On the night of May 28, 1977, tragedy struck the popular Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Kentucky. During the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a massive fire broke out in the Zebra Room, where it originated. In a matter of minutes, 165 people had died and more than 200 were injured. The authorities immediately declared it an accident and destroyed any evidence that could have pointed to criminal activity.
However, there were many suspicious circumstances that led to suspicions of arson. An informant had overheard a conversation two weeks before the fire about how the mob would burn down the Supper Club. A letter threatening to provoke arson was delivered to the shillings. A Cincinnati firefighter said he had never seen a fire move so fast without accelerants.
Witnesses working at the Supper Club described suspicious men who worked that same day in the Zebra Room. None of the survivors I met or interviewed believe that the fire was an accident. Their testimonies and eyewitness accounts are chilling and compelling. Attorney Stan Chesley's first lawsuit blaming faulty aluminum wiring failed after six years of appeals, but he was retried.
The second trial lasted three months and resulted in victims receiving less than half of the damages fees.The aftershocks of this tragedy still persist today. I have listened to numerous readers who shared stories about being there or losing someone in their family. Mention the Supper Club anywhere in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region and you'll hear a story. I even interviewed a paranormal researcher who visited the top of the hill and said she recorded voices and the presence of “powerful activity”.On the other hand, leaders of the city of Newport fought their way to the Supreme Court to cleanse its “Sin City” image and make Newport what it is today.
Wayne Dammert was the captain of the banquet that saved 75 people from certain death on the second floor of the Supper Club. Teenage waiter Walter Bailey took charge and warned people in recklessly crowded Cabaret Room, saving hundreds, if not thousands. Hank Messick of Louisville was the most intrepid reporter to cover the aftermath of the fire.Investigating the history of the top of the hill in Southgate led me to the first fire in 1936, a mafia arson that also produced the first fatal victim, a 5-year-old girl. By early morning on May 29th, 134 bodies had been removed from the building and placed in a makeshift morgue inside Fort Thomas Armory.Fischer Homes announced Monday that it will join Ashley Builders Group to build 60 homes in Memorial Pointe residential community being developed on this hilltop property in Southgate.
Juanita Hodges became a punchline as “April Flowers” in an attempt to extort money from Ratterman, but her false testimony actually exposed a mafia plot to incriminate him and helped Robert Kennedy's team convict underworld leaders.The Beverly Hills Supper Club fire remains one of America's biggest unsolved cases and mass murders in history. It is an unforgettable tragedy with many stories still waiting to be told.