Party Monster rehabilitated
Michael Alig, the notorious 90s New York club kid turned promoter extraordinaire, convicted of killing his roommate in a frenzied attack, was released last week after 17 years in prison, amid much speculation about his future. Danny Corvini reports.
1996: New York’s World Trade Centre towers were still standing and Madonna was on top of her game – and no one could imagine it any other way. Selfies didn’t exist, the internet was only available on dial up, and Facebook were two words you’d never hear put together. Grindr, the smart phone app that has fundamentally changed the gay scene, wasn’t to appear on our phones for another 13 years.
These are a couple of the things that prisoner no. 97A6595 will have to confront. That prisoner is Michael Alig, the notorious New York club kid turned promoter extraordinaire, who was released from a New York jail last week after serving 17 years. The crime? Alig, along with friend Robert ‘Freeze’ Riggs’, was convicted of killing his drug dealer and roommate, Andre ‘Angel’ Melendez, when confronted about his drug debt.
“Michael’s release has divided people,” Michael Musto, former Village Voice columnist and attendee at Alig’s parties, tells SX. “Some feel he should eternally rot in hell, while others feel he’s done his time and should be allowed to live his life.”
Alig, now 48, was collected from prison by friends and immediately posted photos on his Twitter account, which until now has been maintained by a friend. He was taken to a New York restaurant where his inner circle of club kid friends, including his number one frenemy James St James, star of web series Transformations, gathered to celebrate and post photos galore; and there are even suggestions that the whole thing has been filmed.
“The dinner was supposed to be a small gathering of Michael's old friends, though it was crashed by some other club kids,” says close friend and club kid Ernie Glam. “James' and Michael's personal dynamic hasn't changed and it was just as entertaining to me as it was 20 years ago when we'd sit in our living room together. It felt like a family reunion sitting at the dinner table listening to their faux bickering.”
Above: Michael Alig in the 90s. Top image: Alig tweeted a self-portrait shortly after his release
In an open letter to Alig, published just before his release, St James said: “You’ve become a bit of a legend since you went in and you will stop the room the first few times you go out. There will be places where you go where nobody will recognise you and nobody will care. And because you are no longer a cute little twink, 20-somethings will look right through you. My point: Enjoy the times people recognise you, because not being recognised when you’re old suuucks.”
But while Alig and the club kids have certainly grown older, their infamy has spread to a whole new generation thanks to the movie Party Monster, which was based on James St James’s book, Disco Bloodbath, which chronicles their drug-fuelled friendship.
“I’m disturbed by the young clubbie types who seem to admire him even more because of the killing,” Musto says. “That speaks to a truly dark side of their soul and I’m afraid it will feed into his own ego and enable him for all the wrong things.
“But the new club kids in NYC are generally ethical, honest and have day jobs. They just dress up for creative expression and fun. I don’t think Alig will be able to change any of that. There are new rules and a whole new landscape.”
I interviewed Alig in a series of handwritten letters between 2001 and 2004, and when I asked him what he would do upon his release, he replied: “The first thing I’ll do is eat food. Real food. Then have sex. With anybody. Everybody! After all, I’ll have years to make up for! Well, that’s what I think I’ll do, anyway. Reality never lives up to fantasies, though. That’s why I’m a big advocate of never living out your fantasies. Sometimes the most exciting things in life are the things you never get to do.”
While that’s a bit hard to swallow coming from someone who based his whole clubbing persona on fantasy, Alig will get a chance to fully articulate life from his perspective when he finally releases his book Aligula, which he has been writing since we corresponded. It will be particularly interesting to note how his perspective on the murder has changed; at the time he described it like this: “I’m not blaming drugs, but we were fighting over an outfit. The thing with Angel was so spontaneous, like a reflex action”.
“I've forgiven Michael for his horrible crime against my friend Angel and I'm certainly going to do whatever I can to help him get on the right track," says Glam. “I think Michael is going to be fine on the outside so long as he does not use drugs. He's got lots of opportunities and he's a very creative, adaptive person.”
“Michael will be watched and hopefully won’t return to nightlife since he’ll have a curfew,” says Musto. “I hope he will go on a completely new path. Meanwhile, I don’t know if he’s really changed, but I know society and nightlife have.”
St James, who Alig told me had left him feeling betrayed by his portrayal in Disco Bloodbath and Party Monster, wrote to Alig in a public letter just before his release: “The scene has changed. Clubs aren’t the subversive pleasure palaces of yore. Now, it’s just a thousand shrieking girls taking selfies and dancing to ‘Wake Me Up’ by Avicii.”
Alig might well find that he prefers the fantasy.