THE CULT LEADER
There was something endlessly fascinating about Michael Alig… He draws you in.
“James St. James and I first moved to New York, and Studio 54 had just fallen apart.”
We became the darlings of the club scene, paid merely to show up and bring a bit of fabulousness to the mix. We led a pampered existence of fancy dinners and media exposure.
Meanwhile, one of my biggest successes as a promoter was “The Filthy Mouth Contest.” I had to do something that would cause a stir and figured I’d have a competition where you went on stage and said the raunchiest, dirtiest thing ever. Whoever shocked the audience most would win $100. People talked about being raped or raping someone. It devolved into public masturbation with beer bottles. Everyone was riveted. They couldn’t leave the room. I don’t know what the take was that night, but I got paid $500. “Thank God I quit college,” I thought. “I’m going to be a millionaire.”
In 1998 New York magazine introduced the club kids to the rest of the country. A 23 year old Michael graced the cover. “He was staring out at you from every news stand. That’s when everyone first took notice and said that this boy had something and maybe we better start paying attention,” recalls John St John.
The article explained that Aids had changed the nature of Manhatten’s infamous club scene. Gone were the anonymous sex and drugs from the previous era. Michael was the appealing flamboyant pied piper of the new scene where the emphasis was on dressing up, dancing all night, and going home, alone. It was true – at least for a while.
In 1990 the biggest club owner in the city, Peter Gatier, put Michael on his payroll for his chain of downtown hotspots. Michael would pick a theme, hire a DJ and make sure that his fellow club kids showed up. Michael was being paid for something he would otherwise do for free.
In addition to his salary he received a budget for each party. Michael would use that money to pay the kids to dress up in their outfits, and supply the party favours that would make it all more extreme. Inevitably drugs made their way on to the scene. Soon the pharmaceutical exstacy was flooding the clubs. People who didnt do drugs were doing exstacy, because exstacy back then was purely pharmaceutical, it was made in a laboratory and at first totally legal. It wasn’t bad for you, it was good for you, because you knew where it came from and that it was pure, unike other drugs that would come from some unknown Colombian drug dealer.
Michael started throwing illegal Outlaw parties in surprise outdoor locations, such as Burger King. The highlight of every party was the arrival of the police. Each party pushed the boundaries.
“By March 1988, we made the cover of New York Magazine. I was going through my Little Lord Fauntleroy period — the bower around the neck, the ruffled shirt and the knickers. We were guests on Geraldo, Donahue and Joan Rivers. Our message was: “Love yourself. Don’t give a f— what other people think about you.”
In the early days of Club Kids, it really was quite beautiful and positive. We helped the disillusioned and the disenfranchised believe in themselves — the gay kid from Iowa who didn’t dare tell anyone for fear of being mocked. Even though I didn’t really buy it myself, I was very good at getting that message out.”
Alig presents like a sociopath. Normal life does not satisfy them. They get bored easily. They chase “fun”. They use drugs to find excitement. Not surprisingly so many people are attracted to him. Sociopaths charm. That’s what they do.
THE DRUGS: ‘What goes up must get higher’
“Then, in the early ’90s, while I was employed as one of Peter’s directors, a darker side emerged to the club scene. Drugs were introduced such as Rohypnol and the animal tranquilizer ketamine, known as Special K. These were heavy downers that turned them into zombies.”
Cocaine and ecstasy were social drugs that made people chatty and euphoric.
“There’s a reason you take drugs—so you don’t have to think about these things. Strangely enough, I’d always been anti-drug. I hated it when Keoki took cocaine. Usually, when I found it in his pockets, I’d flush it down the toilet. But one time when I discovered his stash, I confronted him, put it on the back of my hand and snorted it. It was a selfish thing. It was like I was saying: “How does it feel now that your drug use has encroached upon our relationship? Now I’m a drug addict too!”
It didn’t take long before things imploded. The drinking, drugging and lack of boundaries took its toll. I wound up in the hospital twice after overdosing on a near-lethal concoction of heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine.
As for the club scene, it was the beginning of the end.
Recreational drug use became a part of Michael’ s life, and regular drug dealers were there to feed the demand.
Moving on to harder drugs was the next logical step for Michael. Heroin start coming around. In 1995 Michaels newest idea was a party at the Limelight for his birthday called “Bloodfeast“. There were references to severed legs, hammers, knives, blood and all kinds of murderous motives. That made it clear that there was something not too good going on in Michaels mind at the time. Michaels once harmless image was by now long gone.
The movement turned from being this really talented creative pool of individuals to being a bunch of drug addicts. By 1996 Michael was a full blown junkie, injecting Heroin every day.
By mid-1995, the Drug Enforcement Agency was on our case. The Limelight was repeatedly threatened with closure by the police, who suspected drug trafficking. They said we had a laissez-faire attitude and allowed dealers to operate in our clubs.
In truth, we were paying them around $200 a night to host events. They weren’t the Gambinos, they were small-timers, often drag queens who made only enough money selling drugs to support their own habit.
One of them was Angel Melendez, a 25-year-old Club Kid who lived in Queens but “sometimes stayed over at my apartment with the others on weekends in Manhattan. He was a good guy, but we looked down on him because he was part of the Webster Hall crowd, whom we considered second-rate.”
Angel and other drug dealers often go out like this. They get robbed, beaten up and get arrested for long periods of time. Angel, if he survived could have done similar time as Michael if the hammer of the law had gotten him.
Angel sold drugs to young people. We don’t know the fate of any of them. Did they get off the drugs? OD? Live miserable underachieving lives? We will never know the results of Angel’s career choice.
Drug dealers are despicable. Angel was no angel. He didn’t deserve to die, but never the less his demise, if it were not for the Alig’s involvement, would have been a line on page 17 of the newspapers. A drug dealer getting killed is not big news.
Colombian immigrant Angel Melendez and his brother had immigrated from Colombia in the 1970’s. Like Michael Angel was drawn to the Manhattan nightlife and was trying to make a name for himself. Former club kid “Screaming Rachael Cain” recalls: ” He would wear a costume with angel wings, and platform shoes. He was always a sight to see and he had many friends within the club kids scene.”
The club kids crowd distrusted new arrivals, but Angel was tolerated because he had the one thing that most of them wanted – Drugs. Angel started selling drugs to be accepted by everyone – to be a club kid. Angel used his drugs to feed into Michaels addiction and to become part of Michael’s inner circle.
James St James remembers that he adored Michael. “He let Michael get away with things that no drug dealer would have allowed any client to get away with.” Angel lived in Queens, but he would occasionally crash at Michaels Manhattan apartment in exchange for drugs.
By the Spring of 1996 Michaels drug addiction had made that arrangement increasingly tense. His demand for free drugs kept growing. Angel felt used.
Angel may not have been significant to the people at Disco 2000 but he was significant to someone. His family for one. Today, years after the tragic murder, Michael Alig says:
“It’s a stipulation of my parole that I don’t contact Angel’s relatives, but maybe they’ll reach out to me. I know that whatever I tell them, they will never get closure.”
“But I’d like them to know that, when he was alive, Angel was just like the rest of us Club Kids — a misfit from the sticks who was very much loved in our alternative family of friends.”