Spite, revenge, competition?
Houston Chronicle irirb Sunday, March 26.1978
Opinions on motives are varied
for rash of gay community fires
BY JIM BARLOW
HUTCHINSON, Kan. <UPI) — A local
man has a surprise for the city Trash Service.
Gary Nachtigal, chagrined over what
he calls the city service's trashy habits,
waited for the city's annual spring
cleanup before springing bis surprise.
He has left a pile of rubbish at the
street curb in front of his home that is
about 50 feet long, 4 feet high and 6 feet
The pile represents a year's worth of
garbage he's stored in a shed behind his
"About a year ago, I got mad at the city
Trash Service," said Nachtigal. "It
seemed like they couldn't dump a trash
can without getting it all over the yard.
"So I quit placing my trash can at the
curb. Now they're going to get it all at
Speculation continues as to the origin of fires
which destroyed the Silver Bullet, at 1005 Califor
nia, damaged another bar catering to homosexuals and two apartments in the Montrose area.
Arson investigators are probing a series
of unsolved fires that have bit a number of
Houston bars catering to homosexuals.
So far no one has been injured in the
tires, mostly in the Montrose area, but
damages have amounted to thousands of
dollars. Opinions on the motives for the
fires are varied.
"In that part of town," said L. H. Mi-
keska. chief arson investigator of the
Houston Fire Department, "there are so
many motives — jealousy, competition,
spite and revenge-type fires."
Victims of the fires and gay activists
here say they believe the fires may be the
work of persons opposed to the homosexual life-style
Dan Roberts, co-owner of the Silver Bullet at 1005 California, which was destroyed by fire in February, blames hate
campaigns. "We're the last minority
group to hate." he said.
The night of March 8 was the latest
spate of such fires. Set afire that night
were two garage apartments in the Montrose area, as well as Mary's Lounge. 1200
The fires, which occurred in an 83-
minute span, involved either disabling a
gas meter and setting it afire, or. in the
caseof the lounge, setting afire a container holding (he gas meter. The fire at the
lounge was also the first which occurred
during business hours. About 30 persons
escaped safely from the lounge, which
had only damage to a patio, ,-m^ffi
Other unsolved firjaJnciude three at i^te*
•^SnmTfflSand 1978, and the Club Steam
Bath of Houston at 2205 Fannin on May 25.'
Mikeska said arson aimed atgay bars
has E\ problem since 1988. although
■■SerTwas a slack period frprn nfl^ft
1977" Currently, eight investigators areS-
working on the fires, he added.
Pat Duckett, assistant chief investigator of the arson squad which has 34 inspectors and six supervisors-says ^JS'
several of the cases tag staff has good
Whiie not niling out some sort of anti-
gay movement behind the fires. Duckett
says there may be other motives.
•It does look like an organized effort to
get rid of the gays." Mikeska sod. But
£„ might have threefires; to thatarea
one night set by someone else. There are
many different motives. There is a helioi
a lot of competition in the gay business
and a lot of money to be made.
munity. Flock said, but they are not the
only ones worried.
"Our straight neighbors are in a panic,"
fearing that they too will be hit by firebugs, either on purpose or by accident, he
Robert said that if the fires continue,
someone is sure to d ie.
"The fire at Mary's Lounge was the
first when the place was open." he said.
"If it had been one of the big clubs, everybody could not have gotten out. That's the
One possibility investigators have considered is that an organized crime group
--from outside the city may be setting the
*• fires in order to get rid of some competition before making a move into the city.
Jim Flock, a former advertising executive and the other co-owner of the Silver
Bullet Club, agrees that it is profitable to
Cater to gays.
"There are probably 235,000 homosexuals to this city." he said. "They don't
have anything to spend their money on
except themselves. There's millions of
dollars spent in bars.
"But I don't think any of our competition would consider us enough competiti-
tion to do something like this. I don't think
any of them are willing to commit a
Ray Hill, an activist in the Houston Gay
Political Caucus, said that unlike many
other cities, bars here catering to
homosexuals are not owned by any particular group.
"I ha ve just a gut level feeling it's more
to do with ihe radical bigot extremist
rather than organized crime," Hill said of
.•*^Jf theTMver Bullet had been beating
outite competition, that might have been
arkwaoh*." he said, adding that this was
f e-siver BjiHefTsakiRuberts. was the
^fli&:,*??jar fires, in October of last
O'Neal to star
LOS ANGELES (AP)
— Ryan O'Neal will recreate his starring role
from "Love Story" in
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico <UPI) — Puerto Rico's
Democratic Party has turned into a battleground in the
contest between advocates of statehood, led by Franklin
Delano Lopez, advocates of Puerto Rico's present commonwealth status, and supporters of independence.
The issue, at least as tar as the party is concerned, is
headed for a unique election this Fall that is being billed as the first of a series of plebiscites on the island's
eternal status question.
'Gay rights' Law Nears
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An ordinance banning discrimination
against homosexuals in employment, housing and public accommodations needs only the mayor's signature before it takes effect in this
city where an estimated one in seven residents is a homosexual.
The Board of Supervisors gave final approval to the ordinance Monday on a 10-1 vote with no discus-
i, adding San Francisco to a list
of more than 40 cities that have
such ordinances on the books.
Mayor George. Moscone is expected to sign the ordinance.
The ban is similar to a county ordinance repealed last year in Miami
after singer Anita Bryant led a successful repeal campaign that
brought gay rights to the nation's
yderimd oh Ji
damage, and i
jp. Both fires did minor
'"d in the bar's fire
insurance being cancer ^ifm more
insurance was purchased, ti. f. F h
-14 gutted the place, which «"ll'£h7,:
"had as many as aT,O0O patrons "TyjJJJ
Roberts,Flock. Hill and others say k
believe the arson squad is trying its beV
to solve the series m fires
••We're unsatisfied Viat-no one has been
caught." Flock said. "But-ne realize what
a hell of a task we're up again* ••
The fires have affected the ga., com- '
scary thing. That's my fear. If tt con&V
ues. someone wUl get killed. .
Regardless of the fires, Hill said the
tomc^xual community wul keep rtshars,
adding that two benefits have already |
been held to help raise money to rebuild
. the Silver Bullet
KRRV MOTT, of * •M'^^.'^KEr-
-4« two forms Into a trash can fire■j*"^ w^ midjuS?
plvtesiltiithe Income tax. The Ming oeaoimc