Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cocoanut Grove Fire #1 (From Eric Beheim)

November 28th will mark the 70 anniversary of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston. The club, a former speakeasy, was Boston’s premier nightspot in the 1930s and 1940s. On the night of the fire, more than a thousand people were crammed into a space rated for 460 people. Decorated in a South Seas tropical motif, the interior of the club was decorated with palm trees made of flammable paper, flammable furniture and other flimsy decorations. To prevent customers from leaving without paying, some of the exits were locked, concealed with draperies and even bricked up.


Chic Silber said...

The second deadliest nightclub fire in US history was the Rhythm Night Club on April 23, 1940, located in Natchez, Mississippi. The fire killed 209 African-American party goers, while severely injuring many others.

The fire started sometime around 11:30 p.m. as members of the local Moneywasters Social Club were enjoying the song “Clarinet Lullaby” performed by Walter Barnes and His Royal Creolians orchestra from Chicago. The fire started at the main entrance door of the building and quickly engulfed the structure in flames. Foretelling future nightclub fire disasters, flammable materials contributed to the speed and intensity of the fire, in this case, decorative Spanish moss was draped over the rafters. When burning, the moss generated flammable methane gas which fueled the fire. With windows boarded up to prevent outsiders from viewing or listening to the music, more than 300 people struggled to escape the building. A few managed to escape but most died from smoke inhalation or were crushed in the stampede to escape. Bandleader Barnes and nine members of his band were among the victims. Only three band members survived, one vowing never to play again. The cause of the fire is unknown but thought to be accidental, possibly related to a carelessly discarded match or cigarette.

Chic Silber said...

The Beverly Hills Supper Club is the third deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. It occurred on the night of May 28, 1977, during the Memorial Day weekend. 165 persons died and over 200 were injured as a result of the blaze. Located in Southgate, Kentucky, The Beverly Hills Super Club was a major attraction, drawing headline talent from Las Vegas, Hollywood, and New York. That night’s entertainment was singer and actor John Davidson. The building had been a popular night spot since 1937 and by the time of the fire in 1977, several additions had created a sprawling complex of rooms, corridors, and service areas connected by narrow corridors.

More than 3,000 guests and staff were inside the club on the evening of the fire. The main show was in the Cabaret Room and it was estimated that over 1,300 patrons had been squeezed into the room. Other guests were in several restaurants, bars, private party rooms, and other rooms. Sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 PM, a fire started in the Zebra Room which had hosted a wedding reception. The fire was discovered around 9:00 AM by waitresses. Attempts were made to control the fire with fire extinguishers, but it was too late. The cause of the fire was never completely determined though it is thought that the use of aluminum wiring may have contributed.

The fire burst into the Cabaret Room at 9:10 PM, preceded by thick smoke that spread all over the room, quickly engulfing it. Those who had not evacuated quickly panicked; many of them would be found dead piled up near the main entrance. The flames spread so rapidly that a full evacuation of the sprawling, crowded building was not possible.

Chic Silber said...

Perhaps the best known recent nightclub disaster was The Station nightclub fire. The fire at the Station was captured on video and images of the horror which unfolded were seen around the world. Perhaps the other reason this nightclub fire is so well known is because of the band that was playing The Station that night – the very popular, Great White. The fire began at 11:07 PM on Thursday, February 20, 2003. The Station was a rock n roll themed nightclub located in West Warwick, Rhode Island. One hundred people died in the fire, making The Station fire the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in American history, As we have seen time and time again, the fire was caused when pyrotechnic sparks, set off by the Great White tour manager, ignited flammable sound insulation foam in the walls and ceilings around the stage. This created a flash fire that engulfed the club in 5 1/2 minutes. Some 230 people were injured and another 132 escaped.