Convicted killer and former New York City club kid Michael Alig has been released from prison after serving 17 years for the brutal murder of his friend and drug dealer Angel Melendez. Back in the ’80s Alig was one of New York City nightlife’s most influential figures, working at Peter Gatien’s Limelight in a host of capacities. Alig and his notorious crew lived on the edge and had an insatiable desire for fame, attention and power. They dressed in outlandish outfits and thrived in the spotlight, self-appointing themselves as the arbiters of subculture, using drugs to numb their personal pain. In the pre-Internet age their exploits earned them heaps of press and TV appearances (Alig and his cohorts appeared on the Geraldo Rivera’s talk show five times). Alig’s modus operandi was all about shock and awe. And it worked.
On the plus side, Alig and his minions mixed New York’s then segregated club scene. On a Wednesday night you’d see techno heads from Bensonhurt, Brooklyn queuing up outside Limelight on Sixth Avenue along with tourists, ravers and drag queens. It was that egalitarian spirit that made Limelight a great club. When Alig was dating DJ Keoki, I visited their apartment in Chelsea to interview Keoki. I remember being surprised how normal their place was. Maybe they hid all of the weird stuff? One of them offered me weed (I declined) and despite all that I’d heard about them they were both polite. I could have never imagined Alig killing and dismembering someone over a drug debt.
The former party monster has been keeping the world abreast of his exploits as a free man on Twitter. He showed the world a picture of a much-anticipated visit to Starbucks and his “first burrito of freedom.” But much has happened to New York City since Alig went to prison. Limelight became a shitty shopping mall and is now being transformed into a David Barton gym. The row of cool shoe stores on 8th Street is gone as are many of the haunts Alig once frequented. Once a bastion for inventive, unique shops, Manhattan has largely turned into one large pedestrian shopping mall. Thankfully Brooklyn, a borough any self-respecting hipster wouldn’t be caught dead in, has come into its own for nightlife, with clubs like Output and Verboten putting quality music and experience above all else first.
According to Alig’s Twitter profile the former “king of the club kids” is finishing a book, Aligula, presumably about his life experiences. As he rehashes his past, his use of a profile picture from almost two decades ago speaks volumes: In good ways and bad, the world has moved on. But like the frozen snapshot he clings to, time will likely continue to stand still for Michael Alig.
Michael Alig’s self-portrait via Twitter