Michael Alig used to be more press savvy. Dying, aged 54, of an apparent heroin overdose on Christmas Day (and in the midst of an attempted presidential coup) threatened to get him lost in the news shuffle, and he definitely should have waited until after the inauguration.
That kind of dark thought is hardly inappropriate for the club kid leader/killer, who lived to stir the s**t and garner attention by any means necessary. In 1996, as he got even more druggy and less supervised, he and his roommate Freeze (Robert Riggs) got into a tussle with friend/drug dealer Angel Melendez that led to their horrifyingly killing Angel and dismembering the body for disposal. (Alig pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was freed from jail in 2014.)
I had certainly seen glimmers of his dark side. In fact, in 1991, I wrote in the Village Voice, “The bad seed in cha cha heels, Alig will do anything to get a response, even if that response is the deafening sound that accompanies projectile vomiting. He’s an arrested child who should be arrested…a cute little dolly that ends up biting your head off.”
But the Indiana-born clubbie loved fighting ennui, complacency, and bourgeois values and had staged some appealing events through the years, like a “Filthy Mouth” contest, where contestants spewed four letter words for prizes, and his “King and Queen of New York” shows—messy pageants where his favorite clubbies were elevated to royalty. (His story was made into a 2003 movie starring Macaulay Culkin as Alig, Party Monster, which was based on James St. James’ book, Disco Bloodbath.)
We cheered him as he ran from the cops who busted one of his “outlaw parties,” pesky events held at unsuspecting spots where you partied quickly because by necessity they didn’t last long. Some club kids also point to Alig’s kind side and the fact that they all fit into a family which wasn’t always Manson-esque; it gave them a place in LGBTQ nightlife, far from any harsh, button-down realities, for better or for worse.
In 12” heels and war paint, the club kids stepped in to fill a void. In 1987, Andy Warhol—the deity for all Downtowners—died, and I went on to proclaim “The Death of Downtown” in a Voice cover story, decrying the downturn in creative clubbing, though I was passionately open to some kind of new wave.
Again, I must have been psychic, because I ended the piece by writing, “The new downtown will have nothing to do with disco and everything to do with outrage and surprise. Maybe it’ll be an angry rebellion that’ll pull the stick out of everyone’s asses.” Well, Alig and his band of alienated and striving marauders were the new wave, and I was paid to cover it, doing so in an immersive way since my column, “La Dolce Musto,” was a first person romp with no filter.
Alig and I got interactive all right. At a talent contest at the multi-level club Danceteria, Alig had offered me “Sex, drugs and rock and roll” if I voted for him, but I didn’t, turned off by the attempted bribe and also by the fact that, as a gogo dancer, he had no discernible talent. His gift turned out to be for leading, promoting, and annoying, as well as both pulling (he once brattily tried to pull me into a pool set up at a nightclub) and pushing (he flagrantly pushed pills into a club kid’s mouth), getting away with more and more demonic acts as time went on.