Night Class: A Downtown Memoir
by Victor Corona
0.0 · Rating Details · 0 Ratings · 0 Reviews
The playground of the rich and the beautiful, downtown New York’s nightlife spectacles and power of self-invention incubated pop icons from Andy Warhol to Lady Gaga. NYU sociologist Victor P. Corona sought a new education, where night classes held in galleries, nightclubs, bars, apartments, stoops, and all-night diners taught him about love, loss, and the living possibilities of identity. Transforming himself from dowdy professor to glitzy clubgoer, Victor immerses himself among downtown’s dazzling tribes of artists and performers hungry for fame.
Night Class: A Downtown Memoir investigates the glamour of New York nightlife. In interviews and outings with clubland revelers and influencers, including Party Monster and convicted killer Michael Alig, Night Class exposes downtown’s perilous trappings of drugs, ambition, and power. From closeted, undocumented Mexican boy to Ivy League graduate to nightlife writer, Corona shares in Night Class the thrill and tragedy of downtown and how dramatically identities can change. (less)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Born April 29, 1966 (age 51)
South Bend, Indiana, U.S.
Occupation Club promoter, artist
Years active 1984 – 1997
Criminal charge First-degree manslaughter
Criminal penalty 10 to 20 years
Criminal status Released on parole
Conviction(s) First-degree manslaughter
Partner(s) Robert D. “Freeze” Riggs
Victims Andre “Angel” Melendez
Date March 17, 1996
Country United States
State(s) New York
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 founder and ringleader of the Club Kids, a group of young New York City clubgoers that became a cultural phenomenon during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In March 1996, Alig and his roommate, Robert D. “Freeze” Riggs, killed fellow Club Kid Andre “Angel” Melendez in a confrontation over a delinquent debt. In October 1997, Alig pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter. Both men were sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison; Riggs was released on parole in 2010, Alig on May 5, 2014.
1 Early years
2 Underground club scene
2.1 Alig’s Club Kids
3 Killing of Angel Melendez
3.1 Investigation and arrest
5 Post-prison life
6 In popular culture
8 External links
Born and raised 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. The couple divorced when Alig was four years old.
Alig attended Grissom Middle School and Penn High School, where he was a straight A student and graduated in the top 8% of his class. During his teenage years, Alig reported that he was often bullied because of his homosexuality. Seeking a less conservative social environment after graduating in 1984, he attended Fordham University in New York City, on a scholarship. 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 nightclub 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 clubgoers began creating flamboyant personas, and later became known as “Club Kids”. The Club Kids wore outrageous costumes that former Club Kid and celebutante James St. James later described as “part drag, part clown, part infantilism”. They were also known for their frequent use of ketamine (known as Special K), Ecstasy, Rohypnol, heroin, and cocaine. Alig’s Club Kids included (among others): “Ernie Glam”, “Gitsie”, “Jennytalia”, “Superstar DJ Keoki”, Amanda Lepore, Charlie “Dash” Prestano, “Richie Rich”, Robert “Freeze” Riggs, RuPaul, and “Walt Paper”. The Club Kids’ outrageousness became a source of interest for the media, and articles about them appeared in such media outlets as Newsweek, People, and TIME. They also appeared on Donahue, 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: Club USA, The Palladium, and Tunnel. 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, his boss, 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 and stated: “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
Alig murdered Angel Melendez and dismembered his body
Andre “Angel” Melendez was regular on the New York City club scene and worked at The Limelight, among other clubs (some not owned by Gatien, e.g., Webster Hall), where he sold drugs on the premises. After The Limelight was closed by federal agents and an investigation found that Gatien was allowing drugs to be sold there, Melendez was fired. Shortly thereafter, he moved into Alig’s Riverbank West apartment On the night of March 17, 1996, Alig and his roommate Robert D. “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 malodorous. 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 10 bags of heroin, Alig agreed to dismember Melendez’s body. He cut the legs off, put them in a garbage bag, cut off the head and put it in another 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.
However, Michael Musto recalls: “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).”
Investigation and arrest
On April 26, 1996, Musto reported rumors of Alig’s involvement in Melendez’s death in a blind item, in his Village Voice column. 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 1996, 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 children playing in the water pulled a box containing a legless torso from the waters of Oakwood Beach at Miller Field, in New Dorp, 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 Andre “Angel” Melendez. Alig fled New York and, in November 1996, was located by police in a motel room rented by his drug dealer boyfriend, Brian, in Toms River, New Jersey. Alig was arrested as was 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 hit Melendez a total of three times on the head with the hammer. Then Alig grabbed a pillow and tried to smother him. While Melendez was unconscious, Riggs went to the other room; when he returned, he noticed a broken syringe on the floor. Riggs claimed that Alig was pouring “some cleaner or chemical” into Melendez’ mouth, then duct-taped it with the help of Riggs. Alig disputes these claims, however, and cites the “Draino in the hypodermic needle” as one of the key dramatizations in Disco Bloodbath and Party Monster.
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, who had been arrested for allowing drugs to be sold in his nightclubs. They eventually offered both Alig and Riggs a plea deal: a sentence of 10 to 20 years if they accepted the lesser charge of manslaughter. On October 1, 1997, both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 10 to 20 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 State prison system, Alig was transferred from prison to prison; he 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 and mentor 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, “People think I’m having a grand old time. Or that I’m trying to exploit my situation.” While Alig was imprisoned, Lucky editor Esther Haynes ran his 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 (2003), a fictionalized account of Alig’s life, starring Macaulay Culkin. He was again denied parole in July 2008 after failing several drug tests. In an interview with his former fellow prisoner Daniel Genis, Alig said that his time spent reading while in solitary inspired him to write his memoirs, which he titled Aligula, and he particularly identified with the character Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. In March 2009, Alig said he finally decided to stop using drugs and that he had been sober since then.
Alig was paroled on May 5, 2014. Per the conditions of his parole, Alig returned to New York City. He was required to abide by an 8 p.m. curfew and 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 artwork. In May 2014, it was reported that Alig was attempting to sell his memoirs and was pursuing a career as a magazine writer. Since September 7, 2014 Michael Alig and fellow Club Kid Ernie Glam have hosted a YouTube comedy talk show titled “The Pee-ew.”
On October 15, 2014, Alig released the pop song, “What’s In (Featuring DJ Keoki)”, written and produced 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.
On Thursday, February 2, 2017, Alig was arrested for trespassing and smoking crystal meth in Joyce Kilmer Park in Concourse, outside the Bronx Supreme Court, at approximately 1:30 a.m. He was detained because the park closes after dusk. The complaint alleges that “police found a bag of crystal meth and a pipe with residue from the drug in his jacket pocket”. The New York Daily News reports that “Alig was arraigned on drug possession and trespass charges, and pleaded guilty to trespass in exchange for a conditional discharge.”
In popular culture
The events of Alig’s years as a club promoter up to his arrest are covered in James St. James’ memoir, Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous but True Tale of Murder in Clubland (1999), re-published with the title Party Monster after the release of the eponymous 2003 film.
The events of Alig’s years as a club promoter up to his arrest were portrayed in the documentary Party Monster: The Shockumentary (1998) and the subsequent feature film Party Monster (2003), starring Macaulay Culkin as Alig and Seth Green as St. James, as well as the documentary film Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig (2015).
A prison interview with Alig is featured in the documentary Limelight (2011), directed by Billy Corben and co-produced by Peter Gatien’s daughter, Jen Gatien .
Alig’s case has been featured on the TV series:
American Justice: “Dancing, Drugs, and Murder” (April 13, 2000; season 7, episode 10), on A&E
Deadly Devotion: “Becoming Angel” (July 16, 2013) on Investigation Discovery
Notorious: “Dancing, Drugs and Murder” (December 27, 2005; season 2, Episode 76), on The Biography Channel
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 and produced by Jacob S. Porter
Histrionic personality disorder
Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking emotions, usually beginning in early adulthood, including inappropriately seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval. Histrionic people are lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, and flirtatious. HPD affects four times as many women as men. It affects 2–3% of the general population and 10–15% in inpatient and outpatient mental health institutions.
HPD lies in the dramatic cluster of personality disorders. People with HPD have a high need for attention, make loud and inappropriate appearances, exaggerate their behaviors and emotions, and crave stimulation. They may exhibit sexually provocative behavior, express strong emotions with an impressionistic style, and can be easily influenced by others. Associated features include egocentrism, self-indulgence, continuous longing for appreciation, and persistent manipulative behavior to achieve their own needs.