Beverly Hills Supper Club fire survivor: 'It was like a warzone'

Community remembers those lost on 40th anniversary
Posted at 12:09 AM, May 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-29 00:26:07-04

SOUTHGATE, Ky. --  David Brock looked out at 875 people packed into the showroom of the Beverly Hills Supper Club as a co-worker told him the Zebra Room had caught fire.

Brock, who worked as a busboy for the popular Supper Club, recalled his final moments inside the building before it burned to the ground, killing 165 people.

“We couldn’t get the (Zebra Room) doors shut,” he said. “It was like a freight train of smoke and fire, and it was just billowing up the spiral staircase. I stayed there about five minutes and then I realized … that I would probably lose my life if I stayed there.”

On that night, May 28, 1977, John Davidson was scheduled to perform before a beyond-sellout house. Thousands were inside the Supper Club that night as it was consumed by flames.

MORE: An oral history: Beverly Hills Supper Club fire as told by those who were there 

Brock organized a memorial service on the 40th anniversary of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire Sunday to honor the victims of the largest fire in Greater Cincinnati’s history. 

He said he organized the event to help provide closure to those who lost a loved one.

He said sometimes he feels like he needs closure too.

“You don’t ever forget it. Ever. We took bodies out of the back exit and laid them on the ground, the ones that were alive we moved to the chapel so the doctors could work on them. 

“It was like a warzone.”

Community members and those who lost family members in the blaze walked to the site where Beverly Hills once stood. Shards of broken china and rusted garden ornaments are the only remnants of the once dazzling club. 

GALLERY: See what the site of the Beverly Hills Supper Club looks like 40 years after the fire

Wayne Dammert has walked through the site hundreds of times.

Dammert served as a banquet captain on the night of the fire. The Supper Club was more than a job for him; he says it was a huge part of his life.  

“I met my wife here in 1958. She was dancin’ and I was dealin’ cards,” he said.

Dammert recalled the night of the fire as he walked through the woods that once held Northern Kentucky’s most spectacular venue.

“I saw a man sitting next to his dead wife, and I was going to breathe into her mouth to see if I could help. My family doctor said, ‘No, Wayne, she’s dead.’

“That night I prayed over about 50 bodies,” he said.

As he walked through the old plot of land, Dammert gestured to an old piece of twisted, orange metal.

“That’s an old garden ornament. It used to have little lights on it,” he said.

Though he helped drag bodies out of the burning building and prayed for those who had perished, Dammert doesn’t pin himself as a hero. He says anyone would have done the same thing.

“I did what I could do that night,” he said.