A scene from "Tracking Fire" | Courtesy of Sheri L. Wright
A scene from “Tracking Fire” | Courtesy of Sheri L. Wright

On June 24, 1973, 32 people died in a fire set intentionally at a New Orleans gay bar called The UpStairs Lounge. The crime remains unsolved to this day, and many during that time were afraid to speak out. Louisvillian Sheri L. Wright is filming a documentary about the tragic incident, and she’s hosting a fundraiser Friday night at Play Dance Bar to help raise money for the final steps.

Tracking Fire” examines the deadliest mass killing in LGBT history in the United States, and the incident remains one of New Orleans’ most notorious crimes in the city. To this day, no one was ever charged for the act of arson.

“I’ve carried this project for three years,” said Wright in a press release. “Thirty-two people died. That’s not something I could walk away from. Now, it’s time to finish and get the story out there.”

Sheri L. Wright
Sheri L. Wright is a Kentucky Poet Laureate nominee. | Courtesy of Sheri L. Wright

The fundraiser will feature drink specials, food, entertainment and much more, and all proceeds go directly to Wright to help with the final steps — editing, voice-over talent, festival applications, etc.

Wright raised $20,000 to start filming, and she was able to gather survivors and family members to help put the pieces together.

“The families want so badly for us to know about this,” said Wright. “They want to have some sense of acknowledgement. One man, who lost his father, told me, ‘I just want the city to say they are sorry and that they didn’t investigate fully.’ I made a promise that I would help tell their story. That is why I have to finish this film.”

The “Tracking Fire” fundraiser will be held Friday, Dec. 18, from 6-9 p.m. at Play, 1101 E. Washington St. Tickets are $10, or $35 for admission and a buffet catered by Wiltshire Pantry. Popular drag performer Varla Jean Merman will take the stage later that night.

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville. She's known around town as the Bar Belle and updates her blog (barbelleblog.com) daily. She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."


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