When notorious ’90s party promoter and former heroin addict Michael Alig, 48, aka “The Club Kid Killer,” was freed in May after serving 17 years for the grisly killing of his drug-dealer friend, Angel Melendez, he reflected on his crime in the pages of The Post. Now, three months later, he writes about his sober new life and the way New York’s social scene has evolved — good and bad — in his absence.
I’m sitting in a cheap pizza joint opposite a fresh-faced young man who I’ll call Brendan. Recently out of the closet, the 22-year-old Applebee’s chef spent his last few cents on gas to drive from his small town in Indiana to meet me for lunch.
“I hate my job and want to move to New York,” Brendan says nervously. “But I don’t have much money.”
“All you need is a friend with a couch,” I reply. “If you’re intelligent, creative and you’ve got the balls to survive, it’ll work out.”
‘People may ask how I can possibly give advice to impressionable young folk … I’m filled with disgust and remorse about what happened to Angel, but I still believe that I can help others.– Michael Alig
Since my parole, I’ve met a dozen or so Brendans at that same spot, a block from the mandatory recovery program I attend each morning in Harlem.
Most are pen pals who wrote to me in jail after watching “Party Monster,” the Macaulay Culkin movie about my life. They relate to my story because, like them, I was once a misfit from the sticks.
People may ask how I can possibly give advice to impressionable young folk. After all, two decades ago, I committed the worst crime imaginable against a 25-year-old man. I’m filled with disgust and remorse about what happened to Angel, but I still believe that I can help others.
Talent succeeds in New York, no matter where it comes from. If any of these kids can achieve their dreams with some guidance from me, it’s my way of giving back. All I know is that I walk away feeling a little less guilty, a little more like I’m on the right path again.
There’s no place like New York. It will always be the center of the creative universe. While the scene has changed beyond recognition since my ’90s heyday, it’s just as exciting and relevant.
Nevertheless, the city I encountered the day of my release felt like a cataclysm. Walking up Seventh Avenue to Times Square was like entering a scene from “Blade Runner” — the LED lights and gigantic video screens created an Orwellian dystopia where consumerism and manufactured celebrity rule the day.
People on the sidewalks seemed afraid to interact, glued to their mobile devices, staring zombie-like at tiny, illuminated screens.
My friends and I had created the Club Kids phenomenon. We were basically paid to show up at nightclubs dressed in outrageous costumes and pose — a bunch of shameless narcissists who celebrated and, at the same time, mocked this “me me me!” subculture.
But now it is front and center. Here I am in 2014, experiencing the special brand of hell we’d satirized and helped create — a superficial world of likes and dislikes, friending and “famous for being famous” stars like Kim Kardashian and Honey Boo Boo. It was a combination of Andy Warhol and Club Kids, ratcheted up to the point where you can’t mock it anymore.
‘Whatever people may think of me, I need to survive financially, and since they’re what I do best, I’d rather do these things than live off the government and collect welfare. – Michael Alig
People aren’t even dating. “Where can I go to meet someone?” I asked my roommate, Ernie.
“No one goes to clubs or bars anymore,” he replied, introducing me instead to websites like Grindr, Scruff and Manhunt. It’s a wonder neighborhood bars even exist.
My 8 p.m. parole-stipulated curfew means I haven’t experienced the city’s nightlife firsthand. But talk of bottle service and $10,000 tables where fat-cat executives text and take selfies depresses me. No longer the domain of the chic and subversive, these hangouts don’t even have doormen. Anyone with an American Express Black Card is ushered in by bouncers who wouldn’t know Jon Hamm from John Doe.
But it’s not all bad. The more I look, the more I like. For example, this summer I heard that, just before midnight, the billboards in Times Square are suddenly turned off and replaced with works of art. It’s the most creative idea on Earth. An updated, technological version of the pop-up art exhibits I set up in subway stations in the ’90s, it gives me chills.
And then, of course, there’s Brooklyn. The mercurial East Village spirit of the ’80s and ’90s has hopped over the bridge to Williamsburg. Walking on Bedford Avenue to attend a meeting at Vice magazine, I was blown away by the super-fabulous trendiness of it all. The people aren’t beautiful in that old stereotypical way, but dripping with style and charisma. Everything about them breathes, “You have to live here, or else you’re not cool.”
As for me, I’m recarving my niche in the city. I’m an artist and entrepreneur. That’s what I do. Every day, I tweet to my 32,000 followers, write my column for the UK’s Gay Times, and paint and design clothes. I’m cutting a record with Greg Tanoose and house producer Man Parrish, where all proceeds on my end will go to charity.
Whatever people may think of me, I need to survive financially, and since they’re what I do best, I’d rather do these things than live off the government and collect welfare.
When I’m not working on my various artistic projects, I spend my time attending group therapy, NA meetings, Relapse Prevention and individual counseling. I’m subject to random drug and alcohol tests and am determined to stay clean.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years now since I kicked drugs. On March 31, 2009, my prison therapist dared me to stop getting high and see how things turned out.
“Why do people hate me?” I’d asked her.
“Because, despite knowing that you committed a horrendous crime while under the influence of drugs, you continue to use them,” she’d replied.
That moment, something finally clicked. And, though my life didn’t turn around overnight, I finally faced up to what I’d done and began actually paying the price.
And just as the therapist said they would, the people I love and respect have come back into my life. Many of them are here in New York, supporting me on my path, welcoming me back to the place I belong (source).