Cleveland Fire Kills 4 in Hair Family
Variety - April 1971

Cleveland, April 20.
One performance of Hair at the Hanna, was canceled last Wednesday (14), because of four deaths in the families of Jonathan Johnson and Russel F. Carlson, cast members of the rock musical.

Killed in the fire at the Pick-Carter Hotel on Tuesday (13) were Carlson's wife and their one-year old baby Corinne and also Johnson's wife and their one year old baby Melissa. They were asphyxiated by smoke in one of the worst downtown hotel disasters in the city's history.

The Hair performance had reached midway point at the theatre when the hotel, where 33 members of the show's troupe had been staying, was hit by the conflagration.  Investigators later suspected arson.  The fire, starting in the basement, swept up the main stairway to all ten floors, killing seven persons and injuring eight.  Others were saved by firemen on high extension ladders.

The bodies of both dead young mothers and their children, who could have escaped if they had stayed in their rooms, were found in hallways.  Their husbands broke into hysterical sobs when Jerry Arrow, company manager who identified the bodies in the morgue, told them the tragic news. Funeral services were held in Renton, Washington for the Johnson victims and in St. Louis for Carlson's wife and child.  Services were attended by delegates from the casts of each of four other touring companies as a special tribute.

Hanna manager Hilton Krantz and the entertainers were so shocked by the tragedy that they Wednesday night performance was called off.

Copyright Variety. All rights reserved.

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