A longtime gay Atlanta DJ accustomed to helping power your nightlife is now asking for help after fire destroyed his apartment home over the weekend.
Bill Berdeaux (photo right), the resident DJ at Blake's who also worked the booth at Backstreet for a decade, and his partner Robert Shaginaw (left) narrowly escaped a blaze that destroyed 26 units at 771 Lindbergh Apartments. The fire broke out in apartments above the one that Berdeaux and Shaginaw share as they slept on Saturday morning.
“I looked out the window and said lord, something is wrong,” Berdeaux said. “When I opened the blinds to look out to the street, there were all sorts of people looking back shocked to see us in the window. I told Robert to get up, there's something wrong and we've got to go.”
The pair had barely enough time to put on clothes and grab two of their cats before Atlanta firefighters broke down their door and forced them to evacuate. The fire was already burning on floors above them.
“We couldn't do anything but stand across the street and watch our world burn. It started on the top floor above our apartment, we believe. From there it spread roof to roof over the different apartments and burned all the ones on top and moved down,” Berdeaux said.
Wind whipped up the blaze and firefighters struggled with a water source as they fought the fire for more than 11 hours, according to WSB.
Investigators said the fire started somewhere on the fourth floor.
“The fire by the stairwell was basically an inferno,” witness Peggy Miles said.
Firefighters said wind made it more difficult to fight the fire. There was also concern about the water supply.
“We had to pull water from Lindbergh Avenue to get adequate watery supply on the apparatus we had to extinguish the fire,” Atlanta Fire and Rescue Asst. Chief Chris Wessels said.
Firefighters are also investigating claims that residents did not hear any fire alarms, according to WSB.
Some 26 units were damaged and more than two-dozen families were displaced, WSB reported. That included Berdeaux and Shaginaw, who said they lost everything in the blaze and were only able to pull two of their three cats out when they fled. The third hid and Berdeaux couldn't find the pet before firefighters led them out of the apartment, he said.
“They won't let us see. They don't have any information for us. But they said there's nothing salvageable because it's completely flooded and has smoke damage. Everything is gone,” Berdeaux said.
The couple continues to search for their cat, hoping it escaped during the fire.
Berdeaux and Shaginaw had renter's insurance but are waiting for a settlement offer from their insurance company. For now, they are living in a hotel room and have to replace everything that was lost in the apartment.
Late Sunday, they launched a Go Fund Me campaign to support them financially until any insurance payment is made and help replace what was lost in the fire.
As you've probably seen on the news, our apartment building caught fire and completely burned down the afternoon of Saturday, Dec 3. Bill and I were just informed today that it's going to be a total loss. So we literally have nothing. Anything you can contribute, even a small amount, will be a tremendous help and very much appreciated. Bright blessings to all!!
Within 12 hours, some 32 people had donated $2,140 of the fund's $3,500 goal. Berdeaux was touched by the outpouring of support.
“We are both extremely thankful and humbled by the this amazing community that has come together, not to mention how supportive both of our families have been. We have been surrounded by complete love and amazement,” he said.
“I feel blessed. When the community comes together, it really does support its people,” Berdeaux added.
UPDATE | Drag performers are planning a Benefit For Berdeaux on Wednesday at Felix's. The benefit will take place during the bar's weekly Wild Out Wednesdays with Nicole Paige Brooks, Mo'Dest Volgare and Mychelle LaCroix Dupree.
Our friend and wild Wednesday night DJ lost everything in a house fire this week we will be collecting gift cards and cash and clothing for him and his partner (will post sizes here when we get them) on Wednesday night. If you are one of the many entertainers that Bill Berdeaux has worked with and would like to come out and do a number for him and help raise some money for him feel free to stop by. Thanks in advance for your support during this difficult time.