Party Monster: Club kid murderer Michael Alig to be paroled
02:38 pm

According to Steve Lewis’s blog at Black Book, Michael Alig, the notorious “club kid murderer” and “Party Monster” (played by Macaulay Culkin in the 2003 cult film of the same name) is about to be paroled. Alig pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of drug dealer Angel Melendez in 1996 and was sentenced to ten to twenty years in prison.

Club kid founder Michael Alig is to be released from jail on May 5, according to sources in the know. A check of official prison site by Alig friend Victor Corona confirmed the news. Alig, of course, has been serving time for the murder and dismemberment of drug dealer Angel Melendez on March 17,1996. He has been eligible for parole since 2006, but has been denied until now. The release, although not a surprise, has sent waves through a community who knew him and loved him, as well as those who knew him and hated him. He will be staying with a close friend, and has been recruited for creative jobs by many. His transition to the real world will be eased by a support group who, for the most part, have stuck by him for more than a decade and a half. Michael has never used a computer or cellphone but he has remained keenly aware of the world we live in. There is no chance that he will return to clubs as a way of life, but he will paint and write, and as always, try to impact the way we think.

The reason there’s “no chance” that Alig would return to club life is that there isn’t any to return to—at least nothing even remotely resembling the scene he would remember from the 90s. Forget about computers and cell phones, New York City itself will be practically unrecognizable to him. The state of mind once known as “downtown” simply doesn’t exist anymore. It’s but a faded memory. The real estate has long since moved on. Last I heard Limelight was some sort of flea market. I wonder how long it will take before one of the cable television networks gives the green-light to Michael Alig: Reality Sets In ?

I was for many years Michael’s friend. Like so many others, I left him behind when drugs and power created a “Party Monster.” We reconnected in recent years, and during my visits to him in prison I observed the Michael Alig that I loved—the Alig prior the downfall. I believe he is ready to enter the world, and that reentering will be a good thing. No one, no act, no time, no hatred will bring back Angel, but Michael has served a great deal of his adult life in a bad place. I believe he has been rehabilitated. I believe he is forever remorseful and I look forward to his redux. To those who say nay, I respect that, but hope chances are given, and that we can move on. It is a time to remember Angel and reflect on the meaning of life. For me, forgiveness is part of it.

I met Michael Alig at the Danceteria nightclub on the very first day that I moved to NYC at the end of 1984. Later that night he got me and several other people into a celebrity-studded opening party at AREA. After asking if I wanted to meet Andy Warhol—implying that he knew him—Michael proceeded to shove me from behind, full force with both arms right into the Pope of Pop. I was completely flummoxed and tongue-tied, but Warhol had seen Michael push me and directed his annoyance towards him and not at me.

Michael was smart, charming and funny when he was young, but frankly, as my ignominious “introduction” to Andy Warhol demonstrated, he was also untrustworthy. And erratic. He could be really thoughtful—he alerted me to an apartment for rent that I ended up leasing, for instance—but he also stole several items from that very same apartment! When confronted—I literally shoved him up against the wall in Limelight by his neck and threatened to beat him up—he returned my stuff, but lied and blamed his boyfriend—who had never even been in that place. That was Michael before he disappeared down a permanant K-hole.

To be sure, the fucked up, drugged-out decadent person portrayed in Party Monster, well, that movie is damned accurate, let me tell you. (The filmmakers, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato knew Michael quite well themselves, and even the layout of the furniture in their movie conforms exactly to my own memory of two of his apartments.) Having said that, I always maintained a level of sympathy and begrudging affection for Michael, even during his downward spiral, because he just seemed so needy and desperate for attention. There was a bit of a “Lost Boy” or Peter Pan quality to him, and I recall him recounting a conversation that his divorced parents were having about his tuition to Fordham when his father, balking at the costs, apparently said “Look, I love the kid, but I don’t love him that much.” This speaks volumes about where Michael ended up, probably. That all-consuming need for attention was both his genius and his undoing.

A strange bit of “true crime” trivia is that Michael was the first person I knew who had a VCR. His was a Betamax and he had just two videos and both were directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis: 2000 Maniacs and Blood Feast.

Just sayin’.

Below, the 1998  Party Monster “shockumentary” that preceded the 2003 feature film:

Posted by Richard Metzger
02:38 pm
Downtown New York in the 1980s: Nelson Sullivan archive debuts at NYU

I was going to post a short notice about these two sure to be interesting evenings at NYU this week, but I thought the story told by the press release was worth presenting here in full.

Of mild interest to DM readers, my own tape-recorded recollections of the late Nelson Sullivan are part of this archive (I knew Nelson and rented a tiny room from him for about 6 months in his ramshackle house at 5 Ninth Ave. when I was 21). Robert Coddington, who valiantly cataloged this amazing collection and kept it together, is a friend of mine and someone I hold in high regard. It’s really a tribute to his scholarship and tenacity that this collection is going to be housed at NYU, where it belongs, for future scholars who want to understand what happened “downtown” during the 1980s (I can’t help but to add “...before NYU drove up the property values and forced all of the bohemians out!”). Robert, and the wonderful Dick Richards, the real hero of this story (and a man who should have a documentary made about him) have done history a big favor, they really have.

The 1980s were the plague years in NYC, make no mistake about it. A lot of us had close friends who died. But it was also a fun, decadent and deeply weird time to have been young. Sullivan’s tapes capture that time like literally nothing else could.

Long Days’ Journey Downtown—Nelson Sullivan’s Video Archive Back in NYC After 23 Years

Completing a trek across many miles and more than two decades, a remarkable trove of video tapes chronicling the golden age of New York’s 1980s club scene is back where it was created—in downtown Manhattan. In October, New York University’s Fales Library & Special Collections accepted the Nelson Sullivan Video Archive as a donation from Atlantans Dick Richards and David Goldman, and Robert Coddington of Durham, N.C.—operating collectively as the 5 Ninth Avenue Project.

On April 25, the Fales Library will host a panel discussion to mark the archive’s official entry into its collections. Coddington will talk about Sullivan’s body of work, and how he and his partners worked to preserve it. Several artists featured in the video tapes also are expected to attend and add their recollections of Sullivan and the scene he documented. The event begins at 6 p.m. on April 25 at the Fales Library, third floor, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South. This event is free and open to the public.

In the early 1980s, Nelson Sullivan began using then-newly available portable video technology to document the highs and lows of downtown’s world of invites, catfights, train wrecks and rising stars. The equipment was heavy and expensive, but night after night Sullivan lugged it along from SoHo to Coney Island and all points inbetween—from huge discos (like Limelight and Tunnel) to tiny dives (like the Pyramid) and private parties (where he circulated with Warhol-era superstars and freshly minted celebrities like RuPaul and Deee-Lite).

Sullivan’s video archive grew rapidly, taking up shelf after shelf in the creaky three-story townhouse he rented in the Meatpacking District (at 5 9th Ave. and Gansevoort, today site of the restaurant 5 9th). And while he accommodated friends’ requests for copies, he jealously guarded the original tapes—confident he would one day devise a way to present them to the world. Finally, in the spring of 1989, Sullivan decided to make the collection his life’s work: He quit his job at the famous Joseph Patelson Music House (just across from Carnegie Hall’s stage door) and set out to launch a public access cable program showcasing his tapes. But tragically, after completing just one episode, he died of a sudden heart attack in the early morning hours of Independence Day. Seven years after it began, Sullivan’s quest to document the downtown scene was over.

Sullivan’s one-of-a-kind archive might have been picked apart by souvenir-hunters—or worse, left on the curb—had it not been for Dick Richards. Though grief-stricken at the loss of his lifelong friend—the two grew up together in rural South Carolina—Richards acted quickly, flying to New York, securing the collection, and shipping it to the Atlanta home he shared with his domestic partner David Goldman and his business partner Ted Rubenstein (co-founder, with Richards, of Funtone USA, which released RuPaul’s first three recordings).

“The video archive Nelson had created was so extraordinary that I knew I had to do whatever I could to save it,” Richards recalls. “What Nelson was doing was entirely unique. When you watch the tapes, you’ll search in vain to find another person who’s video taping these events. With AIDS ravaging the community and changing it forever, his was basically the only personal video testimony of a scene that was rapidly disintegrating.”

Back in Atlanta, Richards publicized the tapes by showing selections on “The American Music Show,” the weekly public access cable program he co-produced with Potsy Duncan and Bud “Beebo” Lowry.

Then, on a 1993 trip to tape the show at Foxy’s Lounge in Chicago, Richards and Goldman met Robert Coddington, who was involved in the Windy City’s club scene and burgeoning Queercore movement. Coddington, 23, longed to learn about the wild days that had preceded his own coming of age in the gay community, and upon hearing about the archive was eager to learn of the lost landscape it revealed.

“As a young gay man at the time, I had this acute sense that I was arriving at a fabulous party—five minutes after the lights came on,” Coddington says. “I knew that AIDS was ripping apart the gay culture that had existed before. I began to ask myself What was that world and what were those people like? Upon experiencing Nelson’s tapes, I began to learn the answers to those questions.”

Beginning in 2001, Richards and Coddington worked together to organize and chronicle the collection, producing four highlight DVDs (“Mad About Manhattan,” “The Club Kids,” “Nelson Sullivan’s Fabulous Friends,” and “Legends of New York”). In 2004, Coddington edited Sullivan’s “My Life In Video” for the New Museum’s East Village USA exhibition, which also featured works by Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring and Nan Goldin. In 2007, Coddington presented and discussed archive highlights at Atlanta’s Eye-Drum Gallery. Richards launched a YouTube channel dedicated to the collection: To date, it has logged more than 750,000 views.

Sullivan’s videos have been shown in more than 20 solo and group shows and film festivals across Europe, Australia, South America and North America. Videographers from Switzerland and France produced short documentary films on Sullivan for Europe’s ARTE channel. Los Angeles-based World of Wonder created a film on Sullivan for Britain’s Channel 4.

But as the collection’s fame spread, its ultimate survival was far from certain. The archive of more than 600 tapes remained boxed in a back room at Richards’ and Goldman’s century-old house in Inman Park (site of the 1864 Battle of Atlanta). Without an institutional “forever home,” the three partners feared the tapes’ initial escape from the dumpster might have been only temporary.

That’s when Sullivan’s videos got a powerful champion in the form of the Fales Library. The addition of the archive brought an exciting new dimension to Fales’ Downtown Collection, which already included the papers of such influential entities as the Gay Cable Network, the Red Hot Organization, Dennis Cooper, Michaelangelo Signorile, Richard Hell and Ande Whyland.

“Nelson Sullivan was the chronicler of the demimonde downtown New York scene,” said Marvin J. Taylor, director of the Fales Library. “He was everywhere that was important at just the right time. But, he was more than that. When Nelson turned his video camera on himself as flaneur of downtown, he found his own artistic, queer, postmodern voice. We’re honored to have Nelson’s videos here at NYU.”

“Seen on the Scene”

Here are a few of the personalities of note featured in the Nelson Sullivan Video Archive. Click on the links to view selected clips.

RuPaul, entertainer
Sylvia Miles, Academy Award nominee
Lady Miss Kier, lead singer of Deee-Lite
Michael Musto, author and columnist
Michael Alig, the “King of the Club Kids,” whose murder of a drug dealer is chronicled in the film “Party Monster”
Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Broadway and film composers
The Lady Bunny, entertainer
Jayne County, transgender punk rocker
Holly Woodlawn, Warhol Superstar and comedian
Quentin Crisp, author
Ethyl Eichelberger, performer

A lecture/screening presented by Robert Coddington will take place on Wednesday April 24 at the Einstein Auditorium in NYU’s Barney Building on Stuyvesant Street. It is free and open to the public and will feature videos of Keith Haring, Rock Steady Crew, RuPaul, Leigh Bowery, Ethyl Eichelberger, Fran Lebowitz, Michael Musto, Lady Miss Kier and more…

The following evening, Thursday April 25th, at the third floor Fales Library at the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library on Washington Square South, there will be a celebration of the life and work of Nelson Sullivan with Michael Musto, Lady Miss Kier, Robert Coddington, drag historian Joe E. Jeffreys, performance artist Flloyd and photographer Paula Gately Tillman.

Both events begin at 6pm.

Swiss television on Nelson Sullivan:

Posted by Richard Metzger
07:22 pm
‘Limelight’ - a new documentary about the legendary New York nightclub

I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar with the Michael Alig/club kids story by now, but let’s face it, no matter how many times it is told it never fails to shock and entertain. Limelight is a new documentary which recounts the story yet again, but as opposed to Party Monster, Shockumentary or James St James’ excellent Disco Bloodbath book, the focus this time in on the Limelight club itself and its owner, the nightclub impresario Peter Gatien.

Gatien owned a string of venues in New York, Atlanta and London during the 80s and 90s, including the very successful Tunnel and Club USA in Times Square. The Limelight was perhaps the most notorious (due in no small part to the club kids’ involvement), and became the focus of Mayor Giuliani’s crackdown on the city’s night life and drug culture. Gatien made a fortune from his venues, but was found guilty of tax evasion in the late Nineties and deported to his native Canada. Gatien is interviewed in Limelight, along with a prison-bound Michael Alig and everyone’s favorite vegan porn-hound Moby (who describes the Limelight as being like “pagan Rome on acid”). The documentary is released on Friday, here’s the trailer: 

Previously on DM:
Larry Tee & the club kids: Come Fly With Me
Ghosts of New York: the Limelight disco is now a mall
Party Monster: new Michael Alig prison interview
Nelson Sullivan: pioneering chronicler of NYC nightlife in the 1980s (featuring an interview with the legendary queen Christina)

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
02:58 pm
Larry Tee & the club kids: Come Fly With Me
03:55 pm

“Come Fly With Me” by Larry Tee and the Love Machine, is yet another of the low budget music videos I co-directed with Alan Henderson in the 80s. The video for this club kid anthem featured RuPaul, Lady Bunny, Lahoma Van Zandt, “Party Monster” Michael Alig, Vanity Fair‘s George Wayne, Justine Cooper, Amy Mellon, DJ Keoki, and many more people whose names I can’t recall. The brunette with the great eyes later played Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriend in a few episodes of Seinfeld. I think this was made in 1989.

The “Kaleidoscope” digital effects device was new on the market then and we used the crap out of it, here. This was made and mastered on analog tape. It’s not impressive now, but before you had After Effects, you had to be a maniac to attempt something like this. Larry Tee was later responsible for RuPaul’s “Supermodel” song and is an in-demand DJ and remixer who has recently worked with Lady Gaga. The infectious bassline sample is from “Reach Out in the Darkness” by Friend & Lover.

Posted by Richard Metzger
03:55 pm
Party Monster: New Michael Alig prison interview
09:27 pm

Interview magazine has a long and fascinating interview with so -called “Club Kid Murderer” Michael Alig, subject of the film Party Monster. I met Michael when he was a student at Fordham University. I actually met him on the day I moved to New York, in November 1984. That night, at the Area nightclub, Michael physically pushed me into Andy Warhol. Welcome to New York!

At that time Michael was a smart, sweet and very attention-starved kid from Chicago. He was extremely charismatic, if somewhat amoral and cruel Although I was never the object of Michael’s cruel streak, I did witness it on several occasions. He didn’t seem to have a self-censorship mechanism in this makeup. He once stole a Nina Hagen cassette from me. I knew he did it for the sole reason that he was the only person besides me and my roommate to be in the apartment—since I had lived there. He brought it back, but blamed his then boyfriend who had never been in the apartment.

I shrugged it off and continued to have a cordial relationship with Michael over the years, but had not spoken to him in several years when the murder happened. The interview shows him contrite and sad about what happened, if overly optimistic about when he’ll get out.

Here’s an excerpt where interviewer Christopher Bollen asks about the infamous outlaw parties:

BOLLEN: That’s when you started doing the Outlaw Parties as promotion?

ALIG: That was a gimmick to get people to come to the clubs. Vito Bruno had done it before us, and I started doing mine with him so it wouldn’t seem like I was stealing someone else’s idea. People weren’t coming for the free drinks anymore, so Outlaw Parties were a great draw, which we always held suspiciously close to the club. When the bust happened, there would be 2,000 great people two blocks away, and we would have a surprise open bar for them, and the club would get a rush of people. It was a marketing tool.

BOLLEN: Where are some of the Outlaw Party locations you remember being most successful?

ALIG: Dunkin’ Donuts, the train bridge that is now the High Line, one of the piers. When the World was paying, we did one party at the Pitt Street pool. When the Red Zone was paying, we did one in a building that had recently exploded. It had been cordoned off with yellow police tape, and we did a party right inside the building.

BOLLEN: Walt told me you had one party in a crack house called ID that was off the Hudson River.

ALIG: It wasn’t a crack house. It was an abandoned building where some homeless people were living. Like a squat. We paid them in crack.

BOLLEN: So you made them into crack addicts.

ALIG: No, they were crack addicts before that. At first we gave them $100 to have the party there, but we noticed they would run out and buy crack with the money, so we just made it easier for them and gave them the crack.

Below: Club kids (including DM pal, James St, James) on the Donahue show:

The infamous “outlaw party” held in the Times Square McDonald’s which was recreated in Party Monster. This footage was shot by the late Nelson Sullivan (I was at this party, but am not seen in the footage).

Michael Alig interviewed by Christopher Bollen (Interview)

The Prison Art of Michael Alig (Black Book)

Posted by Richard Metzger
09:27 pm