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Beverly Hills Supper Club fire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Beverly Hills Supper Club on fire
The Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, Kentucky, is the third deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. It occurred on the night of May 28, 1977, during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. A total of 165 people died and more than 200 were injured as a result of the blaze. It was the deadliest fire in the United States since 1944, when 168 people were killed in the Hartford circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut.[1]

The club[edit]

The Beverly Hills was a major attraction, less than ten miles (15 km) outside Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River in Southgate, Kentucky, on US 27, near what would later become its interchange with Interstate 471. It drew its talent from Las VegasNashvilleHollywood and New York, among other places. The site had been a popular nightspot and illegal gambling house as early as 1926; Ohio native Dean Martin had been a blackjack dealer there.[2] It had reopened under the then-current 1970s owners/management in 1971[3] and was considered an elegant, upscale venue that attracted both top-notch talent and top-notch clientele.[4]
Several additions had been built onto the original structure consistently through the 1970s and finished by 1976, creating a sprawling, non-linear complex of function rooms and service areas.[5] The resulting complex was roughly square in shape, and though it was not situated in a north-south direction, reports of the fire have tended to assign those points to points in the complex for ease of reference. Assuming this system, the front entrance of the complex lay at the southern point of the compass. Along the southern wall, to the east of the building entrance, was a small event room called the Zebra Room where the fire was first discovered. At the opposite, northern end of the building lay the Garden Room, which occupied the northwestern and north-central area of the northern wall, and the Cabaret Room, which jutted out from the northeastern corner of the building. A long narrow interior corridor connected the Zebra Room to the other spaces along the eastern side of the building, terminating at the garden area, just past the Cabaret Showroom area. A number of other event and services spaces were scattered throughout the rest of the building, with some rooms leading into each other, some leading into interior hallways, and some leading to the outside of the building. A partial second story covered approximately the southern third of the building, sitting above the main entrance, Zebra Room, and main dining room; it held two more small event rooms made of six smaller rooms conjoined, collectively labeled the Crystal Rooms.[6]
Though the building's frame and ceiling tiling was classified as non-combustible, the Beverly Hills Supper Club made substantial use of wooden building materials, including floor joints for the two-story portion of the complex and framing on interior hallways.[7] It was decorated throughout with highly-flammable carpeting and wood wall paneling;[6] event rooms also used wooden tables and supports, as well as tablecloths, curtains, and a variety of other small combustible materials.[7] The building did not have a fire-suppression sprinkler system installed—at the time, these were not required in venues such as the Supper Club—[8] nor did it have an alarm system or smoke detectors.[7] In addition, the majority of the paths of egress in each event room led not to the outside of the building, but to a variety of narrow interior corridors and service spaces.[6]

The night of May 28, 1977[edit]

On May 28, 1977, the Beverly Hills Supper Club was operating beyond capacity, largely due to the popularity of that evening's Cabaret Room show, featuring popular Hollywood singer and actor John Davidson.[9] Based on its number of exits, the Cabaret Room could safely accommodate around 600 people, according to the calculations of the Fire Marshal;[9] on this night it was packed well beyond that capacity, with people seated on ramps and in aisles.[5] According to later estimates based on seating charts and memories of those present, the number of people in the Cabaret Room at 9:00 p.m. on May 28 was somewhere between approximately 900[10] and approximately 1,300.[8][9] No matter the exact number each gives, sources agree that the room was well beyond its safe holding capacity.[6][7]
Elsewhere in the club, patrons were enjoying a fine meal.[5] Later estimates place the total number of people in the Beverly Hills Supper club on May 28, 1977 at somewhere around 3,200, substantially more than the 1,500 people fire code allowed at the time for a building with the number of exits the club had.[citation needed]
Near the south exit close to the main bar, opposite end of the building from the Cabaret Room,[6] a wedding reception drew to a close around 8:30 p.m. in the Zebra Room, near the building's main entrance; some of its guests had complained of the room being excessively warm with loud explosions from beneath the floor, and the group left the building before the end of their allotted time. The assigned waitress cleaned up dishes and another housekeeping staff put away a vacuum sweeper. Another waitress gathered a drink of leftover punch between 8:45 and 9:00 pm, and left without detecting a fire.[11] The room remained vacant from their departure until a minute before 9 p.m., when an employee (receptionist) smelled smoke and opened the Zebra Room's door to confirm the presence of smoke. She asked another employee to call the Fire Department while she and others grabbed any available fire extinguishers and began trying to fight the flames. Though the employees were not aware of it, their opening of the Zebra Room's door allowed enough oxygen into the room to cause what had been a smoldering fire in the room's drop ceiling to flashover and begin to spread rapidly. It quickly became clear that fire extinguishers could not quash the fast-growing fire.[8] The Fire Department was alerted to the fire at 9:01 p.m. and was on the scene by 9:05;[11] as they approached, firemen on the first emergency vehicles could already see smoke coming from the building.[7]
As smoke began to escape the Zebra Room and drift down the hall toward other banquet rooms, patrons and employees in the rooms nearest to the Zebra Room smelled it. The employees began to verbally urge room occupants to leave the building; however, as the sprawling complex lacked an audible fire alarm, those in further-flung rooms had no way to know that there was a fire in the building until an employee walked the length of the building alerting them.[7] Fire investigators later estimated that, once through the northern doors of the Zebra Room, the fire took only two to five minutes to arrive at the Cabaret room; as a result, news of the fire and the first of the smoke and flame reached the Cabaret Room, the farthest point from the Zebra Room, nearly simultaneously.[6] By the time busboy Walter Bailey[8] arrived in the Cabaret Room and interrupted the show to order an evacuation at 9:06 p.m., there was very little time left for the audience of around a thousand people to make their way through the room's small number of exits.[7] As it spread laterally, the fire also began to spread upwards, engulfing the spiral staircase that would have provided the best exit for those on the second floor of the building.[8]
Around 9:10 p.m., power failed in the building, taking the lights with it. Panic ensued, and even those who had been calmly moving toward exits in the Cabaret Room began to push and shove.[5][12] The situation was made worse by the fact that of the three exits in the room, two were quickly blocked off by the fire, leaving the crowd to funnel through a single exit.[7] Employees outside the exits attempted to pull guests to safety, but the crush of bodies as those behind pushed upon those in front became so solid that no amount of strength could free most of them.[8] Many of those who escaped the crush blocking the northeast fire exit became lost trying to find other exits. Twists and turns in building design which led to a set of doors opening into a bar area funneled some into a dead end.[5][12]
Firefighters, alerted that the majority of the building's occupants were in the Cabaret Room, focused their efforts there, but even the combined efforts of every fire department in the county could make little headway against the flames.[7] Temperatures in the Cabaret Room soared into the thousands of degrees and even firefighters were soon unable to safely attempt any further rescues.[8]
When I got to the inside doors, which is about 30 feet inside the building, I saw these big double doors, and people were stacked like cordwood. They were clear up to the top. They just kept diving out on each other trying to get out. I looked back over the pile of – it wasn't dead people, there were dead and alive in that pile – and I went in and I just started to grab them two at a time and pull them off the stack, and drag them out...
— Bruce Rath, Fort Thomas Volunteer Fire Department, [13]
At 11:30 p.m. fire command, suspecting that the building's roof would not hold much longer, ordered all firefighters out of the building.[7][8] At approximately midnight, the roof gave way and collapsed onto what was left of the building.[9] The magnitude of the blaze was so large that firefighters did not have the flames under control until around 2 o'clock that morning; parts of the building continued to burn until May 30, two days after the fire began.[7]
By the early morning of May 29, 134 bodies had been removed from the building[9] and laid out, initially on the hillside surrounding the building[10] and then in a makeshift morgue inside the nearby Fort Thomas Armory.[8] By the end of June 1, twenty-eight more bodies had been discovered, bringing the death toll up to 162.[14] All but two of the dead were found in and around the Cabaret Room, with 125 clustered near the room's north exit and another thirty-four at the room's southern exit. Two bodies were removed from the Viennese Room.[7] A small number of fire victims died after being rescued from the scene: one on June 25, one on July 2, and the last on March 1, 1978, nearly a year after the fire. This brought the number of verified deaths to 165.[14]


The investigation into the fire found the following deficiencies, as enumerated by the Cincinnati Enquirer:[9]
  • Overcrowding. Although seating charts recovered from the club after the fire show that the Cabaret Room (the largest facility in the club) normally held between 614 and 756 people, a hostess who had worked at the club for several years estimated occupancy on the date in question to be well over 925.
  • Inadequate fire exits. Full occupancy of the entire complex was estimated to be roughly 2,750, which under Kentucky law would require 27.5 exits. The club only had 16.5 exits, many of which were not clearly marked nor easily reached. Some exits could only be reached by passing through three or more interior doors and corridors.
  • Faulty wiring. Governor Julian Carroll's report on the fire called the club's wiring an "electrician's nightmare", and alleged multiple, wide-ranging code violations. Bridgetown electrician H. James Amend, who inspected the fire site at the request of a local attorney Stan Chesley a year and a half later said, "I cannot believe that any of this was ever inspected."[15]
  • Lack of firewalls. This allowed the fire to spread, and in addition allowed it to draw oxygen from other areas of the complex.
  • Poor construction practices. The club had been built piecemeal with inadequate roof support, no common ceiling space, and highly flammable components.
  • Extreme safety code violations. There was no sprinkler system and no audible automatic fire alarm, and some doors were locked, yet those were not meant for public exit and caused no death.
  • Poor oversight by regulatory authorities. The local volunteer fire department is said by the Enquirer to have known of the deficiencies, but by law, at the time, did not have the authority to compel corrections.[16]

Arson allegations[edit]

On October 28, 2008, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear appointed a panel to investigate claims that arson may have been the cause of the fire. In March 2009, the panel, in recommending that the investigation not be reopened, characterized the new accusations as "a very tiny shred of evidence of arson and a huge mountain of conjecture, unsupported speculation, and personal opinion."[17]
In a letter dated late June 2011 from Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway to a retired Kentucky State Police trooper, some 30 boxes of color slides were taken in the days after the fire, including pictures of the club's basement during the aftermath. They were ordered to be returned to the State archives for public accessibility.[18]


Beverly Hills Supper Club Site, Southgate, Kentucky (2012)
The last victim of the fire, Barbara Thornhill of Delhi Township, died on March 1, 1978, nine months after the fire.[9] Many early sources (including the Pulitzer citation below) give the death toll as 164. Richard Whitt of the Louisville Courier-Journal was awarded the 1978Pulitzer Prize for Local General or Spot News Reporting for his articles on the fire. His citation reads: "For his coverage of a fire that took 164 lives at the Beverly Hills Supper Club at Southgate, Ky., and subsequent investigation of the lack of enforcement of state fire codes."[19]
As of 2015, the site of the club has been left undeveloped.[20] A state historic marker commemorates the fire, though some former club employees, David Brock and Wayne Dammert especially feel that the marker is inaccurate.[12]


This was the first lawsuit to use the concept of "enterprise liability" and one of the first disaster suits to be brought as a class action.[5]Chief litigation attorney Stanley Chesley raised millions through the class action, benefiting many survivors.

The Money Maze

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Money Maze)
The Money Maze
Created byDon Lipp
Ron Greenberg
Directed byArthur Forrest
Presented byNick Clooney
Narrated byAlan Kalter
Composer(s)David Sheniak for Score Productions, Inc.
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes135
Producer(s)Don Segall
Running time25 minutes
Original networkABC
Original releaseDecember 23, 1974 – June 27, 1975
The Money Maze is an American television game show seen on ABC from December 23, 1974 to June 27, 1975. The show was hosted by Nick Clooney and was announced by Alan Kalter. It was produced by Daphne-Don Lipp Productions, of which Dick Cavettwas a principal.
The object of the game was to negotiate a large maze built on the studio floor. A contestant would direct his or her spouse from a perch above the maze; the spouse would need to find his or her way to a push-button on the side of a tower inside the maze.
Clooney hosted Money Maze concurrently with his local daily talk show, The Nick Clooney Show, on then-ABC affiliate WKRC-TV inCincinnati (now a CBS affiliate). In fact, WKRC scheduled Money Maze on a delay at 10:30 AM, immediately before Nick Clooney at 11:00.


Two married couples played against each other for the right to enter the maze. Three regular rounds were played. Each round had a particular topic, with eight related clues. Two clues would be shown on a screen; one couple would select a clue for the other to attempt to answer. A correct answer scored a point, and that couple would then select from two clues (a new clue plus the one they didn't act on before) for their opponent. An incorrect answer gave the opponents a chance to answer instead. If they did so, they won the round and had a chance to answer as many of the remaining clues as they could; if they were also incorrect, play would continue in the round. If the two couples each answered four clues in the round, a tiebreaker would be played where two additional clues were shown. The first couple to activate a buzzer would select a clue to answer for one point, then try to answer the other for two points. If they were wrong on either, the other couple got a free attempt.
The winning couple in each round would then send one member into the maze, with the other directing from above. The "runner" would have 15 seconds to find a phone-booth-size "tower" with push-buttons on each side. Pressing the lit button before time expired won the prize and three points. Later in the show's run, couples were given the option of trying to also reach a second tower within 25 seconds for a $500 bonus and three additional points; if they accepted the risk but couldn't reach both towers, the prize and the cash bonus were both lost.

Catch-Up Round[edit]

Clues proceeded as in earlier rounds, except that the couple trailing in score at that point of the game would do all the answering and the leading team would select the clues. The first clue was worth one point, the second worth two, and so on. If the trailing couple incorrectly answered at any time before their score surpassed their opponents, the round was over and the other couple won outright. If the trailing couple tied or passed the leading couple's score, the leading couple, now trailing, received only one chance for a final clue that would win the game.
The winner at the end of this round would play "The $10,000 Dash," a final maze run for a prize of up to $10,000. Both couples kept their money and prizes. If both couples were tied going into the Catch-Up Round, they each ran the maze for $10,000.

The $10,000 Dash[edit]

In the final run, five of the towers (out of eight available) would be lit. Four of them would have zeroes on top, and the fifth would have a "1" lit. The runner had 60 seconds to activate the "1" and hit the button at the maze exit to win anything at all. To win the $10,000, the runner had to activate all the push-buttons, exit the maze and push the button within one minute. The total prize was determined by how many "zeroes" were reached in addition to the one: the 1 plus three zeroes won $1,000, the 1 plus two zeroes won $100, and so on. However, if the contestant activated only zeroes or failed to stop the clock, they won nothing.[1]
Champions were retired upon winning the $10,000 Dash or after appearing for three days.

Broadcast history[edit]

ABC broadcast The Money Maze at 4:00 PM Eastern (3:00 Central), opposite Tattletales on CBS and Somerset on NBCMoney Maze did not perform well against either series in the ratings, and host Clooney claimed in a 1998 Cincinnati Post column that fewer than half of ABC's affiliates carried the show.
However, this was not the only reason the show faltered.


The large maze, estimated by some sources at 50 × 100 feet,[citation needed] had the audience sitting in bleachers above and around three sides of the maze, with the stage facing the remaining side. It is also widely believed to have been the main factor in the show's undoing.
The set was so large and complex that it took nearly an entire day to set up the maze and another to break it down, tying up the studio for an extra two days for each five-show, one-day taping session. According to Mark Evanier, producer Don Segall described Money Maze as "the first game show where the stage crew took home more money than the contestants";[2] the rental fees for taping at a large studio for several days, plus overtime pay for setting up, striking, and storing the set, quickly eclipsed the show's prize budget.


ABC may have viewed the large expenses as a headache, even as Tattletales was pushed to 11:00 am on June 16 in favor of Musical Chairs. While Money Maze was scheduled to end on July 4, the network discontinued the show before the final week was taped. The last aired week (June 30-July 4) consisted of repeats from the later format (with the $500 bonus tower), all containing $10,000 wins, with the Friday repeat being the last first-run show from the previous Friday. You Don't Say! replaced The Money Maze.

Possible revival[edit]

In 2009, producer Ron Greenberg worked with Don Lipp and Phil Gurin on a new pilot for a revival on French TV network TF1.[3][4]

Episode status[edit]

The pilot (titled The Moneymaze) and at least one episode from the series exist in ABC's archive. Like with most other daytime game shows on the networks other than CBS from that era, the tapes were erased after broadcast for reuse due to their great expense at the time.
A brief clip from an episode aired in 2004 when Chuck Barris and George Clooney (Nick Clooney's son) were promoting Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Another 1975 episode, recorded on an early home VCR by artist Andy Warhol, is held at the Paley Center for Media.

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