This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.
Cupful of Anger,
Bottle Full of Smoke:
The Stories of
Jose V. Montebon Jr.
Silliman Writers Series, 2017
First Sight of Snow
and Other Stories
Encounters Chapbook Series
Et Al Books, 2014
Celebration: An Anthology to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop
Sands and Coral, 2011-2013
Silliman University, 2013
Handulantaw: Celebrating 50 Years of Culture and the Arts in Silliman
Tao Foundation and Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee, 2013
Inday Goes About Her Day
Locsin Books, 2012
Beautiful Accidents: Stories
University of the Philippines Press, 2011
Old Movies and Other Stories
National Commission for Culture
and the Arts, 2006
FutureShock Prose: An Anthology of Young Writers and New Literatures
Sands and Coral, 2003
Nominated for Best Anthology
2004 National Book Awards
From the outside, the Upstairs didn’t look much different from the other gay bars on a particularly seedy stretch of Iberville Street. But up 13 steps on the second floor was a refuge: three adjoining rooms, decorated with red wallpaper and frilly curtains, where people could laugh, love, even worship without fear. The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a national Christian denomination founded to serve gays and lesbians, often held services in the bar’s back-room theater. At other times the space was used for the elaborately costumed drag cabaret performances that regulars called 'nelly dramas.' 'It was my safe haven,' says [Francis] Dufrene, [a regular].
The beer bust on June 24, 1973, was typically festive. A pianist from the nearby Marriott played Broadway and ragtime tunes as patrons sang along. Dufrene was there, as usual, this time on a first date with Eddie Hosea Warren, a 'husky country boy' he met at a hamburger joint near the Upstairs. Warren’s brother James and mother Inez came with him. Duane George Mitchell, an associate pastor at the MCC known for his Queen Victoria impersonation, and his partner Louis Horace Broussard stopped by after dropping Mitchell’s sons off at a movie. The bust prices ended at 7, but at least 65 people were still hanging around nearly an hour later when the door buzzer went off. It kept ringing, even though no one had ordered a taxi. The bartender sent a regular to check it out. When he opened the door, a fireball burst through as if shot from a flamethrower.
An updraft sucked the fire in, and within seconds the walls were aflame. Panic erupted inside. The bartender, Douglas 'Buddy' Rasmussen, called for people to follow him and led at least 20 of them to safety through a back exit and onto adjoining rooftops–before closing the door behind them when he didn’t see anyone else coming to prevent the fire from spreading. Many raced to jump out of the three large windows that were covered by metal bars. Dufrene was one of the few who squeezed through, body on fire.
'The small people seemed to get through the window, but the bigger people just couldn’t get out,' a survivor told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
One of those trapped was the MCC’s pastor, Bill Larson, who struggled to push an air-conditioning unit through the window to escape. His head, torso and one arm made it halfway out before the glass pane above collapsed, trapping his body. In the street below, his friends heard him scream, 'Oh, God, no!' as flames consumed him. His body was left in the window for hours, with his watch, stopped at a few minutes after 8, a haunting relic.
And then it was over.