Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Saturday, November 3, 2018

#9 UCF Knights Overcome Tough Battle Against Temple for 21st Straight Victory

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 00:08

The UCF Knights (8-0; 5-0 AAC) overcame a formidable foe in the Owls of Temple (5-4; 4-1 AAC) Thursday night in-front of a loud and spirited crowd at Spectrum Stadium to clench their 21st straight victory. The game was broadcasted live on ESPN and drew the highest Thursday night rankings since the season kickoff game:

McKenzie Milton threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns to help No. 9 UCF hold off Temple 52-40 and extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 21 games Thursday night. Taj McGowan scored on runs of 1 and 10 yards, the latter finishing a long drive that put the Knights (8-0, 5-0 American Athletic Conference) up by nine points after Temple (5-4, 4-1) nearly rallied to tie it.

Milton, returning to the lineup after missing a game with an undisclosed injury, finished 17 of 33 with one interception. Dredrick Snelson scored on a 19-yard reception and Michael Colubiale had TD catches of 9 and 19 yards to ensure the Knights gained sole possession of first place in the AAC East Division. Anthony Russo completed 31 of 52 passes for 444 yards and four touchdowns for Temple, which had a three-game winning streak snapped despite gaining 670 yards on a night the teams combined to gain over 1,300 yards.

Ventell Bryant scored on receptions of 15 and 8 yards for the Owls. Russo also threw to Branden Mack and Randle Jones while building a 34-28 halftime that lasted less than a minute into the third quarter. UCF took a 42-34 lead into the fourth quarter and stopped a potential tying two-point conversion before pulling away for good. In addition to staying on top of the East Division standings, UCF remained on course to be part of the discussion about which teams deserve to be part of the College Football Playoff in December.

The Knights, denied a spot in the four-team playoff field a year ago despite finishing as the only undefeated team in the FBS, were 12th in the initial CFP rankings released this week. In the first half alone, the teams combined for 808 yards — 510 passing and 298 rushing — with Russo throwing for 277 and three TDs and Milton countering with 233 yards and two TDs. Both quarterbacks had a rushing TD in the second quarter, Russo scoring on a 5-yard run on a fake field goal play.

The Owls are 5-2 since Russo took over at quarterback following losses to Villanova and Buffalo to begin the season. Armstead returned from missing two games with an ankle injury, immediately making his presence felt with a 33-yard burst on the first play from scrimmage. The senior running back finished with 142 yards on 27 carries. Milton had another big night, however the Knights kept the nation’s longest winning streak alive by running for 318 yards and doing a good job defensively of keeping Temple out of the end zone in the second half.

Check out highlights of the game below, courtesy of the American Athletics Conference Digital Network:

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

UCF Knights Ranked #12 in CFP, Ready for Temple After Bye

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 22:55

The UCF Knights (7-0; 4-0 AAC) took a week off after their 37-10 drubbing of East Carolina (2-5; 0-4 AAC) on October 20th to get some much needed rest and relaxation. Darriel Mack Jr. stepped in for Heisman Trophy hopeful McKenzie Milton and rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown, and UCF forced five turnovers in beating ECU 37-10 for its 20th straight victory. Nate Evans returned a fumble 94 yards for a momentum-changing touchdown with 10:07 left, Greg McCrae added a 74-yard TD run and the Knights turned all those takeaways into 24 points.

UCF — which was outgained 496-427 — went up 20-3 by scoring on four consecutive possessions in the second quarter, then made it a full-fledged rout with those late big plays. Receiver Quadry Jones threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Adrian Killins on a trick play, and Matthew Wright kicked three field goals for the Knights. With Milton sitting this one out while in full uniform from the sideline, Mack was 12 of 20 for 69 yards but was more dangerous with his legs, rushing 7 yards for an early touchdown.

Freshman Holton Ahlers was 29 of 53 for 406 yards with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Trevon Brown, and added 69 yards rushing in his first start. But his fumble while attempting a jump pass inside the 5-yard line was returned by Evans for the game-sealing score. The Pirates have lost three straight and four of five. Jake Verity put ECU up 3-0 midway through the first with a 34-yard field goal. ECU was on the verge of making this a one-score game with 10 minutes left before Evans’ fumble return.

UCF also learned Tuesday they are ranked #12 in the first set of rankings released by the College Football Playoff Committee as they make final preparations for their big Thursday night home game against the Temple Owls (5-3; 4-0 AAC). Kickoff for that matchup is set for 7:30pm; and the game will be nationally-televised on ESPN. Watch highlights from UCF’s 37-10 victory over ECU, courtesy of the American Athletic Conference Digital Network below:

Monday, October 15, 2018

#9 Knights Defeat Memphis Tigers in Nail-Biter

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:22

  The UCF Knights continued the nation’s longest wing streak (to 19 straight wins!) Saturday at Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis, TN by beating the Memphis Tigers 31-30 in an ABC nationally-televised contest. McKenzie Milton threw for 296 yards and ran for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter as No. 10/9 UCF weathered its first significant test of the season before escaping with a 31-30 victory over Memphis on Saturday.

Milton’s 7-yard touchdown with 12:14 left completed a comeback for the Knights (6-0, 3-0 American Athletic Conference), who trailed 30-14 with 2:04 left in the first half. The victory was UCF’s 19th straight — the nation’s longest winning streak — but it was by far the toughest game of the season for the Knights, who defeated their first five opponents by double-digits. Even in the closing seconds,

Memphis (4-3, 1-3) seemed on the way to at least have a chance for a game-winning field goal as the Tigers moved to the UCF 31. But Memphis was hit with a penalty that required a clock runoff, and then Brady White completed a 9-yard pass to Tony Pollard and the seconds slipped away. Darrell Henderson, who leads the nation in rushing, had 199 yards and a touchdown on the ground on a career-best 31 carries for Memphis. It was the first meeting since last year’s American Athletic Conference championship game, which UCF won 62-55 in double overtime.

Saturday’s momentum swing for the Knights, who struggled to contain Memphis in the early stages, came in the third quarter. With UCF facing fourth-and-1 at their 29, the Tigers bunched at the line of scrimmage and quickly ran a play. Taj McGowan burst through the initial defense and went 71 yards for a touchdown to cut the Memphis lead to 30-24. That set the stage for Milton’s winning score, capping a 74-yard drive. Milton, a Heisman Trophy candidate, led the Knights in a game where they struggled at times defensively. The go-ahead touchdown came as he was hit hurtling toward the goal line, barely making it to the end zone.

The Tigers looked like the team that many thought would return to The American championship game most of the way, but now have three conferences losses. Henderson, though, showed why he should be getting some Heisman hype. The Knights take on the Pirates of East Carolina (2-4; 0-3 AAC) on Saturday at 7:00pm on ESPN2. Check out video highlights of the Knights’ win against Memphis, courtesy of the American Athletic Conference Digital Network, below:

Sunday, October 7, 2018

#12 UCF Knights Dismantle SMU, Extend Win Streak to 18!

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:08

 

The UCF Knights (5-0; 2-0 AAC) dismantled the Mustangs of SMU (2-4; 1-1 AAC) 48-20 Saturday in-front of a energetic and loud crowd filling Spectrum Stadium:

McKenzie Milton threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns to help No. 12 UCF extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 18 games with a 48-20 victory over SMU on Saturday night. Adrian Killins rushed for 113 yards and a TD for the Knights (5-0, 2-0), one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the American Athletic Conference, along with Cincinnati and USF. Milton completed 18 of 34 passes with one interception after accounting for 12 touchdowns — seven passing and five rushing — in nonconference victories over Florida Atlantic and Pittsburgh the previous two weeks.

The junior from Kapolei, Hawaii, tossed TD passes of 14 yards to Dredrick Snelson in the first quarter and 30 yards to Tre Nixon on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Knights also got two TD runs from Otis Anderson and one from Trysten Hill, a 315-pound defensive tackle who lined up as a fullback before plowing into the end zone on fourth-and-1. Ben Hicks came off the bench to replace freshman quarterback William Brown for SMU (2-4, 1-1). He threw a 5-yard TD pass to James Proche and finished 15 of 23 passing for 153 yards and zero interceptions. Proche had 12 receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

The Mustangs lost for the first time with Brown as their starting quarterback. The freshman, who led them to victories over Navy and Houston Baptist in his first two starts, completed 4 of 6 passes for 44 yards on the opening drive, setting up a 31-yard field goal. He attempted three more passes, all incompletions, before being replaced by Hicks in the second quarter with UCF leading 21-3. Brown returned in the fourth quarter and tossed a 19-yard TD pass to Proche with 36 seconds left to wind up 9 of 19 for 84 yards. Milton, eighth in Heisman Trophy balloting last season, has an abundance of playmakers around him. Nixon and Snelson both had six receptions and eight ball carriers, including Hill, contributed to the Knights rushing for 256 yards.

UCF heads to Memphis next Saturday to take on the Tigers (4-2; 1-2 AAC). Kickoff is set for 3:30pm and the game will be nationally-televised on ESPNU. Check out video highlights of UCF’s win over the SMU Mustangs, courtesy of the American Athletic Conference Digital Network below:

Saturday, September 29, 2018

UCF Destroys Pitt 45-14, Extends Win Streak to 17!

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 23:40

The UCF Knights (4-0; 1-0 AAC) dismantled the Panthers of Pittsburgh (2-3; 1-1 ACC) 45-14 in front of a sold out crowd at UCF’s Spectrum Stadium on Saturday, extending the nation’s longest win streak to 17!

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — McKenzie Milton threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns and No. 13 UCF extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 games with a 45-14 rout of Pittsburgh on Saturday. A week after accounting for six TDs in a lopsided victory over Florida Atlantic, Milton also ran for two scores to give the junior from Kapolei, Hawaii, seven TDs passing and five rushing in his past two games.

UCF (4-0) now moves into the heart of its American Athletic Conference schedule, hoping to go undefeated for the second straight year to play its way into consideration for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Pitt (2-3) has had a knack for stunning teams with national title aspirations in recent seasons, however the Panthers were no match for a Milton-led offense that’s scored at least 30 points in every game during its school- and AAC-record winning streak.

Running back Adrian Killins, Jr., scored on a 71-yard reception, and Milton tossed TD passes of 24 yards to Gabriel Davis, 2 yards to Michael Colubiale and 13 yards to Otis Anderson. Pitt surprised eventual national champion Clemson on the road two years ago. The Panthers ended a disappointing 2017 season by defeating unbeaten Miami, which at the time had the longest winning streak in the country and was in contention for a CFP berth.

The Panthers scored on Maurice Ffrench’s 58-yard catch-and-run and Rafael Araujo-Lopes’ 86-yard punt return. Milton was 18 of 34 passing with no interceptions. Kenny Pickett was 16 of 26 for 163 yards, one touchdown and one interception for Pitt, which was limited to 109 yards rushing.

One of the ways the Panthers had hoped to slow Milton was with an effective running game that helped them kept the UCF quarterback off the field for long stretches. That never materialized. The Knights ran 47 plays to Pitt’s 28 in the opening half, outgaining the Panthers 316 yards to 114, including 119-36 rushing.

Check out highlights from the game, courtesy of the American Athletic Conference Digital Network, below:

 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

UCF Knights Extend Win Streak to 16!, Beat FAU 56-36

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:09

The UCF Knights (3-0; 1-0 AAC) soundly defeated the Owls of FAU (2-2; 0-0 C-USA) Friday night in front of a near-capacity and rowdy Spectrum Stadium and national audience:

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — McKenzie Milton ran for a career-best three touchdowns while throwing for three more, helping No. 16 UCF extend the nation’s longest winning streak with a 56-36 rout of Florida Atlantic on Friday night.

The junior from Kapolei, Hawaii, completed 21 of 32 passes for 306 yards without an interception, and the Knights (3-0) won for the 16th straight time to set a record for consecutive victories by an American Athletic Conference team.

Milton scored on runs of 12, 9 and 13 yards, using a nifty jump cut to avoid a defender and get into the end zone on the last one.

Touchdown passes of 12 yards to Dredrick Snelson, 21 yards to Marlon Williams and 19 yards to Gabriel Davis hiked Milton’s career total to 56 — tied with Blake Bortles for fourth-most in school history.

FAU (2-2) stayed close for a half, but ultimately couldn’t keep pace with the prolific UCF offense. Devin Singletary rushed for 131 yards and three TDs for the Owls, who finished with 320 yards on the ground.

UCF led 21-17 at the half, letting a two-touchdown lead slip away and falling behind on a second-quarter field goal before regaining control on Milton’s TD pass to Williams.

The Knights used an early interception to set up Milton’s first TD run and then drove 92 yards in 10 plays to go up 14-0 on Snelson’s TD reception midway through the first quarter.

But FAU, which won the Conference USA title in its first season under coach Lane Kiffin, was unfazed.

Chris Robison settled down after throwing the interception that led to UCF’s first touchdown and fed the UCF defense a steady diet of Singletary. The Owls battled back by putting together a couple of time-consuming scoring drives that kept Milton off the field.

Singletary’s first touchdown finished an 11-play, 71-yard march. The Owls also held the ball for six minutes, driving 54 yards to position Vladimir Rivas to kick a 32-yard field goal for a short-lived 17-14 lead.

Robison was intercepted three times and finished 13 of 26 passing for 124 yards, including a 23-yard TD throw to Kerrith Whyte late in the third quarter.

Milton finished eighth in Heisman Trophy voting last season, when he helped UCF go 13-0, including a victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl. With UCF trailing 17-14, he took over the game by going 4 of 4 for 74 yards on the Knights’ go-ahead drive and then ran for a pair of scores in the third quarter to build the lead to 35-17.

UCF hosts Pitt next Saturday in its final nonconference game.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

#19 UCF Knights Keep Rolling, Blank SC State

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:41

The #19 UCF Knights (2-0; 1-0 AAC) soundly defeated SC State (0-2; 0-0 MEAC) 38-0 on Saturday night in front of a packed Spectrum Stadium. The Knights now move on to face ACC opponent UNC (0-2; 0-0 ACC) on Saturday in Chapel Hill, Hurricane Florence allowing.

Adrian Killins Jr. ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns to help No. 19 UCF rout South Carolina State 38-0 on Saturday night for its 15th straight victory, tying the American Athletic Conference record. Killins Jr. scored on runs of 3 and 24 yards in the first quarter. Greg McCrae rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown, and Otis Anderson added 42 yards and a touchdowns as UCF (2-0) racked up 315 rushing yards.

McKenzie Milton threw three interceptions in the first half. He was 21 of 39 for 243 yards with a touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis in the third quarter. UCF held South Carolina State (0-2) to 80 yards passing and 257 total yards. South Carolina State quarterback Tyrece Nick was 5 of 12 for 54 yards and an interception. Backup Dewann Ford threw two interceptions.

Check out video highlights of the game, courtesy of the American Athletic Conference Digital Network, below:

Friday, August 31, 2018

UCF Knights Start Season by Crushing UCONN

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 00:58

The UCF Knights (1-0; 1-0 AAC) started the 2018 football season off with a bang, crushing the UCONN Huskies (0-1; 0-1 AAC) 56-17:

AP: McKenzie Milton threw for 346 yards and five touchdowns and No. 21 UCF topped UConn 56-17 on Thursday night to extend the longest winning streak in the nation to 14 games. The reigning American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year completed 24 of 32 passes and ran for another 50 yards. Sophomore receiver Tre Nixon, a transfer from Mississippi, caught five passes, scoring on plays of 34 and 11 yards.  Backup quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. came on in the fourth quarter and broke a 70-yard touchdown run down the left sideline, making him the team’s leading rusher.

UConn quarterback David Pindell was a bright spot for the Huskies, throwing for 266 yards and a touchdown and running for another 157 yards and a score. New coach Josh Heupel’s fast-paced offense is as advertised, putting up 652 yards and scoring eight touchdowns on 11 drives, with each scoring drive taking less than 3 minutes off the clock. The Huskies seem to have found their quarterback in Pindell. In addition to completing 27 of 41 passes and running 22 times, he had another 50-yard touchdown run called back because of a holding penalty. The Knights head back to Orlando for their home opener next Saturday against South Carolina State. The Huskies face another ranked team when they travel to Idaho to take on No. 22 Boise State on the blue turf.

Check out highlights of UCF’s victory of the UCONN Huskies below, courtesy of the American Athletic Conference Digital Network:

Friday, August 3, 2018

Theater Review: LOVE NEVER DIES

Filed under: Performing Arts — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:44

Almost ten years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies, his sequel to his beloved The Phantom of the Opera, premiered in London’s West End. While the original production was headlined by Broadway and West End megastars Ramin Karimloo (as the Phantom) and Sierra Boggess (as Christine), it was instantly panned by critics and failed to hold ground, earning the negative nickname “The Paint Never Dries.” But that wasn’t entirely Webber’s fault. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the same time the show began previews. Because he was battling cancer, he wasn’t able to devote the time necessary to make the changes the show needed to become a success. After the London production shuttered, Webber was determined to give Love Never Dies the justice it so desperately deserved.

He determined the next stop for the show would be Australia, where he brought in a new director and an entirely new production team of artists to redesign major elements of the musical, making it vastly different than the staging in London. The result was beyond efficacious. Critics and audiences lauded the Australian version of show. It become a huge success and ran for seven months at the Regent Theater in Melbourne. The Australian production gave breath to the show Webber absolutely loved. It had been resuscitated and given a new life as an absolute musical masterpiece that appropriately reflected Webber’s musical genius. He would even claim that Love Never Diesis the best score he’s ever composed, second only to EVITAand is something he is, “very, very proud of.”

With this new and well-received production settled, there were plans to bring it to Broadway. But brand new revivals of Sunset BoulevardandCATSjoined the long-running School of Rockandoriginal Phantomto give Webber a record-breaking 4 shows running at once. This resulted in shifting resources for Love Never Dies, that would instead, be toured around North America in a beautiful production that very closely mirrors the Australian version of the show.

I have been able to see this touring production four times now, twice early in its embarking in Orlando and most recently in Dallas. It was quickly evident from the start of the tour that this show was going to be something truly magical. And as the tour has progressed, the cast’s chemistry has meshed incredibly well, resulting in what should be a genuinely respected and admired piece of musical theater.

Love Never Diesis set ten years after the original. After his destruction of the opera house in Paris, the Phantom has escaped to the shores of Coney Island, where he has founded one of the world’s first carnivalistic amusement parks with the help of his long-time friend Meg Giry, and her daughter, Meg. Despite his new life in America, he is unable to forget his love for Christine Daaé, who is now an international operatic superstar. He concocts a scheme to get close to her by outbidding Oscar Hammerstein for her American debut performance, which would take place in his concert hall. Other major players in the show include Daaé’s now-husband (and drunken gambler) Raoul, son Gustave, and sideshow performers that provide a cohesive attachment to the carnival-like atmosphere that serves as the story’s backdrop.

All of the actors in this production are absolutely phenomenal. Not a single one is anything less than stellar. Bronson Norris Murphy brings the Phantom to life and possesses some of the strongest and best vocals I have ever heard in the theater. He is incredibly talented and has a solid grasp of the necessary dynamics of the role; and he is able to extend his vocal nuances to the gorgeous songs of Love Never Dieswith perfection. He brings down the house with the opening number Til I Hear You Singand is given an early opportunity to not only demonstrate his chops but also his expert breathing and spacing techniques.

He is matched by the equally talented Meghan Picerno, who meshes entirely with Murphy in strikingly beautiful and soaring numbers like Beneath a Moonless Skyand Once Upon Another Time.The performance by Karen Mason as Madame Giry is also incredibly strong. She articulates the duplicitous nature of her character exceedingly well, and brings the house down in the final number of Act I. Mary Michael Patterson plays Giry’s daughter Meg, who gets several numbers that allow her to showcase her immense talent and vocal abilities. Sean Thompson (fresh from the Broadway revival of Sunset Boulevard) portrays a very unlikeable Raoul and fulfills the role exquisitely.

Due to his age, the actor playing Gustave varies. Jake Heston Miller played the role in both performances I saw in Dallas and was marvelous, although assisted with some backtracking in The Beauty Underneaththat largely escaped the audience’s notice. This number is his duet with the Phantom at the end of Act One, which has been reworked for the touring production. While the number is still outstanding, it is not as good as the version of the song as heard in the Australian and London productions. Fleck (Katrina Kemp), Richard Koons (Squelch), and Stephen Petrovich (Gangle) also give strong performances as the Phantom’s henchman. Their characters help interweave scenes and set changes while interjecting some comedic relief and adding to the mysterious air of the story.

The sets (supervised by Edward Pierce, the Broadway set designer of countless Broadway shows, including Wicked and Bright Star) work flawlessly, utilizing a turntable that centers and shifts much of the action. This is joined oftentimes with large left and right stage pieces that, along with some amazing lighting (by Nick Schlieper), create an ultimately dark and incredibly appropriate setting. The costumes (designed by Gabriella Tylesova, also responsible for the show’s scenic design) are also magnificent and couldn’t be any more (at times) beautiful, opulent, and seamless.

Spectacular performances punctuated with truly phenomenal singing combine with a gorgeously beautiful and lush score, perfectly implemented sets, costume, and lighting to produce what is simply put, one of the best pieces of musical theater to ever grace the stage. It will be truly a travesty if Love Never Diesis unable to make it to Broadway, where it rightly belongs. But of course, to make that happen, millions of dollars are needed. And in an ever-increasingly competitive landscape, getting a show to a Broadway stage takes an incredible amount of risk, even for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who has probably the best track record of success of any Broadway composer in history.

So—don’t risk waiting for Love Never Diesto make its way to NYC. Find out where the tour is stopping near you and GO SEE IT!It far eclipses most of the current showson Broadway and achieves the rare feat of surpassing its predecessor. Andrew Lloyd Webber and his creative team have created a masterpiece that here, has been placed in the hands of performers who have ensured it is executed with absolute sheer perfection.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Commemorating the 45th Anniversary of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire

Filed under: GLBT Social Issues and Civil Rights — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:21

Before same-sex couples could marry, before the AIDS epidemic devastated the gay community, and before American society began to change its perception of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, a devastating act of violence was committed against the LGBT community in New Orleans, LA that lead to the deaths of 32 people. On Gay Pride Weekend, Sunday, June 24th, 1973, an arsonist set fire to the Up Stairs Lounge, a small gay bar in the French Quarter that served as not only a local watering hole for gay men, but a sanctuary where they could be themselves in a world that did nothing but denounce them.

The Upstairs Lounge, was, at the time, one of New Orleans’ only social outlets for its LGBT residents. And on the night of the fire, it was packed with gay men who were members of the New Orleans Chapter of the Metropolitan Community Church, who were holding a “Beer Bust” event to raise money for a local children’s hospital. One patron named Roger Dale Nunez, who was known as a trouble maker, started a fight with the bar’s main bartender and manager, Buddy Rasmussen. After Buddy forcefully ejected Nunez from the bar, he threatened revenge by fire, a threat heard by several survivors of the tragedy. Around 20 minutes later, a patron was directed by Buddy to respond to an incessant ringing of the doorbell downstairs. Once the door opened, a backdraft from the engulfed staircase leading up to the lounge shot a massive flame through the bar, instantly setting it ablaze.

31 men and 1 woman (who was at the bar with her two gay sons, who also lost their lives) horrifically burned to their deaths trying to escape from the bar, which had an endless number of draperies, wooden furniture, and other materials that served as accelerants which made that attempt nearly impossible. Although questioned by police and marked as the lead suspect, due to a lack of evidence, Nunez was never formally charged with the crime and would commit suicide shortly thereafter. The local reaction from the police, fire department, and community were deemed despicable to many. “Let the faggots burn” one fireman was heard saying after realizing the fire ladders weren’t long enough to reach the windows to save victims. The local Catholic Archdiocese refused to acknowledge those who perished. Local leaders did everything they could to sweep the incident under the rug as to not harm New Orleans’ precious tourism industry. And radio personalities mocked the incident, saying the dead should be buried in “fruit jars.”

But simultaneously, a community was waking up to their oppression. The violent act triggered many gay men and lesbians to come out and no longer hide their identities, despite the financial and personal consequences such an act could provide in 1973. Out of the ashes rose the New Orleans LGBT Community’s liberation movement, which rippled across the United States and beyond.

Below are some photographs from the Up Stairs Lounge during the tragedy and today. Please take a moment today to say a prayer for the 32 lives lost that horrific night. And remember, the fight for freedom and equality is one that was paved by the souls of many LGBT persons who came before you.

 

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The side exterior of the site of the Upstairs Lounge today. Scars from the fire remain visible under the building’s painted surface.

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Compare the first photo to this horrendous photo of the aftermath, which serves only for comparison. One victim, Reverend Bill Larson of the New Orleans parish of the Metropolitan Community Church, can be seen clinging to the middle of the second window in his failed attempt to flee. Larson had just performed a service for the bar’s patrons a few hours before the fire (being gay, the men were otherwise shunned from any of New Orleans’ churches and had to hold their worship services at the Upstairs Lounge).

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A shot of the front exterior of the site of the Upstairs Lounge today. Scars from the fire remain visible under the building’s painted surface

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The entrance door to the Upstairs Lounge today. Patrons would ring a doorbell for access, which would be granted by the bartender upstairs. On the night of the fire, the arsonist lit the wooden stairs of the stairwell on fire with an accelerant and rang the doorbell incessantly. Thinking it was a taxi driver picking up a patron, the door was opened. The resulting oxygen drift that entered the bar caused an explosion which quickly engulfed the entire bar.

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The Upstairs Lounge memorial plaque, which is set in the sidewalk directly in-front of the entrance to what once was the Upstairs Lounge. The names of the victims along with three unidentified males are etched into the plaque.

A great book about the tragedy is Let The Faggots Burn (2011) by Johnny Townsend. The title comes from a fireman who made that shocking quote (above) when a horrified onlooker realized their ladders weren’t long enough to reach the bars’ windows and that they weren’t going to be able bring any of the victims to safety.

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