Club Kids

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Club Kids were a group of young New York City dance club personalities popularized by Michael Alig, James St. James, Julie Jewels, Astro Erle, Michael Tronn, DJ Keoki, and Ernie Glam in the late 1980s, and throughout the 1990s would grow to include Amanda Lepore, Waltpaper (Walt Cassidy), Christopher Comp, It Twins, Jennytalia (Jenny Dembrow), Desi Monster (Desi Santiago), Keda, Kabuki Starshine, and Richie Rich.[1] The group was notable for its members' flamboyant behavior and outrageous costumes. In 1988, writer Michael Musto wrote about 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."[2][3]

The group was also recognized as an artistic and fashion-conscious youth culture. They were a definitive force in New York City's underground club culture at the time. Several Club Kids have made long-lasting contributions to mainstream art and fashion. According to former Club Kid Waltpaper, "The nightclub for me was like a laboratory, a place where you were encouraged and rewarded for experimentation."[4] However, Alig was plagued by heavy drug use. He began adding drug dealers to the Club Kids roster and Peter Gatien's payroll, and increasing numbers of Club Kids became addicted to drugs.[5]

The movement began to decline when Rudy Giuliani took office as mayor of New York in 1994, targeting the city's nightlife industry with his Quality of Life campaign.[1] It eventually collapsed after Alig was arrested for the killing and dismemberment of his roommate and fellow club kid Andre "Angel" Melendez,[6] and Peter Gatien was charged with tax evasion and deported to Canada.[1]


The group, which Alig estimates included up to "750 in the early 90s at different levels",[7] consisted of Michael Alig; Julie Jewels and Michael Tronn (among others), who helped organize the early Outlaw Parties;[8] and Alig's mentor/friend/rival James St. James (born James Clark). Others were the following:

Prominent chroniclers of the club kids culture[edit]

  • Waltpaper, club kid and author of New York: Club Kids by Waltpaper[33]
  • Michael Musto, Village Voice columnist and partygoer alongside the Club Kids
  • James St. James, author of Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous but True Tale of Murder in Clubland, a 1999 memoir of James' life as a Manhattan club kid, as well as Michael Alig's murder of Andre "Angel" Melendez. The memoir was retitled Party Monster after the 2003 movie that starred Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green, Chloë Sevigny, and Marilyn Manson.
  • Nelson Sullivan, videographer and host of cultural gatherings and events[34]
  • Ernie Glam, Michael Alig, creators and hosts of the YouTube Channel show "Peeew!" which featured interviews of Club Kids and the history of the Club Kids.


Alig moved to New York City from his hometown—South Bend, Indiana—in 1984 and began hosting small events. In 1987, he supplanted Andy Warhol as a leading New York partier; in an article in Interview, Alig said: "We were all going to become Warhol Superstars and move into The Factory. The funny thing was that everybody had the same idea: not to dress up but to make fun of people who dressed up. We changed our names like they did, and we dressed up in outrageously crazy outfits in order to be a satire of them—only we ended up becoming what we were satirizing."[35]

The Club Kids' aesthetic emphasized outrageousness, "fabulousness", and sex. Gender was fluid, and everything was DIY. In Musto's words: "It was a statement of individuality and sexuality which ran the gamut, and it was a form of tapping into an inner fabulousness within themselves and bringing it out."[36]

As the group's influence grew, they spread from the back rooms of lesser-known clubs to venues such as Area, Rudolf Piper's Danceteria, and the Palladium. From there, Alig and his gang went on to run Peter Gatien's club network, including Club USA, Palladium, Tunnel, and The Limelight. To draw crowds into these venues, Alig and the Club Kids began holding guerilla-style "outlaw parties", where, fully costumed and ready to party, they would hijack locations like Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, ATM vestibules, the old High Line tracks before their conversion to a park, and the New York City Subway blasting music from a boombox and dancing until the police cleared them out. Alig even "threw a party in a cardboard shantytown rented from its homeless inhabitants",[22] whom he paid with cash and crack cocaine.[8]

He ensured that such events always happened in the vicinity of an actual club to which the group could decamp.[37][35] At the height of their cultural popularity, the Club Kids toured the United States (throwing parties, "certifying" those clubs for inclusion in the Club Kids network, and recruiting new members[8]), and appeared on several talk shows, including Geraldo, The Joan Rivers Show, and the Phil Donahue Show.[38][39][40]

As the 1990s began, the front line of the Club Kids became occupied by a younger group of dynamic personalities that were discovered and mentored by Alig, such as Waltpaper, Jennytalia (Jenny Dembrow), Desi Monster (Desi Santiago), Astro Erle, Christopher Comp, Pebbles, Keda, Kabuki Starshine, Sacred Boy, Sushi, Lil Keni, DJ Whillyem, Aphrodita, Lila Wolfe and Richie Rich. Many of these primary Club Kids lived together communally in large triplex apartments, and at the Chelsea Hotel and Hotel 17.[1][33]

Prominent music personalities, such as Bjork, then singer of the band Sugarcubes, were seen hanging with the Club Kids.[33] With Techno and the incoming rave scene, fashion began to soften into an ambiguous gender-fluid style, which melded references to the Club Kids with skate, indie, hip-hop, and grunge. Brands began casting street models and club personalities in shows, campaigns and music videos. Actress Chloë Sevigny emerged from the group at this time, and frequently modeled with Waltpaper, Jennytalia, DJ Whillyem, and Karliin Mann for brands like JYSP Johnson, Calvin Klein, and Jean-Paul Gaultier and in various editorials that showcased Rave vs. Club Kid style for magazines, including Paper, Max, Project X, Interview, Details and High Times.[1][33]

The movement's decline was marked by an event on Sunday, March 17, 1996, when Alig and his roommate Robert "Freeze" Riggs killed former Limelight employee and reputed drug dealer Andre "Angel" Melendez. After nine months, Alig and Riggs were arrested.[38][41] The group dissipated in the mid-1990s after Mayor Rudy Giuliani's "Quality of Life" crackdown on Manhattan's nightclubs.[36]

Many of the members of the Club Kids distanced themselves from Alig as details of the murder were released and branded by the press and through documentaries such as Party Monster. Waltpaper stated in Interview: "I would say a lot of the community felt our experience of the time was hijacked by that Party Monster narrative...That's not the New York I knew. That narrative doesn't include the creativity, vibrancy, and cultural impact that I experienced." For his 2019 book, New York: Club Kids, Cassidy weaves an optimistic narrative where a bunch of misfits made a wonderland by being themselves.[33]

Depictions in art, entertainment, and media[edit]


  • The events of Michael Alig's years as a club promoter up to his arrest are covered in James St. James's memoir Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous but True Tale of Murder in Clubland (1999),[6] re-released with the title Party Monster after the release of the eponymous 2003 film.[42]
  • A visual diary of New York City in the 1990s, New York: Club Kids by Waltpaper (published by Damiani, 2019)[1] is a visual document of the nightlife and street culture.[43]


  • The documentary film Party Monster: The Shockumentary (1998) and the feature film Party Monster (2003) – both directed by former Club Kids Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbat, and focused on the murder of Melendez by Alig and Riggs – are based upon St. James' memoir.
  • A prison interview with Alig is featured in the documentary Limelight (2011), directed by Billy Corben and produced by Peter Gatien's daughter Jen Gatien .[44]
  • The documentary film Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig (2015)[17] reviews the creation, rise, and dispersion of the Club Kids phenomenon and the life of Michael Alig, including his return to New York City after serving a 17-year prison sentence for murdering Andre "Angel" Melendez.[45][46][47][9]


Ernie Glam and Jason Jay wrote "Party Clothes". It was released on the one year anniversary of Michael Alig's death. Later Ernie Glam and Jason Jay wrote "Fashion " and released it on May 21, 2022.

Greg Tanoose wrote and produced the song "What's In" with Michael Alig and DJ Keoki. It has Michael Alig on vocals.

  • Alig and Melendez's friend Screamin Rachael wrote the song "Give Me My Freedom/Murder in Clubland" after Alig and Gitsie took a road trip to visit her in Denver, arriving five weeks after Melendez's "disappearance". The lyrics to a backwards loop in the song include lines "Michael, where's Angel?" and "Did someone just cry wolf, or is he dead?"[48][49]


Melendez's murder case was featured on the TV series:


  • Clubland: The Monster Pop Party (2013), a musical adaptation of St. James' book Party Monster and its 2003 eponymous film adaptation, debuted April 11, 2013 at the American Repertory Theater's Club Oberon, with book, music, and lyrics by Andrew Barret Cox [54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Cassidy, Walt (2019). NEW YORK: CLUB KIDS by Waltpaper. Italy/New York: Damiani. ISBN 978-8862086578.
  2. ^ Musto, Michael (March 26, 2002). "NY Mirror". Village Voice. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Doonan, Simon (August 9, 1999). "Club Kids on the Skids: The Horrid, Lovely Alig Epic". The Observer.
  4. ^ Smith, Raven, ed. (2008). Club Kids: From Speakeasies to Boombox and Beyond. London, UK: Black Dog Publishing.
  5. ^ a b c Kurtis, Bill (host) (2000). "Dancing, Drugs, and Murder". American Justice (Series 126). New York City.
  6. ^ a b St. James, James (1999). Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland (August 11, 1999 ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 2222. ISBN 0-684-85764-2.
  7. ^ Bollen, Christopher (April 19, 2010). "In a rare interview with Interview magazine, King of the Club Kids Michael Alig discusses the history of the Club Kids at length, his experiences in behind bars, his plans of life post-jail and why he thinks Lady Gaga would have been the perfect Club Kid". Interview Magazine.
  8. ^ a b c d e Bollen, Christopher (April 19, 2010). "In a rare interview with Interview magazine, King of the Club Kids Michael Alig discusses the history of the Club Kids at length, his experiences in behind bars, his plans of life post-jail and why he thinks Lady Gaga would have been the perfect Club Kid". Interview Magazine.
  9. ^ a b c "REVIEW: Glory Daze – The Life and Times of Michael Alig (2015)". World of Film Geek. December 8, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d e Graymay, Kevin (May 14, 2014). "After Prison, No After-Hours: Michael Alig, the Former King of the Club Kids, After Prison". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Musto, Michael (May 18, 2016). "'I Never Want to Stop Dressing Up': Talking to Nightlife Legend Kenny Kenny". Paper.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Turner, Megan (January 23, 2003). "The Day The Dancing Died – Catching Up With the Club Kids in True-Crime Indie". New York Post.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Bailey, Fenton (October 28, 2014). "The History of Party Monster".
  14. ^ a b c "Death by Decadence". The Weekend Guardian. April 19, 1997.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h "What Michael Alig's Club Kids Are Doing Now". Daily Intelligencer. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  16. ^ O'Donnel, Kevin (December 10, 2014). "Lisa Edelstein's Life as an '80s Celebutante Revealed!". Bravo. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  17. ^ a b Fernández, Ramón (Writer and Director) (2015). Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig (Crime documentary). Electric Theater Pictures.
  18. ^ Hruska, Rachelle (June 24, 2008). "Interview With Richie Rich". vimeo.
  19. ^ Garner, Glenn (February 2, 2017). "DJ Lina Talks Barbie Dolls, Club Kids & Whoopi Goldberg". Out. Retrieved November 3, 2020.
  20. ^ "Obituary: Cynthia "Gitsey" Haataja". The News-Press. January 16, 1998.
  21. ^ "Possible Trial Witness Dies". The New York Times. January 14, 1998.
  22. ^ a b Goldberg, Michelle (August 16, 1999). "Clubland Horrorcoaster (Celebutante Tell-All: 'Disco Bloodbath' is a drug epic spiked with celebrity and murder; James St. James illuminates the glamourous [sic] monsters of the club scene)".
  23. ^ Dickson, Caitlin (February 28, 2014). "The Party Monster Lives for the Applause: Michael Alig's Second Act". The Daily Beast.
  24. ^ Alig, Michael (May 12, 2014). "Club Kid killer relives bloody crime". New York Post.
  25. ^ Musto, Michael (March 26, 2002). "NY Mirror". Village Voice.
  26. ^ Nichols, James Michael (August 31, 2014). "After Dark: Meet Kenny Kenny, Visual Poet And Nightlife Icon". Huffington Post.
  27. ^ "The Stories Behind These Striking Photos Show Club Kids Are More Than Just Pretty Faces". Mic. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  28. ^ Chun, Gary C.W. (December 7, 2001). "Superstar DJ Keoki keeps the party going". Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
  29. ^ "Apollo Braun at Plaid". YouTube. June 22, 2007. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021.
  30. ^ "A fashion show by designer Apollo Braun in NYC". YouTube. October 1, 2019. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021.
  31. ^ "The Party Monster Lives for the Applause; Michael Alig's Second Act". The Daily Beast. February 28, 2014.
  32. ^ "Zaldy, Onetime Club Kid, Model and Costumer to Pop Stars, Returns to Fashion Week". NYTimes. September 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2018.
  33. ^ a b c d e Bollen, Christopher (September 3, 2019). "WALT CASSIDY WALKS US THROUGH THE WILD GLAMORAMA OF NEW YORK CITY'S CLUB KIDS". Interview Magazine.
  34. ^ "Nelson Sullivan: Pioneering chronicler of NYC nightlife".
  35. ^ a b "The Comeback Kid: Michael Alig's Return to New York Nightlife". Thump. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  36. ^ a b "Michael Musto on the Prevailing Influence of Club Kid Fashion". The FADER. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  37. ^ "Party Monster: New Michael Alig prison interview". DangerousMinds. May 8, 2010. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  38. ^ a b "Michael Alig". Interview Magazine. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  39. ^ Carrie S. (February 20, 2006), the joan rivers show – club kids interview, archived from the original on December 22, 2021, retrieved January 31, 2017
  40. ^ theflush (1993), "New York Club Kids on Phil Donahue talkshow", Donahue 1993, archived from the original on December 22, 2021, retrieved January 31, 2017 (Complete TV show.)
  41. ^ Alig, Michael (May 12, 2014). "Club Kid killer relives bloody crime". New York Post.
  42. ^ Romano, Tricia (May 9, 2014). "Michael Alig's Next Move? 'Club Kid Killer' Seeks Post-Prison Job". Billboard. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  43. ^ Warner, Marigold (2019). ""New York Club Kids: Rewriting the Narrative"". British Journal of Photography United Kingdom (August).
  44. ^ Andersen, John (September 23, 2011). "Review: 'Limelight'". Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  45. ^ Fernández, Ramón (Writer and Director). Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig (Crime documentary). Electric Theater Pictures.
  46. ^ Murthi, Vikram (July 26, 2018). "'Glory Daze' Exclusive Trailer & Poster: Explore the Rise and Fall of Michael Alig, One of NYC's 'Club Kids', The film will be released on VOD on August 16". IndieWire.
  47. ^ Bar, Daryl (August 23, 2016). "Review – Glory Daze: The Life And Times Of Michael Alig". Battle Royale With Cheese.
  48. ^ Haden-Guest, Anthony (2015). The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night. ISBN 978-1-4976-9555-9.
  49. ^ Alig and Rachael discuss the song and its inspiration in Party Monster: The Shockumentary.
  50. ^ "Becoming Angel". Investigation Discovery.
  51. ^ Stasi, Linda (July 15, 2013). "Revisiting two 'Deadly' stories that rocked NYC". New York Post.
  52. ^ Sava, Oliver (May 17, 2017). "Drag Race season 9 finally reaches excellence when the queens make TV pilots". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
  53. ^ Nichols, James Michael (May 17, 2017). "'Drag Race' Queens Explain How Club Kids Changed Drag And Fashion Forever". HuffPost Canada. Retrieved December 9, 2021.
  54. ^ Blank, Matthew (April 10, 2013). "PHOTO CALL: Meet the Club Kids of the New Immersive Musical Adaptation of "Party Monster" at A.R.T." Playbill.


  • St. James, James (1999). Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-85764-2.
  • Bailey, Fenton; Barbato, Randy (Directors) (1998). Party Monster: The Shockumentary (documentary film). Picture This! Entertainment.
  • Cassidy, Walt (2019). NEW YORK: CLUB KIDS by Waltpaper. Italy/New York: Damiani. ISBN 978-8862086578.

External links[edit]