HATE CRIME VICTIM: IDENTIFIED AFTER 45 YEARS: Nearly half a century after one of the largest LGBTQ mass murders, one "unclaimed" man finally has a name.
Last year marked the 45th anniversary of the deadly arson fire at popular New Orleans gay bar UpStairs Lounge that killed 32 people. It was the largest mass killing of gay people in U.S. history for over four decades--until the Pulse massacre that claimed 50 lives in 2016.
Three victims of the 1973 fire were never positively identified and remained "unknown white males," buried in unmarked graves at a New Orleans cemetery. Their namelessness has haunted the community for decades.
I made UpStairs Inferno, the full-length documentary about the fire and its aftermath with the mission to honor the victims and give them the respect and dignity they were denied at the time.
In 2018, I received a message from 54-year-old Lynette Moreland who believed her uncle was one of the unnamed men killed in the fire. After lengthy, in-depth interviews with family members who provided information corroborated by official records, I believe we can now identify Larry Norman Frost as one of those "unclaimed" men.
During the New Orleans Police Department investigation, several survivors identified Larry Frost, a 32-year-old white male, as having been at the UpStairs Lounge that night. There's no evidence he escaped the blaze, and the Vieux Carre Courier, a local newspaper, which published the names of those who perished listed Larry Frost as "tentatively identified."
After Larry's family received returned mail marked "deceased," his brother, Donald Frost, drove from Michigan to New Orleans sometime in the summer of 1973. Donald, now 70, recalls speaking with his brother's landlord, who said that Larry left one night and never came back. "Everything was still there as if you were to leave and go to work and not come back," Donald says. The landlord told Donald that he thought Larry had died in the fire.
The fire remains the deadliest in New Orleans history. Public memorials have been held for years on the anniversary of the tragedy.
But Larry's sister, Nancy, said it never occurred to her that people outside the family would be interested in his death. Until recently, they didn't understand the magnitude of the fire or its place in history. "I honestly didn't know that the whole thing was such a big deal--that people knew about it," Nancy explained. "I didn't know there were parades or memorials." She insisted that their silence wasn't out of a lack of caring or shame.
"We didn't hate him or throw him out. It was never that way ... He was loved," Nancy fervently added.
--ROBERT L. CAMINA
Robert L. Camina is the writer-director of the documetary UpStairs Inferno.
Caption: Deadly Inferno (above left): Firemen treat survivors of the deadly UpStairs Lounge fire in New Orleans. Larry Frost (above): His family believes he's one of the unclaimed men that night
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|Title Annotation:||STAY WOKE / DISCOVERIES; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer; Larry Frost|
|Author:||Camina, Robert L.|
|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2019|
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