleans history, was brief, sensational. No city official would make a statement about it.

I've written many times on Towleroad about the UpStairs Lounge fire. For an excellent primer, check out the photo essay I did on artist Skylar Fein's 2010 installation on the tragic event.

The UpStairs Lounge was located on the second floor of an old building at Chartres Street and Iberville Street, just off Canal Street, near the edge of the French Quarter. In 1973, June 24th fell on a Sunday, and most of the 60 or in attendance were members of New Orleans' Metropolitan Community Church, which held services in the bar. That evening, they sang their unofficial anthem, Brotherhood of Man's "United We Stand," with accompaniment from resident pianist David Gary. They socialized. Just before 8 p.m., a doorbell rang. Someone opened the door, and discovered the Lounge's wooden staircase was ablaze. The UpStairs Lounge was promptly engulfed.

Patheos has an excellent report on what happened that night. The Times-Picayune explores the event in a video, discussing it with eyewitnesses and experts.

Some families refused to claim the bodies of the victims out of embarrassment that their sons had been killed in a fire at a gay bar. Many victims were buried in unmarked graves.

Watch news reports from the night of the fire, the Times-Picayune's video, and a trailer for a new crowd-funded documentary on the incident, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "The Largest Mass Murder of LGBT People in U.S. History Was 40 Years Ago Today: VIDEOS" »


Outspoken Marriage Equality Ally Scott Fujita Retires from New Orleans Saints: PHOTOS

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NFL linebacker and Super Bowl champ Scott Fujita, who has been speaking out since 2009 for marriage equality and has appeared in videos for Americans for Marriage Equality, among others, retired from the New Orleans Saints yesterday, making the announcement with photos from Peru he posted to Twitter.

FujitaESPN reports:

Linebacker Scott Fujita signed a one-day contract with the New Orleans Saints on Monday and then announced his retirement after 11 seasons in the NFL. Fujita signed his contract in Machu Picchu, which is located in the Andes Mountains in Peru. He's there with former Saints teammate Steve Gleason, who is battling Lou Gehrig's Disease.

In a statement from the team, Fujita said he couldn't think of a better place to be to announce his retirement.

"What better place to reach the end of the road than here at 10,000 feet above sea level, in the Peruvian Andes overlooking Machu Picchu with my dear friend Steve Gleason?"

Said Fujita in a NYT column earlier this year:

I support marriage equality for so many reasons: my father’s experience in an internment camp and the racial intolerance his family experienced during and after the war, the gay friends I have who are really not all that different from me, and also because of a story I read a few years back about a woman who was denied the right to visit her partner of 15 years when she was stuck in a hospital bed...

...Believe it or not, conversations about issues like gay marriage take place in locker rooms every day. In many respects, the football locker room is a microcosm of society. While there is certainly an element of bravado in our sport, football players are not the meatheads many think we are. For some of my friends who raise personal objections to marriage equality, they still recognize the importance of being accepting. And many of them also recognize that regardless of what they choose to believe or practice at home or at their church, that doesn’t give them the right to discriminate.

Fujita


Towleroad Guide to the Tube #1297

NEW ORLEANS: A reporter covering preparations for the Super Bowl deftly defuses a drunk videobomber.

JOHN MCCAIN: Tell me I was right about 'the surge'!

THELMA HOUSTON: On "Don't Leave Me This Way" and gay rights advocacy.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: A behind-the-scenes featurette.

For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.


Nine Anti-Gay Street Preachers Arrested at New Orleans Southern Decadence Celebration: VIDEO

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Nine men have been arrested for anti-gay street preaching against celebrants at New Orleans' annual Southern Decadence weekend, the Times Picayune reports:

Patrick O'Connell, 45, Rolando Igleasias, 31, Cesar Chavez, 22, Daniel Hoogerhuis, 26, Danny Guevera, 20, Larry Craft, 52, Montes Diego, 32 and Gary Brown, 33 were arrested on suspicion of aggressive solicitation, a city law passed last October.

The ordinance prohibits "any person or group of persons to loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise."

Another man was arrested for attempting to assault an officer.

New Orleans police spokesman Frank Robertson said the men were previously warned not to use bullhorns, but did not comply. Casey Kolosky, a bouncer at Tropical Isle, said the preachers were making slurs against gays and also mentioned Hurricane Katrina victims.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Isaac Now Officially Category 1 Hurricane

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Isaac has turned from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds, the AP reports:

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Tuesday that Isaac gained strength as it moved over the warm, open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Isaac is expected to make landfall over southeastern Louisiana, possibly the New Orleans area, either late Tuesday or early Wednesday.


Strengthening Isaac Storms Toward Gulf Coast, Still Presents Threat to GOP: VIDEO

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Nearly seven years to the date, Tropical Storm Isaac appears headed as a category 2 or 3 hurricane for the exact same region devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Louisiana and Alabama have both declared states of emergency as the entire area from east of Morgan City, Louisiana, to Destin on the Florida Panhandle is under a hurricane warning.

The NYT Caucus looks at the nightmare it presents for Republicans, aside from having the first day of the GOP convention pushed:

Searing images of wind-damaged homes, flooding and mass evacuations — all fraught with the memory of Hurricane Katrina — may well compete on television with Mr. Romney’s bid to seize the initiative in his battle with President Obama for the White House.

“Images of revelry by Republicans at a time of suffering by other Americans — no party wants those optics,” said Steve Schmidt, who helped lead Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “You have terrible awareness of all that stuff.”

Four years ago, Mr. Schmidt and other Republicans postponed the first day of the Republican convention in Minneapolis as an even larger hurricane headed through the gulf toward New Orleans. Mr. Schmidt said the fact that the canceled day would have fallen on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, was foremost in their minds.

“The optics of that were not good,” Mr. Schmidt recalled.

KeywestIsaac slowed a bit yesterday as it passed by Cuba and Key West. Meteorologist Bryan Norcross wrote on Facebook last night:

What a horrendous confluence of events. Tropical storms never get on people's radar, and the fact that Isaac passed Key West with less effect than a gusty afternoon thunderstorm made the situation worse. Even with a Cat 1 hurricane, will people take action tomorrow that may save their life Tuesday night?

Isaac's extremely large circulation is one of the factors that should make it intensify relatively slowly, and a track that misses the high heat-content pools in the Gulf should help in that direction as well. Plus it has less than two days over the water before landfall. But, the water ahead is still plenty warm - over 85 degrees - and the atmospheric pattern looks very favorable for strengthening. Taken together, the NHC's Cat. 2 forecast looks reasonable, though preparations should be made for a Cat. 3, given the lack of skill inherent in intensity forecasting.

In any case, that same large circulation will move a lot more water toward the coast than an average hurricane. The entire Hurricane Warning area - from Louisiana to the western Panhandle - is extremely vulnerable to storm surge flooding.

Watch a CNN report from Key West, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Strengthening Isaac Storms Toward Gulf Coast, Still Presents Threat to GOP: VIDEO" »


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