Journalist Daniel Genis (left) and Michael Alig, 2015
April 29, 1966 |
South Bend, Indiana, U.S.
|Occupation||Club promoter, writer, musician|
|Criminal charge||First-degree manslaughter|
|Criminal penalty||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, musician and writer who served almost 17 years in prison for manslaughter. Alig was 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 March 1996, Alig killed fellow Club Kid Andre "Angel" Melendez in a confrontation over a drug debt. He plead guilty to manslaughter in October 1997. 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, a native of Bremerhaven, Germany, 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 graduated in the top 8% of his class. During his teenage years, Alig reported that he was often the subject of bullying on account of his homosexuality. Seeking a less conservative social environment after graduating in 1984, he attended Fordham University in New York City. He studied architecture there before transferring to the Fashion Institute of Technology. There 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 a party promoter. His ability to stage memorable parties 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 infantilism". 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, Walt Paper, Ernie Glam, 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 atrophied 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.
Some of Alig's behavior could be explained by a personality disorder; he was diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder. He stated that "The doctor said I was the most extreme case he'd ever seen. Everything has to be completely over the top and exaggerated. It worked well for my job – I was a promoter."
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 when an investigation found that Peter Gatien was allowing drugs to be sold there, Melendez was fired. Shortly thereafter, he moved into Alig's apartment. On the night of 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 his memory of the events is unclear.
After Melendez's death, Alig and Riggs did not know what to do with the body. They initially left it in the bathtub, which 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 allegedly 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 Musto'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 still had 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 Melendez 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 remained in solitary 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 film Party Monster, starring Macaulay Culkin, a fictionalized account of Alig's life. He was again denied parole in July 2008 after failing several drug tests. In an interview with his former fellow prisoner Daniel Genis, Alig has said that his time spent reading while in solitary inspired him to write his memoirs, which he titled Aligula. He said he particularly identified with the character of Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. In March 2009, Alig said he finally decided to stop using drugs and that he has been sober since then.
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 counseling, 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)" and written by Greg Tanoose through Austound Music, an Austin, Texas based record label. An EP, also entitled What's In, is scheduled for release. In May 2015, a selection of Alig's paintings went on display at the SELECT Fair in New York. Alig also hosts an online satirical talk show entitled The Pee-ew Show. 
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, as well as the 2015 documentary Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig. 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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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