May 28, 2004, 8:11 am
Bloggers in the News. My old friend Rich Wiggins (and Wigblog) was featured in a
York Times story yesterday.
Indeed, if a blog is likened to a conversation between a writer and
readers, bloggers like Mr. Wiggins are having conversations largely with
Mr. Wiggins, 48, a senior information technologist at Michigan State
University in East Lansing, does not know how many readers he has; he
suspects it's not many. But that does not seem to bother him.
"I'm just getting something off my chest," he said.
Grim anniversary. When my wife was growing up in Northern
Kentucky, the Beverly Hills Supper Club was a nightclub and a
familiar venue for high school proms, wedding receptions, and so on.
Many famous performers appeared there over the years. The original
building was built in 1937, but it had been greatly expanded over the
years with little or no safety inspection or enforcement. It postdated
Prohibition, but locals thought of it as an old speakeasy, and it was
said to be a headquarters for illegal gambling.
On May 28, 1977, twenty-seven years ago today, a fire broke out in the
building, apparently caused by faulty aluminum wiring. The
cheap building materials burned rapidly and generated toxic fumes. In
the vast, crowded Cabaret Room, the exits were unmarked and access to
them was constricted.
About two thousand people escaped from the building that night, but
died — most of them in the Cabaret Room.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum.
- Laura, 5/29/2004: It looks like the poor Bohrer and Fryman
families were completely wiped out in this fire, not to mention countless
parents...What a haunting tragedy.
- Gene Fuller, 7/9/2004: The Fryman family was devastated. The
daughter was in my home room at Harrison County High School. We had
already lost a young man from our home room in December 1976. He died when
the car he was riding in was struck by a train one week before Christmas.
This event really hit hard. Our homeroom teacher called Tracey's name
during roll call the first day back from the holiday. She just stopped and
looked at all of us. I will never forget when she said "I am so, so sorry.
I just am ..... She then ran from the room crying. R.I.P.
- Jody Ashcraft, 8/9/2004: My sister and her husband were
supposed to go to the show that night. I had just recently had a baby and
could not get out to go there, but I remember calling her house and
getting no answer. The horror that those people went through was unreal
and thank God my sisters son got sick so she was at the
hospital......safe. I felt relieved , but sick at the same time that all
of these people from everywhere were gone. Thanks to the brave fire
fighters that gave there all to do what they could. I will never forget
the brave people that died that night, you will be missed.
- Michael J. Coulter Coburn, 8/23/2004: Orville Coulter was my
grandfather. He was a member of the "Tri-State Roadrunners" He took me
with him on a trip to the UK. I am told that my mannerisms and expresions
are just like him. I was 15 when he died at the Beverly Hills fire. He was
so anxious for me to get my drivers license so we could go back to
Maryland where he had been so long, and visit friends. His Wife Lucylle
died in '74. These were my grandparents and my friends. My life.
I was a paperboy in 1977 and was delivering the Columbus Dispatch to Mrs.
Phillips when she met me at the door. Strange to see her at 6am on a
Sunday. My mother had gotten a call from Millie Fowler (her husband was
killed too) and called some of the people on my routelooking for me. Mrs.
P told me at the door "you need to get home". My father was driving me
around because he is a good father and 200 Columbus Dispatches take a car
to deliver. I had no idea that Grandad was there but my father knew. We
finished the route and went home.
To this day I will think of memorial day as the day my grandad died. I am
not sad anymore though. I have him in me, I have the Roadrunners in me. I
have memories that I can share with my family and friends that will pass
beyond me to future generations. SO My grandad is still here and will
always be with us. And this forum allows his legacy to be carried forward.
I thank you for the opportunity and wish you all peace and contentment.
Remember Orville Coulter and remember the lives of all those we lost and
cherished so much. They are alive in us always.
- Dave, 11/10/2005: My parents were there that night, after the
fire, helping victims.
- Terry, 11/12/2005: I was in Cincinnati over the weekend &
decided to drive to Southgate to see where the supper club was located. I
wasnt sure if something had been built there or not. I never really found
it. I drove along US 27 several times. Back & forth thinking I might see
some type of monumuent or marker. I went past the Evergreen cemetary. The
exit that I took off of 471 was Ft Thomas/Southgate. Was I in the vicinity
of the supper club? Which side of I-471 was it located? Maybe you could
tell me some of the businesses that surround it now.
- Jonathan Wye, 12/20/2005: At the time of this fire I was a
volunteer firefighter in New Jersey, having taken a couple of years off
from school. One of my good friends from college had continued straight on
to his degree and then gotten a job as a Fifth Grade science teacher. The
fire was of historical interest because of being a firefighter, and I was
definitely not expecting the call I got two weeks after the fire from a
college room mate telling me that Russel Gray, our friend, had been killed
in the fire. He was at a retirement party for another teacher in the
school system. The identification had been delayed in part because his
girl friend/fiance (and I am ashamed to say I don't remember her name) had
been killed with him. It wasn't until his mother realized a week or so
later that she hadn't heard from him for a while that the alarm was
Russ knew from day one that he wanted to be a teacher and I'm sure he
would have been a good one.
- Shayla Hampton, 3/21/2006: To Terry:
Recently I have begun to research this heartbreaking tragedy. Based on
various clues in the readings, testimony from relatives,and
a half an hour of driving and searching I found the spot:
Coming from Cincinnati, I took I-471 South and got off at the Ft. Thomas,
At the intersection, make a left. You'll be in Southgate on Alexandria
Immediatly on the right hand side, there is a fairly new medical building.
This building is sitting at the foot of the Beverly Hills Supper Club
You'll notice that the building sits at the bottom of a hill of trees. On
the left of the medical building is the long narrow driveway that leads up
the hill to the site. However, there is a small gate closing of the
driveway. I didn't see if the gate was locked though. I'm guessing that
nothing has been built up there yet.
I plan to walk up the hill (if I cannot drive up) and place flowers and 2
stuffed animals(for the unborn babies that died) on the site. I was also
an unborn fetus at the time of this tragedy, but the family of all those
victims, all the surviors, and the rescure workers will always be in my
- James Woody, 5/22/2006: Nothing has been built on the site of
the Beverly Hills Supper Club, but the site is quite easy to find (see
below for Shayla's directions). Apparently there are still pieces of some
of the stone statues that were placed outside the facility for decoration.
I watched it burn down that night in 1977. I helped with moving some of
the corpses at the Ft. Thomas Armory into a large refrigerated Kroger's
truck. For months, when you passed the supper club site you would be able
to smell the stink of the charred remains. It took them about a year to
knock the whole thing down - I'm not sure why it took that long. I'll
never forget hearing about it, driving back from a day at King's Island
amusement park. We had the radio on and they mentioned a fire at the
Beverly Hills. We all thought "no big deal." They were always having fires
there, it seems, but when we heard that at least 90 bodies had been
recovered we high-tailed it over to Highland Avenue in Ft. Thomas to watch
it burn from the hill side. The Enquirer had a gruesome picture on the
front page next day. The whole event was a nightmare for me that I will
never forget. Two good friends of my sister perished. I had plans on
getting a job there as a busboy, since I heard they were hiring. I'm glad
that never materialized. I just can't imagine the terror and pandemonium
in the Cabaret Room that night...
- Terry, 5/24/2006: Hi Shayla & James
thanks for the directions.
- LeAnn, 5/27/2006: It's been 29 years and it seems like
yesterday. Mt grandparents went to the Supper Club to see my granmother's
favorite entertainer, John Davidson. They were going with friends to
celebrate my grandmothers retirement and my grandfather approaching
retirement (he was due to retire that following Monday). We lived at the
corner of 19th and Oakland avenue in Covington and could see the smoke
from atop the flood wall in the distance. When we heard what had happened,
on the T.V, my mother immediately starting calling to try and locate Maw
Maw and Paw. Hoping they had stopped off for a drink, with their friends,
before going to the club. I fell asleep around midnight and woke the next
morning to my mom on the phone with the local hospitals trying to locate
Maw and Paw. No one had heard from them as of yet.
I knew they were dead, but I still was making secret bargins with God for
it not to be true. 3 days had passed and still no word. Mom and Dad went
to the Ft. Thomas Armory daily trying to identify them, but they returned
home with no end to the nightmare. On the 4th day, she found Maw Maw. She
said she looked at peace. Alittle swollen in the face and her hair was a
little burnt around the edges, but she looked peaceful. The gentlemen they
found with her could only be identified by dental records. It took a few
days to confirm but Paw Paw was found with her. They never let Mom see
Paw, they said it was best. They were fund in the Cabaret Room. All she
was given were his and Maw's personal affects. It took years after the
tragedy, but I finially found the courage to open the yellow manila
envelope containing Paw's personal belongings and immediately broke into
tears. The coins in his pocket, the rings on his fingers, the watch he was
wearing were charred through. I can only imaging the condition he was
To this day I still cry on Memorial weekend. I miss my grandparents so
much. They missed so much. They missed seeing their grandson being born.
They missed the births and growings up of their 5 geat grand children (and
1 name sake)and their 1 grea-great grand daughter. Our children missed out
also. They did not get to know their great grandparents, though they were
told all about them and what wonderful peope they were. My grandmother was
my best friend when I was very little, but as I grew up I found kids more
my own age to replace her as my best friend and I saw less and less of
her. The night before she died, I was suppose to go over to her house and
spent the evening with her but I was 14 (A freshamn in High School) and my
friends seemed like a more interesting time on a Friday night than my Maw
Maw, so I promised to spend Saturday afternoon with her, but the next day
it was unusually warm so instead I went to the pool with my sister and
Aunt. When we stopped by to pick up my Aunt, Maw came out of the house
with her hair freshly styled and her nails done. I remember asking Maw why
she was so "styled up?" She said she was going that night to see John
Davidson and asked if I was coming in. I told her no, I'm going swimming
but I promise I would go to church with you tomarrow morning. Tomarrow
never came (for her)and I haven't been to church that much since then. I
was mad at God for a long time and i rarely spoke to him. The one, heart
wrenching favor (to end all favors) I asked of him and he let me
Life goes on, but memories live forever in our minds. I am thankful for
the time I had with them and will tell them how much I miss them and love
them when I go to their grave site tomarrow to place flowers on their head
Thanks for listening and my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was
touched by this preventable tragedy.
- Stephanie Barrington, 5/29/2006: My dad was a Southgate
firefighter during the Beverly Hills fire. I remember him painting our
house that evening when the alarm went off. He left in a hurry, fully
expecting another false alarm as there were always calls to the club. As
the night went on, I remember the wives of the firemen in town going door
to door collecting blankets, water, anything else that may be needed by
the victims or rescue workers. We could see the smoke rising from the hill
from our backyard, and as kids we knew it was bad. Alot of us kids grew up
together at the firehouse and stuck together as our dads were on the hill
that night. Going from one house to another, watching news...and waiting.
I remember it being hard to sleep that night not knowing when dad would
come home. I think he finally came home sometime the next morning for a
shower...but was gone for days...searching what was left of that building.
He had nightmares for years...and although he will finally talk of certain
aspects...usually technical...he never has let us know most of what he saw
that night. He thinks of it every year, and as he recalls certain memories
you can see the sadness in his eyes...you can almost see a glimpse of the
person...the people...he left up on the hill that night in
- David Boyle, 5/30/2006: Thanks Larry for posting this. A sad
By the way, when are you going to write a book? You are a repository
of so many anecdotes and historical events, it should not be hard for
- tm, 6/4/2006: I went up to the site today. You can walk up a
driveway behind the new medical building. In fact the parking lot of the
medical building has parking right up to the old driveway entrance. The
walk up the entrance drive is pretty easy. After that, the site has become
well overgrown. At this time of year (June 4), most of the growth is about
chest high in the areas that used to be parking lots. These areas are easy
to make your way through because the growth is mild weed type plants.
Oddly enough there were daisies in bloom scattered throughout the weeds. I
walked alot of the front area. It was difficult trying to find a landmark
or to realize where the buildings used to be. there is alot of heavier
growth were the buildings once stood. Not until I got home from this trip
could I really figure out on Google Earth, where they were. Knowing what I
know now, I would probably go back to find the right places. I'd like to
find the place where the Cabara Room was and the circle garden near the
chapel. I would suggest maybe going in March. That way the weeds are gone
and you should be able to make your way around easier.
I took an old pic and overlayed it on Google Earth. The link is below.
It's not the best but it should help you see what it used to look like and
where it was located. There are also some pics I took of things I
I also created the building in 3-D and placed it on Google Earth. I hope
it's in the right place.
- Bob Schulenberg, 12/23/06: On Feb 1st 2007 I will have been a
Northern Ky firefighter for 45 years. I will always remember the night
that time stood still. I always and still do go to the Indianapolis 500.
Saturday May 28th was a very warm and sunny May Saturday. As always I was
filled with anticipation for the next days Indy 500 hoping my driver A.J.
Foyt would win his 4th 500. A little after 9:00 word came out the the
Beverly Hill Supper Club was on fire. The club was in Campbell County and
I was in Kenton County. I responded to our Station #1 and we listened as
more and more fire departments were being called to the fire. Then our
fire tones dropped to respond to the fire. Upon arrival I was directed to
go in for search and rescue. As described in many news articles the smoke
was intensely black and thick. Finally I stumbled over a body. I remember
make trip after trip in and out of the Caberet room taking victims out,
never to know if they lived or died. Finally while I was inside the loud
long blasts of the fire truck air horns signaled us to evacuate the
building. I suddenly realized I had gotten turned around and was lost.
Well, I told the Lord that if he took me now I would not be happy because
I would miss the Indy 500. After gathering my thoughts and slowing my
breathing as shallow as I could to conserve air I saw light ahead of me.
Flowwing the light I escaped thru an opening that had been cut into the
wall of the room. I will never forget that night as long as I live. In my
entire career that is the most disappointing night of my career. I wanted
to do more, I wanted to save lives, I wanted families to still have their
loved ones. My heart was present at every funeral. My heart is still with
all those who lost their lives and who were injured. My heart is still
with all their families who lost so much. Yes, the night of May 28th 1977
goes down as the night I was a total failure. And I will live with that
May 12, 2004, 7:49 am
Zogby and Blogiversary. Pollster John Zogby says the election is Kerry's
Have you recovered from the shock? Is this guy nuts? Kerry's performance
of late has hardly been inspiring and polls show that most Americans
have no sense of where he really stands on the key issues that matter
most to them. Regardless, I still think that he will win. And if he
doesn't, it will be because he blew it.
I have had similar thoughts: that the biggest imponderable in
predicting this year's election results is Kerry himself. Political
self-destruction is an unfortunate habit of presidential candidates.
Greg Hlatky had this take on the
Hmmm, incumbent president running against a lugubrious senator during a
period of sustained growth. How'd that turn out the last time?
I enjoy the very apt comparison of Kerry with Dole, but I think their
differences are significant here. Bob Dole was a man of the Senate in a
way that fatally undermined him as a presidential candidate. John Kerry
is a Senator, but critics find little substance in his legislative
career; ironically, his disengagement from the Senate may make him
stronger as a candidate for president.
Zogby compares the economy of 2004 with the recovery which he says
was well underway in 1992, yet didn't help GHWB.
A small blogging milestone. I posted the first entry two years
ago today: an account of my throat surgery. Brief excerpt:
So, Wednesday morning, flat on my back on a gurney, I was wheeled into
the operating room. Even in my addled state, I could see the
architectural features: this was plainly a special, ceremonial space, a
focal point to which much else was ancillary. It had a very high
ceiling, and the walls were done all the way up in tan ceramic tile of a
kind I had not seen elsewhere in the building. The elegance and intense
focus of activity, and the hushed crowd of doctors and retainers in
immaculate uniforms, made me think of a corporate board room, or perhaps
the inner sanctum of the grand lodge of some great secret society.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
May 11, 2004, 10:32 pm
Nominated. As of the filing deadline, 4:00 pm today, I was the
only Democrat to file for the office of Washtenaw County Clerk and
Register of Deeds. For practical purposes, I am now the party
I can also say that the clerk's office during last hour before the
filing deadline is no longer the social gathering it used to be, since
interested politicos and media can follow the filings on
the Web. At 3:30 pm, I was the only member of the public
present. From then until 4:00, less than a dozen political folks, and
no reporters, came by.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum —
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