June 7, 2023


JEFFERSON, LA – The Jefferson Parish Library will commemorate the 50th anniversary of UpStairs Lounge Fire with a screening of Royd Anderson’s documentary followed by a panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 20, at the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. The New Orleans chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is co-sponsoring this event.

Royd Anderson is a Cuban-American filmmaker and historian based who lives in New Orleans. He specializes in documentary films pertaining to tragic Louisiana events often overlooked by historians. In 2006, Anderson wrote and directed the documentary The Luling Ferry Disaster for his Master's thesis project in Communication at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In 2007, he wrote and directed the documentary The Continental Grain Elevator ExplosionPan Am Flight 759 was Anderson's third documentary, released in 2012. The film examines the worst plane crash in Louisiana history, occurring on July 9, 1982, in the city of Kenner. Anderson's fourth film, The UpStairs Lounge Fire, documents the 1973 Up Stairs Lounge arson attack in New Orleans. The documentary was released on June 24, 2013 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the fire.

Anderson will be joined by two local writers who will discuss the impact of the fire. David Johnson, director of Marketing and Outreach for the library, will moderate.

Robert Fieseler’s debut book, Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the UpStairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, was published in 2018. It won the Edgar Award and the Louisiana Literary Award, was shortlisted for the Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and was a finalist for the Publishing Triangle’s Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction. Fieseler also won Lambda Literary Foundation’s Judith Markovitz Emerging Writer Award. He is working on his second queer history book, which received a Silvers Foundation work-in-progress grant. He graduated co-valedictorian from the Columbia Journalism School and lives with his husband in New Orleans.

Clayton Delery is a retired faculty member of The Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, Natchitoches. His book, The UpStairs Lounge Arson, was named Book of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities in 2015. His next book, Out for Queer Blood: The Murder of Fernando Rios and the Failure of New Orleans Justice, tells the story of an anti-gay hate crime that took place in New Orleans in 1958. In addition, Delery is a contributor to collections such as My Gay New Orleans and Fashionably Late: Gay, Bi, and Trans Men who Came Out Later in Life. He is also the editor of The Witlings, a play written in the 18th century by Frances Burney. Delery lives in New Orleans, where he is working on a memoir.

David Johnson will moderate the panel. He is director of Marketing and Outreach for the Jefferson Parish Library system. He had a 23-year career with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities where he directed Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine and oversaw the launch of KnowLA, the Digital Encyclopedia of Louisiana. His passion for cultural promotion involved a short stint at the Hermann-Grima and Gallier Historic House Museums and on to the New Orleans Museum of Art where he served as editor of museum publications and the web-content manager for four years. He also served as the Digital Media Editor at OffBeat Magazine, the monthly music and culture magazine.No one was charged for starting the fire at the UpStairs Lounge that claimed 32 lives on June 24, 1973, in a second-floor gay bar at 141 Chartres in the French Quarter. The primary suspect was a gay man with a history of psychiatric impairment named Roger Dale Nunez who had been ejected from the bar earlier in the day. He was never charged and committed suicide in November 1974.

Many felt the fire was inadequately acknowledged by the New Orleans community—some family members refused to claim the bodies of their relatives out of shame, and local civic and religious leaders largely ignored the tragedy. According to survivors, many avoided talking about the event, as they faced discrimination in the workplace and from landlords. In 2022, The New Orleans City Council issued a formal apology.

For more information regarding this presentation, contact Chris Smith, Manager of Adult Programming for the library, at 504-889-8143 or

The Jefferson Parish Library system consists of 16 locations that stretch from the Lakeshore Branch on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain to the Grand Isle Branch just steps away from the Gulf of Mexico. The library system consists of two large regional libraries and seven branches on each side of the Mississippi River. The East Bank Regional Library (4747 W. Napoleon, Metairie) serves as library headquarters. The Jefferson Parish Library is the second largest system in the state of Louisiana. More than 200 employees work for the Jefferson Parish Library including librarians, administration and support staff. JPL is supported by a vibrant volunteer organization, the Friends of the Public Library. For more information, contact the library at (504) 838-1100 or

For more information about Jefferson Parish, visit Residents can also receive regular updates by following the Parish on Facebook, Twitter Youtube, JPTV and Instagram (@JeffParishGov) or by texting JPALERT or JPNOTICIAS to 888-777.


      Jefferson Parish Public Information Office

      1221 Elmwood Park Boulevard, Suite 1002

      Jefferson, LA 70123

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      Gretchen Hirt Gendron, PIO