When I first heard about the Upstairs Lounge Massacre I was both sickened and saddened by the senseless violence perpetuated against the gay community in New Orleans. However, the response reported from the police, fire fighters, and politicians of 1972 New Orleans was just as vile and perhaps more so than the crime itself. From what people who were alive in 1972, at least those old enough to understand the social differences and prejudices of the era that the 1960s and 1970s were an extremely chaotic time.
Upon talking to a former police officer with more than 20 years’ experience in the field and with the District Attorney’s Office as an investigator the late 1960s and 1970s were a particularly hectic time for a city that we are taught in Louisiana history to have been progressive compared to other southern cities. Although as a trip to Oak Alley in Vacherie proved that even an attentive 9-year-old can see the glaring discrepancies in the stories we are told in more modern times to the actual physical images that are presented by the actual exhibits on display at said plantation. Even more so at Whitney when my friend and former classmate Ja’Lisa visited. The physical reminders they allow tourists to wander about freely is a blatant contradiction in what they try to tell visitors.
Yet on a closer look to the investigation into the Upstairs Lounge Massacre I am now learning that my origins as a criminologist started in 5th grade with connections to a city that my then ten-year-old self would not visit for several more years. In a span of 9 years in the decade of hippies, The Vietnam War, and walking on the moon I find that my first attempt at writing a true crime book to bring awareness to the 35 victims of the Upstairs Lounge Massacre has taken a surprising turn to loop back to my first ever investigation.
When one thinks about the distance between Loyola Ave in New Orleans to Chartres Street its a relatively small geographic area for serial crime. For a potential serial arsonist, the centuries old buildings, so closely packed together, at least in the French Quarter would be a dream target if the fire is the weapon of choice for a budding serial killer.