Blog Archives

The fire some want you to forget

Every 24 June, the LGBTQ community pauses to remember the horror of a Sunday night in the French Quarter.

It was 24 June 1973 when an arsonist doused the stairwell of The UpStairs Lounge with lighter fluid, then set it ablaze. By time the inferno was under control, 32 people perished.

It was New Orleans’ third massive loss of life in seven months.

The first was a 29 November 1972 fire at the Rault Center, a 16-story high rise in the city’s Central Business District. One man died when he was trapped in an elevator. Five women jumped from the 15th floor; three died instantly, one died in a hospital a month later without ever regaining consciousness, but miraculously, Natalie Smith of Metairie lived to tell her story. She passed away in 2014 at 81.

Five and a half weeks after the Rault Center came the infamous sniper incident at the Downtown Howard Johnson’s Motor Hotel across Gravier Street from the Rault Center. Two hotel guests (a honeymooning couple from Virginia), the hotel’s General Manager and Assistant General Manager, and three police officers (Phillip Coleman, Paul Persigo and Louis Sirgo, the NOPD’s Deputy Superintendent) were cut down by Emporia native Mark Essex.

Essex was later identified as the sniper who killed NOPD Cadet Alfred Harrell New Year’s Eve at Orleans Parish Prison, then wounded Edwin Hosli in a neighborhood. Hosli passed away 65 days later without regaining consciousness. He also was fingered by many as the perpetrator of the Rault Center fire.

The Howard Johnson’s incident received national coverage on all three networks. Imagine if there were CNN, MSNBC and Fox News back then.

The Rault Center fire led the national newscasts hours after it occurred, although outside of New Orleans, it wasn’t mentioned after 29 November 1972.

The UpStairs Lounge fire rated less than two minutes on the next night’s CBS Evening News and barely a minute on the NBC Nightly News. Harry Reasoner and Howard K. Smith (a Louisiana native) didn’t mention one word about it on ABC.

Why?

The patrons in The UpStairs Lounge were nearly all homosexual males. One woman died, and it’s unclear if she was lesbian or a relative of one of the men.

In 1973, homosexuality in New Orleans, which was more progressive than the rest of Louisiana and most of the rest of the Deep South, was frowned upon.

The coward who committed the dastardly deed at The UpStairs Lounge was never caught. He took the sissy way out and committed suicide a little more than a year after the fire.

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The College World Series championship series started an hour ago. I had Vanderbilt right. Arkansas, however, was a big disappointment, losing to Florida State and Texas Tech.

Michigan is the first Big Ten (B1G) team to reach a CWS final since 1966, when Ohio State won the championship. One of the Buckeyes’ best players was Bo Rein, who sadly perished in a January 1980 plane crash only 42 days after being named LSU’s football coach.

Had Rein lived, there’s no way LSU suffers 10 losing seasons between 1980 and 1999. Would he have won a national championship at LSU? Hard to tell. There were so many superpowers in that era. On the other hand, LSU would never have hired such duds as Mike Archer, Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo.

If Rein lived and coached a long time at LSU, do the Bayou Bengals entice Nick Saban, and later Les Miles, to Baton Rogue? Who knows.

The Big Ten has long complained about college baseball being slanted heavily towards teams in warmer climates, and in particular, the other Power Five conferences (ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC).

I understand the weather is a problem. But Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and other Big Ten schools, save Northwestern, have no room to complain. They are raking in millions upon millions of dollars through the Big Ten’s television contracts and their partnerships with Nike or another apparel company, meaning they have plenty to build indoor baseball facilities, whether it be through capital outlay or donors.

Michigan has an athletic budget which dwarfs some COUNTRIES. Why can’t it build a dedicated indoor baseball facility in Ann Arbor, one with a full-sized diamond? If the Maize and Blue can afford separate hockey facilities for its men’s and women’s teams, it certainly has the money to build something more in baseball (and softball).

And why does Wisconsin not play baseball anymore? It’s inexcusable the flagship university of the Badger State does not play the sport when there is a Major League franchise in Milwaukee. It’s the same for Colorado.

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That’s all from Salina. I need to get home pronto.

Football needs to trump politics

I am tired of seeing the negativity about the presidential election. I can’t take it anymore. I participated four years ago, and it was a huge mistake.

There was a huge anti-Trump rally yesterday in downtown Kansas City. My dear friends Robb and Dawn Amos attended. I know they’re down about the election, way down. They’re supposed to come to Buffalo Wild Wings today, first time I’ve seen them since the election. I hope they’ll be in a better mood. I will try not to bring up the election.

The protest in Kansas City was peaceful. However, that hasn’t been the case everywhere. I was horrified to learn of defacing of monuments with hate speech in New Orleans. My hometown embarrassing itself yet again.

I’m conservative, but I was not a fan of Trump. He is a crude, boorish man. I know Tiffany Trump, Donald’s daughter with Marla Maples,  was born on my 17th birthday, but that’s just a coincidence.

Life is going to go on. Nothing will change until Trump is inaugurated January 20.

Thank God for football!

The second, third and fourth teams in the Nov. 8 College Football Playoff committee rankings lost yesterday. Two of them, #2 Clemson and #4 Washington, fell at home. #3 Michigan lost in Iowa City to the Hawkeyes, which would not have been shocking last year, but given Iowa’s struggles this year and the way the Wolverines had been poleaxing opponents throughout 2016, it was.

Clemson had been darn lucky to be 9-0. The Tigers should have lost earlier this season at home to North Carolina State, but the Wolfpack kicker missed a gimme field goal at the end of regulation, allowing Clemson to escape in OT. The Tigers won a tough won from Louisville. And if Clemson’s season opener at Auburn occurred one month later, the Tigers from the SEC, not the ones from the ACC, might have emerged victorious.

Washington? Come on. The Pac-12 isn’t that strong this season. Stanford has fallen quite a bit. Oregon has collapsed. Arizona stinks. It says something when the two newest members, Colorado and Utah, are fighting for the South division, and Washington State, which lost to Eastern Washington in its season opener, now leads the North.

The Huskies’ non-conference schedule was a joke. Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State? Bill Snyder, the permanent king of cupcake scheduling, was probably envious. Tom Osborne would have been proud of that slate. Nick Saban has it right: it is high time teams in the Power 5 conferences stop playing these punching bags. I am well aware the punching bags want a big paycheck to help fill their athletic coffers, but wouldn’t those schools save money by playing more games closer to home?

Give USC credit. The Trojans could have waved the white flag after early season losses to Alabama, Stanford and Utah, but Clay Helton has revived Toy and will have USC in the Rose Bowl soon, if not this season. Fitting the win was in Seattle, where the man who led the Trojans to so much glory earlier this millennium, Pete Carroll, now coaches the Seahawks. Carroll probably was upset his team had to play at New England this weekend. He would have no doubt loved to have been watching the Trojans at Husky Stadium.

Michigan has always had trouble at Kinnick Stadium. In 1985, the Wolverines were #2, but lost 12-10 to the then-#1 Hawkeyes on the rain-slicked AstroTurf of Kinnick. Legendary Iowa coach Hayden Fry had the visiting locker room painted pink in an attempt to channel the aggression out of the visiting team, but Michigan’s equipment staff plastered over the pink walls with maize and blue posters. Nice idea. Too bad for the Wolverines it didn’t work.

Yesterday marked the first time since October 19, 1985, that the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 teams all lost on the same day.

As was the case then, Iowa beat Michigan in Iowa City, and two other teams lost at home. Then it was Oklahoma (to Miami) and Arkansas (to Texas). The Sooners bounced back and won the national championship by defeating Penn State in the Orange Bowl. Oklahoma also had a big assist from Tennessee, which beat Miami in the Sugar Bowl. The Hurricanes were a huge favorite over the Volunteers, largely based upon Miami’s 58-7 destruction of Notre Dame in its regular season finale, the final game of Gerry Faust’s coaching career. Faust had announced his resignation earlier that week following Notre Dame’s 10-7 loss to LSU in South Bend the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

I’m about to get on the road to Zona Rosa. I’ll be there at 11 when it opens, ready for the NFL.

(Bad) football feast

For those hoping for exciting football games, the first day of 2016 has been a huge disappointment.

All four bowl games so far have been one-sided, to put it mildly. Oklahoma State and Ole Miss face off in the Sugar Bowl starting at 7:30 CT, the last chance for excitement today.

The two bowls in Florida were total laughers. The combined score? 86 points for the winning teams, 13 for the losers. It was a split decision for the Big Ten and SEC, as Tennessee mauled Northwestern 45-6 in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, and Michigan stomped Florida 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando.

The Fiesta Bowl was just as bad. Ohio State led 14-0 early and Notre Dame never got closer than 10 points. The Buckeyes ended up winning 44-28, despite playing all but the first nine minutes of the game without All-America defensive end Joey Bosa, who was ejected for hitting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer with the crown of his helmet. Bosa has already announced he is leaving Ohio State for the NFL Draft, and some project him as the No. 1 overall pick, and all mock drafts have him in the top five.

Iowa, which was 12-0 in the regular season but lost the Big Ten championship game to Michigan State, was all pumped up about playing in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 25 years.

Too bad the Hawkeyes no-showed in Pasadena.

Stanford is taking Iowa to school. The Cardinal led 21-0 after less than 11 minutes and 35-0 at halftime. Iowa finally scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but it’s far too little, far too late.

The Hawkeyes have not won the Rose Bowl since the 1958 season, when the legendary Forrest Evashevski was still coaching in Iowa City.

Florida ended up losing its last three games to finish 10-4. Yes, the Gators were improved in their first season under Jim McIlwain following two bad seasons under Will Muschamp, who somehow got the head coaching gig at South Carolina last month. However, the Gators were absolutely putrid offensively this season, the worst Florida’s offense has been since Ron Zook coached the team from 2002-05, and maybe as bad as 1986, the year before Emmitt Smith arrived in Gainesville.

Northwestern’s stinker makes me wonder how the hell the Wildcats beat Stanford, especially in light of how bad the Cardinal are beating Iowa. And the Hawkeyes won 40-10 in Evanston in October.

Iowa scored another touchdown. Yippee. Brent Musburger just said the Hawkeyes are winning the second half. Come on, Brent, we all know football games are SIXTY minutes, not thirty. Stanford could care less.