Inside the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire: 40 Years Later

May 23, 2017

Sunday, May 28 at 7:00 pm
Monday, May 29 at 1:00 pm

This ad was printed in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Saturday, May 28, 1977, the morning of the fire.

Sunday, May 28 marks the 40th anniversary of the devastating fire at the Beverly Hills Supper Club. Produced by Lee Hay and host John Kiesewetter, the special takes a look at the tragic event and its aftermath through conversations with people who were there, including former waiter Wayne Dammert whose story was told in the book, Inside the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire written by Ron Elliott.

Here's a link to John Kiesewetter's blog about this special, too.

Posted below are the detailed interviews of those you'll hear on the completed special:

Kay Barksdale on March 2, 2017 in the WVXU studio
Credit John Kiesewetter

Kay Barksdale, secretary for Mort Watters, founder of WCPO-TV, and she was the first black woman hired at Channel 9, WCPO-TV, as an employee.  The night of the fire she was a vocalist and guest with the Greater Cincinnati Choral Union who were dining in the Crystal Room on the second floor.

John Beatsch, Southgate Volunteer Fire Department chief

John Beatsch, volunteer firefighter with the Southgate Fire Department the night of the fire who's now Southgate's Volunteer Fire Chief.

Cincinnati-based Associated Press sportswriter Norm Clarke (left) listens to Johnny Bench's comments to NBC's Tony Kubek after the Cincinnati Reds swept the New York Yankees in the 1976 World Series.

Norm Clarke, Associated Press reporter on-site the night of the fire and now a columnist in Las Vegas.

Nick Clooney at the Channel 12 news desk
Credit WKRC-TV

Nick Clooney, anchor at WKRC-TV Channel 12 News and on-site reporter the night of the fire.

Inside the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire book written by Ron Elliott and Wayne Dammert

Wayne Dammert, former waiter at the Beverly Hills Supper Club, who helped rescue many people during the fire, and also co-wrote the book, "Inside the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire," with Ron Elliott.

Jim Delaney, investigative reporter, Cincinnati Enquirer, who was in the newsroom the night of the fire and later reported on the class-action aluminum wiring trials.  He's now the owner of Delaney Communications.

Jeff Johnson, broadcast engineer and commercial photographer, who worked for the interior designer Harry Backus with Backus Associates and took photographs inside the Beverly Hills Supper Club for them before the fire.  

Jeff Ruby, restaurant owner and regional director of the Holiday Inns at the time of the fire, who along with friends had front row center seats in the Cabaret Room the night of the fire.  

You'll find Jeff Ruby's story of the night of the fire in a chapter of his book, Not Counting Tomorrow: The Unlikely Life of Jeff Ruby.  There's a chapter in this book by Jeff Ruby about his experiences at the Beverly Hills Supper Club the night of the fire.  The chapter is entitled "Tragedy" after the song title by the Bee Gees.

Rona Shannon from the 1970's

Rona Shannon, cocktail waitress in the Cabaret Room before the fire (1976-1977).

Jim Teter (right) and Jim McDonald at the Beverly Hills Supper Club

Jim Teter, part of the Teter & McDonald comedy team which opened for John Davidson in the Cabaret Room the night of the fire. 

Front page photograph in the May 29, 1977 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer taken by Gerry Wolter the night of the Beverly Hills Supper Club.
Credit Gerry Wolter

Gerry Wolter, Cincinnati Enquirer staff photographer, first photographer on the scene of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire that night.  He had photographed many social events there in the past.

Other related reference books written about the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire:

The Beverly Hills Supper Club: The Untold Story of Ky's Worst Tragedy written by Robert D. Webster

Beverly Hills: The Anatomy of a Nightclub Fire by Robert G. Lawson

Beverly Hills Country Club (Images of America) by Earl W. Clark & Allen J. Singer

Reconstruction of a Tragedy: The Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, Southgate, Kentucky, May 28, 1977, written by Richard L Best.  Published by the National Fire Protection Association, and it’s very rare!