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A look back at the tragic Cinema Follies fire of 1977 and the political scandal it caused

The Cinema Follies Club in SE Washington,DC was open 24 hours, showing gay movies continuously. But the principal attraction was "a full range" of sexual activities conducted in empty rooms adjacent to the viewing area.On October 24, 1977, nine people died because of a fire there.A conservative Mississippi Congressman was among the survivors. He was rescued from under a pile of bodies -- one of only four men who survived.

(more inside)

by Anonymousreply 906/21/2009

An October 25, 1977 article from the Washington Post-

The blaze, which apparently was caused by the explosive ignition of either cleaning equipment or a gas heater, erupted about 5 p.m. at the Cinema Follies, 37 L St. SE. The flames blocked the front door and firemen had to smash through a rear door locked from the outside on the second floor to reach the unconscious victims inside. Most of the victims appeared to have choked on billowing black smoke that filled the interior of the two-story brick building where about a dozen persons were watching "all male, X-rated" films on the second floor.

In explaining the difficulty of identifying yesterday's victims, a man familiar with the situation said that many homosexuals do not carry identification when they visit homosexual gathering places. * * * A handlettered sign on the outside of the brown-painted building said: "Celebrating Our Second Anniversary The Washington Premier of Harley's Angels�All Male X-Rated Color�Free Buffet Dinner Sunday Oct. 23."

by Anonymousreply 106/20/2009

US Rep. John C. Hinson was a regular customer during 1977 at the Washington Cinema Follies Club. He also happened to be at the theater when the fire broke out and was one of the few lucky ones there that survived.Though the names of the nine men who died were released to the press, the names of the survivors had not been.However, a Mississippi journalist based in Washington sometime later discovered this and printed a story about it. A scandal erupted in 1980.

An even bigger scandal emerged later for the congressman.After being arrested in a men's restroom in a Federal office building on Capitol Hill on a charge of oral sodomy, Mr. Hinson resigned on April 13, 1981.Hinson died of respiratory failure resulting from AIDS in 1995.

by Anonymousreply 206/20/2009

kinda on the same theme....in Biloxi in the late 60's, the city wanted to shut down the towns only porn theatre...the judges had to watch the film 2x to determine if it was porn or not......it wasn't well known before but was full afterwards.

As far as Hinson goes? He was one of the first with the wife posing and standing beside him through his scandal. Didn't he have a couple children also? Those facts are hard to find on the net.

by Anonymousreply 306/21/2009

Jon Hinson later became a gay rights activist

by Anonymousreply 406/21/2009

I was a regular there, both before the fire and after they reopened. I thank my lucky stars I happened to stay home that evening.

by Anonymousreply 506/21/2009

Place was a disgusting, filthy hole, like the rest of that Southeast strip.

by Anonymousreply 606/21/2009

I messed up on the details a bit. When the fire happened in Fall 1977 he was not yet a Congressman himself. He was serving as an aid to Mississippi congressman Thad Cochran at the time. In 1978, he was elected to the office after Cochran vacated the seat to run for the Senate.

When he was running for office that year the voters in his district hadn't yet learned about him being found at the cinema fire a year earlier. BTW, from his pic at link, Hinson was a bit of a hunky bear in his prime.

by Anonymousreply 706/21/2009

Because the fire happened at 5pm instead of later on in the evening it turned out a good number of the victims were closeted married men who had stopped by there for action after work before going home to their spouses and families.

Gay Married Men's Association in DC organized for the first time on January 10, 1978 with a meeting of 35 men in Bethesda. The group grew out of the ashes of the Cinema Follies fire on October 24, 1977, which claimed the lives of a number of married men. The group was the first outreach to bisexual men and married men with gay interests.

by Anonymousreply 806/21/2009

[quote]The group was the first outreach to bisexual men and married men with gay interests.

Honey, collecting Judy Garland memorabilia is a gay interest. Those fags were there to suck dick.

by Anonymousreply 906/21/2009
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