April 29, 1966 |
South Bend, Indiana, U.S.
|Occupation||Club promoter, musician|
|10 to 20 years|
|Criminal status||Released on parole|
|Partner(s)||Robert "Freeze" Riggs|
|Victims||Andre "Angel" Melendez|
|Date||March 17, 1996|
|Location(s)||New York City|
Michael Alig (born April 29, 1966) is an American former club promoter and musician. Alig became a prominent member of the Club Kids, a group of young New York City club goers that became a cultural phenomenon during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In October 1997, Alig pleaded guilty to manslaughter, after killing and dismembering fellow Club Kid Andre "Angel" Melendez in a confrontation over a drug debt in March 1996. He was sentenced to ten to twenty years in prison and was released on parole in May 2014.
Born in South Bend, Indiana, Alig is the second of two sons born to John and Elke Alig. His mother Elke is a native of Bremerhaven, Germany who moved to the United States after marrying John Alig, a computer programmer. Alig's parents divorced when he was four-years old.
Alig attended Grissom Middle School and Penn High School where he was a straight A student (he would later graduate in the top 8% of his class). During his adolescent and teenage years, Alig was often the subject of bullying due to his homosexuality. This prompted Alig to seek a less conservative environment. After graduating in 1984, he applied and was accepted to Fordham University in New York City. He studied architecture for a time but decided to transfer to the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was there that he met the boyfriend of artist Keith Haring who introduced Alig to New York City nightlife. Alig soon dropped out of school and began working at Danceteria as a bus boy.
Underground club scene
Alig's Club Kids
While working at Danceteria, Alig studied the club business and soon became Danceteria's top party promoter. His ability for throwing parties with few or no resources helped him rise in New York's party scene. During this time, Alig and other regular club goers began creating flamboyant personas and later became known as "Club Kids". The Club Kids wore outrageous costumes that former Club Kid and socialite James St. James later described as "part drag, part clown, part infantilsim". They were also known for the frequent use of ketamine (known as Special K), ecstasy, Rohypnol, heroin and cocaine. Alig's Club Kids included Gitsie, Jennytalia, Robert "Freeze" Riggs, Richie Rich, Charlie "Dash" Prestano, Superstar DJ Keoki, and Amanda Lepore. The Club Kids' outrageousness became a source of interest for the media and articles about them appeared in People, Newsweek and Time. They also appeared on Geraldo and The Joan Rivers Show.
In 1988, Alig was hired by the owner of The Limelight, Peter Gatien. Alig's parties at The Limelight were such a hit that he began organizing parties for Gatien's other clubs The Palladium, Tunnel and Club USA. Alig's notorious "Outlaw Parties", which were thrown in various unconventional places including a Burger King, a Dunkin' Donuts, abandoned houses and a subway, helped to revitalize the downtown New York City club scene which Village Voice columnist Michael Musto declared had died after artist Andy Warhol died in 1987. Alig's parties also became notorious due in part to his own "bad behavior". Alig would throw $100 bills on crowded dance floors just to watch people scramble for them. In other instances, he would urinate on clubgoers or urinate in their drinks and stage falls wherein he knocked others to the ground.
As Alig's popularity in the club scene grew, so did his drug use. He was arrested several times for drug offenses and entered rehab, but continued to use drugs. In 1995, Alig's boss Peter Gatien sent Alig to rehab once again. Alig later claimed that after he completed his stint and was released, Gatien fired him.
Killing of Angel Melendez
Andre "Angel" Melendez was regular on the New York City club scene and worked at The Limelight. He also sold drugs on the premises. After the bar was closed by federal agents due to an investigation that Peter Gatien was allowing drugs to be sold there, Melendez was fired. Shortly thereafter, he moved into Alig's apartment. On the night March 17, 1996, Alig and his friend Robert "Freeze" Riggs murdered Melendez after an argument in Alig's apartment over many things including a long-standing drug debt. Alig has claimed many times that he was so high on drugs that the events are quite cloudy.
After Melendez's death, Alig and Riggs did not know what to do with the body. They initially left it in the bath tub that they filled with ice. After a few days, the body began to decompose and became odorous. After discussing what to do with Melendez's body and who should do it, Riggs went to Macy's to buy knives and a box. In exchange for ten bags of heroin, Alig agreed to dismember Melendez's body. He cut the legs off, put them in a garbage bag and stuffed the rest into a box. Afterwards, he and Riggs threw the box into the Hudson River.
In the weeks following Melendez's disappearance, Alig told "anyone who would listen" that he and Riggs had killed him. Most people did not believe Alig and thought his "confession" was a ploy to get attention.
Investigation and arrest
Rumors of Alig's involvement in Melendez's death were reported in a blind item in Michael Musso's column in the Village Voice on April 26, 1996. Although no names were used, Musto's reports included the details of the murder. Musto had previously reported on Alig's firing from the Limelight and noted the buzz about a missing club person. The following day, the New York Post's "Page Six" column ran a lead item about the murder mystery, citing Musto's reporting as well as a New York magazine piece quoting an evasive Alig. Over the coming weeks, the Village Voice continued to report and make accusations about Melendez's murder.
Through September, the police had still not questioned Alig about the murder; they were focused on his business partner Peter Gatien, wanting Alig to testify against him. Since several months had passed, many people believed Alig would get away with murdering Melendez until a dismembered torso was pulled from the waters off Staten Island. James St. James recounted how Melendez's brother was baffled by what he regarded as callous indifference by the police and by the scenesters Melendez had considered friends.
In November 1996, the coroner reported the body had been identified as Angel Melendez. Alig fled New York and, in November 1996, was located by police in a motel in New Jersey. Alig was arrested as was Robert Riggs. Shortly after his arrest, Riggs confessed to police:
On a Sunday in March of 1996 I was at home ... and Michael Alig and Angel Melendez were loudly arguing ... and getting louder. I opened the room and started towards the other bedroom ... at which point Michael Alig was yelling, "Help me!" "Get him off of me" [Angel] started shaking him violently and banging him against the wall. He was yelling "You better get my money or I'll break your neck" ... I grabbed the hammer ... and hit Angel over the head...
According to Riggs, he then hit Melendez a total of three times on the head. Then Alig grabbed a pillow and tried to smother him. While Melendez was unconscious, Riggs went to the other room, and when he returned, he noticed a broken syringe on the floor. Riggs claimed that Alig had injected Melendez with Drano, while Alig stated that he poured it down Melendez's throat then duct-taped his mouth closed.
Alig claimed he killed Melendenz in self defense and helped to dispose of the body in a panic. Prosecutors were hesitant to charge Alig with first degree murder as they still hoped he would testify against his former boss, Peter Gatien. They eventually offered both Alig and Riggs a plea deal; a sentence of ten to twenty years if they accepted the lesser charge of manslaughter. On October 1, 1997, both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to ten to twenty years.
While in prison, Alig told journalist Michael Musto, "I know why I blabbed. I must have wanted to stop me. I was spinning out of control. It's like the old saying 'What do you have to do to get attention around here - kill somebody?'"
While incarcerated in the New York prison system, Alig was transferred from prison to prison and also spent time in the psychiatric ward at Rikers Island. In 2000, he was placed in solitary confinement after he was caught using heroin. He stayed there for another two and a half years after a drug test showed that he was still using drugs.
In August 2004, Alig's longtime friend James St. James began a blog entitled "Phone Calls From a Felon". The blog contained transcripts of phone conversations between Alig and St. James about Alig's experiences in prison. After six weeks, Alig put a stop to the phone calls claiming that "People think I’m having a grand old time. Or that I’m trying to exploit my situation." While he was imprisoned, Lucky editor Esther Haynes ran Alig's Twitter account.
Alig became eligible for parole in 2006. His first parole request, in November 2006, was denied, reportedly after parole officers watched the fictional movie based on Alig's life Party Monster, starring Macaulay Culkin. He was again denied parole in July 2008 as a result of failing several drug tests. In March 2009, Alig said he finally decided to stop using drugs and says he has been sober ever since.
Post prison life
Alig was paroled on May 5, 2014. Per the conditions of his parole, Alig returned to New York City. He is required to abide by an 8 p.m. curfew and must undergo drug counseling, anger management, and job readiness training. In the months following his release, Alig granted numerous interviews in which he expressed a desire to star in his own reality show and stage an exhibition of his art work. In May 2014, it was reported that Alig was attempting to sell his memoirs and was pursuing a career as a magazine writer.
On October 15, 2014, Alig released the pop song "What's In" (Featuring DJ Keoki) through Austound Music, an Austin, Texas based record label. An EP, also entitled What's In, is set scheduled for release.
In popular culture
The events of Michael Alig's years as a club promoter up to his arrest were portrayed in the 1998 documentary Party Monster: The Shockumentary and the 2003 feature film Party Monster starring Macaulay Culkin as Alig and Seth Green as St. James. The events are also covered in St. James's memoir, Disco Bloodbath, re-released with the title Party Monster after the release of the 2003 film.
In 2014 Alig released his first ever song with producer Greg Tanoose called "What's In", after signing an exclusive contract with Austin, TX record label Austound Music. The song became available internationally in digital stores on October 15 A music video for the new song was released on Nov. 21 to open arms from his cult fan-base, with a follow-up track being promised titled "The Bitch Is Back". He plans to produce an entire album with Astound entitled Deviation On Demand with Greg Tanoose continuing as executive producer. The notoriety of his musical venture has garnered the attention of international print-media such as the New York Post, AirShip, Tn2, GQ, and even Mexico's Crom Magazine.
- Bollen, Christopher. "Michael Alig". interviewmagazine.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Selbry, Jenn "Michael Alig released from jail: Infamous Club Kids ‘Party Monster’ convicted of murdering and dismembering roommate freed"The Independent (May 5, 2014)
- Owen, Frank (2004). Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture. Broadway Books. pp. 122–123. ISBN 0-767-91735-9.
- Owen 2004 pp.125, 128
- Brockes, Emma (June 21, 2014). "Michael Alig: 'We didn't even realise he was dead'". theguardian.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Owen 2004 p.128
- Van Meter, Jonathan (October 24, 2007). "Party Boy in a Cage". p. 1. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- White, Dave (September 16, 2003). "The Devil In the Disco". The Advocate (Here Publishing) (898). ISSN 0001-8996.
- Moloney, Stephen (September 17, 2014). "Addicted to Glamour: Interview with Michael Alig". tn2magazine.ie.
- Sweetingham, Lisa (2009). Chemical Cowboys: The DEA's Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin. Random House Publishing Group. p. 87. ISBN 0-345-50977-3.
- Roshan, Maer; Jolly, Mark; Vanamme, Norman (June 10, 1996). "The Ecstacy and The Agony". New York Magazine (New York Media, LLC) 29 (23): 35–35. ISSN 0028-7369.
- Alley, George (June 17, 2014). "Interview: Michael Alig on Readjusting to Gay Life After Prison, Dealing With Murderer’s Remorse, and Crying Over Cronuts". phillymag.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Van Meter, Jonathan (October 24, 2007). "Party Boy in a Cage". p. 2. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Kocieniewski, David (December 6, 1996). "Party Promoter At Night Spots Is Held in Death Of a Clubgoer". nytimes.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Hamilton, Ed (2010). Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with the Artists and Outlaws in New York's Rebel Mecca. Da Capo Press. p. 82. ISBN 0-306-82000-5.
- "Robert "Freeze" Riggs written confession". The Smoking Gun. 2007. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
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- Goldbery, Michelle (August 16, 1999). "Clubland Horrorcoaster". metroactive. Retrieved March 22, 2008.
One of the most poignant scenes in this story occurs when Angel's brother appears on the scene and is baffled by the callousness and indifference both of the police and of the people Angel considered friends.
- Bill Kurtis, Host (2000). "Dancing, Drugs, and Murder". [American Justice]. Series 126. A&E Network. http://www.tvguide.com/detail/tv-show.aspx?tvobjectid=194507&more=ucepisodelist&episodeid=2405366. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
- Ross, Barbara (September 11, 1997). "Nightclub Pals Own Up to '96 Killing". New York Daily News. Retrieved March 23, 2008.
They left the body in a bathtub for a week, then cut the legs off and dumped the pieces into the Hudson River. The torso washed up on Staten Island.
- Romano, Tricia. "Michael Alig: The Life and Death of the Party: Confessions of a Body Hacker". crimelibrary.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Romano, Tricia. "Michael Alig: The Life and Death of the Party: Sentencing". crimelibrary.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- "‘King Of The Club Kids’ Out Of Jail After Serving Time For Drug Murder". magneticmag.com. May 5, 2014. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Alig, Michael; St. James, James (October 21, 2004). "Phone Call from a Felon - Part 11". WOW. Retrieved May 23, 2008.
You know, James, you don’t know any of this: When I first got to Rikers Island, do you know that they put me in the mental ward?
- Van Meter, Jonathan (October 24, 2007). "Party Boy in a Cage". p. 3. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Hershkovits, David (April 2013). "What's Next For Michael Alig". papermag.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Van Meter, Jonathan (October 24, 2007). "Party Boy in a Cage". p. 4. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Romano, Tricia (May 9, 2014). "Michael Alig's Next Move? 'Club Kid Killer' Seeks Post-Prison Job". billboard.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- "About Michael Alig". nextmagazine.com. June 6, 2014. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- "Austound Music". austoundmusic.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- James St. James. Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland (August 11, 1999 ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 2222. ISBN 0-684-85764-2.
- Andersen, John (September 23, 2011). "Review: ‘Limelight’". variety.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
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