Listening on Festive Occasions

On May 28, 1977, the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire killed 167 people. Located seven miles south of Cincinnati on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, Beverly Hills was a very popular entertainment venue. On that night the supper club was overcrowded with the star attraction being John Davidson.

Shortly before Davidson took the stage and during the warm up act, smoke was noted under some doors by employees. A bus boy, Walter Bailey, got up on stage and took the microphone away from the two comedians who were performing in the Cabaret Room and told the packed audience that there was a fire and they needed to leave immediately.

No one moved because they thought he was part of the act or could not imagine this was serious since it was such a festive occasion. Precious seconds were lost before the audience truly assimilated the seriousness of the message. This was a listening problem. More lives were lost because people did not move quickly enough after the announcement.