A movie about club-kid leader turned killer Michael Alig is starting to roll, but you know how movies about beautiful minds can be. So, as the only observer not on drugs at the time, let me uncork my own reminiscences of Alig in hopes of getting everyone out of a proverbial K-hole.
In his party days—the mid ’80s to mid ’90s—Alig was a charismatic presence with a naughty streak that made him simultaneously compelling and unnerving. He was a genius and the devil, and in ’88, I wrote about his and the club kids’ “Cult of crazy fashion and petulance. They . . . are terminally superficial, have dubious aesthetic values, and are master manipulators, exploiters, and, thank God, partiers.” I even compared Alig and company to the Manson family!
Alig and his then boyfriend, Keoki, were nuisances, but colorful ones, and suddenly, at Tunnel in ’87, whenever I heard “Michael! Michael!” it was him everyone was calling for. A whole legion of fractured fairy-tale characters was begging for his attention, and if the new-style Mother Goose approved, he assigned them new names and personas, and granted them a place in the commercial circus of clubland.
Aware of his rising stature, Alig threw a “Changing of the Guard” party at Red Zone, marking the transition from old school to nouvelle. But he knew how to cater to the dinosaurs too, giving us titles at his King and Queen of New York pageants and trophies at the Glammies (his ragtag clubbie-awards ceremony). He also had me judge annual Filthy Mouth contests, at which people screamed obscenities for cash prizes, and I gladly contributed to the revelry, enjoying the nyah-nyah goofiness of it all. I even posed semi-nude for an Alig invite that had giant—well, medium-sized—cardboard lips covering my privates, next to the caption “The lips on my cock could be yours if you come to Michael’s party!”
And his not-for-prime-time ideas kept coming—like an all-clubbie “Vogue” video he submitted to MTV and an airtight “disco truck” packed with club kids who ended up, breathless, at one of his party sites. Zaniest of all were the outlaw bashes—illegal descents into subway stations and a McDonald’s, which were left buried in sequins and drug dust. After one such blur, Alig ran from the police in a comical escape right out of the Keystone Cops. But he was more like Willy Wonka, giving the kids a factory of rambunctious thrills to play in, if only on his terms.
Disco 2000—his initially pre-Giuliani Wednesday night Limelight event—was a rude debauch with all sexualities blending under the great god Ecstasy. AIDS was other people’s problem. Everything was other people’s problem. Eventually, the weekly soiree became host to an Unnatural Acts revue, wherein an amputee danced until his wooden leg fell off, at which point a wasted girl from the audience humped both the stump and the prosthesis. Another enterprising young lady once took the stage to insert soda bottles into her various orifices—but she paled next to the guy who drank his own piss, ages before Urinetown made wee-wee theater legit.
Drunk with power, Alig promoted Julie Jewels, a wan teen with a fake Russian accent, and against all odds he got her to be “it girl” for a few minutes. Mostly, Alig pushed himself and even agreed to get a “downtown makedown” in the Voice in ’91, letting us make him over into a conservative door-to-door salesman. “The bad seed in cha-cha heels,” I wrote, “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 obviously, I was still attracted to his moxie and his frenzied, correctness-hating attempts to kill boredom and stir up some fun.
And oh, the memories. Once, Alig—wearing a ski mask—kept trying to unzip my pants and go down on me in a limo. I knew he wasn’t turned on—it was just one more Unnatural Acts routine, another lips-on-my-cock shtick—and I pushed him away in bemused horror. Hardly anybody else put boundaries on him, though he was definitely screaming out for some. He’d probably ignore them anyway; I once saw him try to push pills into an unamused friend’s mouth—and if that failed, honey, he’d just spike the punch bowl.
As the years passed, he wore ass-exposing rag-doll/clown outfits, also revealing more menace behind the glee. One night, when I caught him mocking me to a friend, he grinned and said, “How do you know we’re making fun of you?” Another time, he called me to gloat that shock rocker GG Allin had OD’d and died. (Alig claimed he’d just taped a talk show with Allin, on which the performer had vowed to commit suicide. Now Alig was sure the show would get lots of publicity!) By the time Alig sold a German kid as an indentured sex slave to another promoter, his marketing concepts had become beyond twisted (and I hear it wasn’t just one kid he pimped).
In December ’95, I agreed to go to Alig’s apartment to plan some historical club society he’d cooked up. He was practically incoherent, talking even faster than usual and running into the bathroom with a stream of boys that kept arriving without introduction. In late March ’96, he called me to plant the item that he’d been fired from the Limelight, but he gave trumped-up reasons, saying owner Peter Gatien‘s jealous girlfriend had the cops padlock his apartment and he was now homeless and suicidal. A source claimed Alig had busted out of an imposed rehab stint and was still drug ridden. And club kids were murmuring darker secrets—that Alig and roommate Freeze had supposedly killed drug dealer Angel Melendez in a money scuffle—but they’d add, “You didn’t hear it from me.” He still held power over them, and though I railed against them for this unspeakable outrage, I forgot that he’d long had power over me, too.
By the time Alig sent out a party invite joking about the murder, a lot of people wanted to kill him (especially since a source was floating a more premeditated version of the killing). I kept trashing him in print, and one time Alig unconvincingly called to say, “I’m trying to figure out what this item means.” Meanwhile, the cops were lying low since there wasn’t a body—and besides, if there was, it would be that of a gay Hispanic club-kid druggie. When they finally found their hacked-up evidence, Alig was on the guest list for lockup and didn’t care for the non-VIP treatment (though in later setups, he boasted to friends about all the sex and other privileges). He wrote me a 10-page letter asking for a reference to help with his sentencing, but I was too busy on the phone with his mother, who cried about prison injustice, calling again the very next day to ask, “What have you done for Michael?”
In ’98, Alig wrote a pal that he meditates in jail and “everyone thinks I worship the devil.” But his religion was still marketing; from his cell, he asked me for photos for a memoir (then called Pleasure Junkie: The Last Straw) and casting advice for his movie. Even more hilariously, he said he wanted to direct! In retrospect, Alig felt he was a shy boy who overcompensated—a lot—and in ’99, he more specifically blamed gayness for his ruin. He wrote in his hometown Indiana paper that the urban gay lifestyle is out of control and, self-destructively, “I dealt with that by medicating myself with drugs.” Oh well, I still had my sweeter memories, like him trying to pull me into a pool at Tunnel or running a Project X chart of all the clubbies he thought had gotten hepatitis from each other. Those were the days—no, really. Now Hollywood?
Oscar bonus: Here are some of the thoughts that hit me, in chronological order, while watching all four-plus hours of the Oscars: Tom Cruise suddenly has a beard—no, not Penelope. . . . Why is he serving up so much windy rationale, explaining that the awards are more important than ever? We’re watching, aren’t we? . . . Jennifer Connelly should put down her written speech and give us some emotion, even if she has to fake it. We want a little hysteria, if you please. . . . There are so many gays up there, John Nash must be either gagging or getting turned on. . . . This Cirque du Soleil shit in the aisles would be ridiculous even if it did have something to do with the movies. . . . Jim Broadbent was indeed the best supporting actor this year, so I’m not gonna go the “They just didn’t want to see Sir Ian kiss the boyfriend” route. I just hope the boyfriend doesn’t end up with Broadbent now. . . . Every time Whoopi makes a black joke, they cut to Will and Jada‘s reaction. . . . Wait, Cirque du Soleil has taken over the main stage. Help!…The Sidney Poitier tribute is gorgeous, but they’re leaving out the fact that he ultimately got tired of playing what amounted to a positive stereotype—the noble Negro who came to dinner and convinced the racists that blacks are OK. That’s too complicated for Oscar. . . . Tonight is the first time anyone, including the people who wrote them, has heard any of these five songs from hell. . . . Barbra must have had the neck done—it’s finally showing. . . . Halle‘s win is magnificent and historic, but she’s losing control up there, going even beyond Sally Field in her newly validated delirium. There must be some middle ground between Jennifer Connelly and this. . . . Psycho Denzel beat schizo Russell and retard Sean. Yay! . . . Despite that, the Beautiful Mind backlash had no effect whatsoever—in fact, Hollywood clearly was glad the gay stuff was cut out. . . . All right, Halle, you’re welcome!