Sound Advice: Good Units, Elizabeth Taylor & Michael Alig

Jonny Lennon’s party over at Good Units was simply great. The space allows every event to feel loose and uncontrolled, like a warehouse party or gymnasium soiree. About a thousand great people came to enjoy each other’s company and DJ ?uestlove and Cassidy’s set. Although it was great, it was far from perfect, and I hope they adjust things for next time. Despite awesome sets from the 2 great spinsters, the crowd didn’t linger very long. Some were off to other events, but many left because conditions were a little hard to stomach.

There was simply too much sound and too little light and seating. My take on sound is that it should be where it should be, and that isn’t everywhere. People must have places where they can talk and gather without screaming or covering there ears. When I spoke to the Good Units honchos about the sound, they reminded me that DJ Cassidy brings in his own system. He does that everywhere, and should be commended for wanting to put on the best show he can. DJs love loud, but this was way past the enjoyable. Many sound people fill a room like it’s a glass, and the water in it makes it equally wet everywhere. I contend that this approach only works at techno-type events, where talk is cheap and the DJ is very expensive. Yet even at Pacha you can chat most everywhere, except of course directly in front of a giant stack. There was no place to talk at Good Units the other night. The booth areas along the perimeter provided no escape from the sound. It was too dark to see the person next to you. Except in the adjacent bar room, there was no escape and people were yelling there as well. There were plenty of opportunities for comfortable seating that went unused. So I found myself in a great room, with a great crowd and music, and I was uncomfortable. These are easy things to fix, and in my conversations with the Good Units team, it seemed like they were going to adjust. I hope so, because this event, with its mixed format music from superstar DJs playing to a mixed, super hot crowd, was a revelation. Jonny Lennon turned it out.

The passing of Elizabeth Taylor saddens me. Besides her great talent and style it must be remembered that at a time when AIDS was destroying a generation, she stood up with grace and compassion to fight rather than shun. She used her star power to help turn the tide of public feeling about the crisis. She sold tolerence, understanding, and help. She replaced ignorance and hatred. She and Madonna both gave so much to the cause when so many others weren’t there. She used to go to Studio 54 when top-tier clubs attracted top-tier celebrities. With all do respect, Paris and Lindsey don’t sparkle like Liz did.

Bad news to devotees of Michael Alig: he got another charge which will delay his return to the living. It seems that a joint was put in his locker after he had a dispute with some locals. Although everyone was aware of the beef between them, and all knew the score, he was punished with a little less time off for good behavior. I have seen the info and he didn’t do anything wrong, except maybe stand up to people who knew how to hurt him. He has been moved to Southport, a not so nice place where he has been before. He will probably finish out his sentence there. If I were a betting man I’d say he will be out next March. I do visit my old friend from time to time, and often bring strangers—some of which arrive with bad conceptions of him. All leave impressed with this bright man who has remained sane after 14 years of incarceration. This kind of talk usually results in an onslaught of “let him rot” comments, and this is to be expected—especially after new grief. I’ll stand by him once again, because I have no doubt that he was set up and bitch slapped by people who know how to hurt, and I believe the Party Monster is long gone, and the Michael that now lives in a yet another terrible place is a good person.

Next Page: A letter from Alig to his friends.


To all my friends, loved ones, & supporters:

I am so sorry I haven’t felt up to writing too many letters in the past few weeks, but I’ve been going through some rather heavy issues here… mostly just typical prison shit that I try not to bring up in letters as it’s depressing & I don’t want to have to think about it. This time, unfortunately, the “typical prison shit” has affected me in a serious way, & I am about to be sent to the Box for a few months. As you can imagine, I’m pretty broken up over it and am sort of in a state of shock. It all happened so quickly, things seemed to go from bad to worse, all in a matter of days, & my release date has been, once again, postponed, for at least six months. It’s all rather complicated & depressing, & like I said, under the circumstances I’m just not feeling up to writing a lot of letters. But I do feel I owe everyone an explanation, so there won’t be any rumors or misunderstanding about what went down.

The trouble really began back in January, when I was moved from a double Cube to a single to a single. The move occurred as I’d been given a Porter position (Porters get priority in moving to single Cubes) & also because I was having trouble with my Bunkie, a kid named Mike F. who was sort of a white gang banger & who told the C.O. he was being mocked by the Bloods for “bunking with a Fag.” The C.O. reacted by moving me to the top of the list of guys who were waiting to be moved to a single Cube.

Since it normally takes 6 months to get a single Cube, the moved caused animosity & resentment among the others, who felt I was either being favored or “working with the C.O.” One guy, a Blood who was supposed to have been next on the list & whose Cube I’d basically taken, was especially livid, & from then on I wasn’t allowed to eat, cook, or watch TV whenever he was in the Day Room. It was extremely uncomfortable. Making matters worse, he and his crew considered me “rich” on account of the movie & because I made a full ($55.00) Commissary buy 2x a month. To guys living on 15 cents-an-hour jobs, anyone who spends $100.00 a month on food & necessities is a millionaire, I guess.

They didn’t like my fan mail. They said my typewriter made too much noise. They were jealous when I went to do the interview for the new Documentary. In short, they felt I believed I’m somehow “better” than them.

There were 3 or 4 guys in the dorm who did like me & we cooked and went to the gym together. They warned me repeatedly to watch my back & “not open any doors,” but I felt I had things under control. I believed I could handle the situation by making myself “indispensable” to people. I hired a couple of Artists in the Dorm to enlarge photos for me so I could paint them. For $15.00, I got 18×24 portraits drawn of Jenny, Karlin, RuPaul, Leigh Bowery, ect, & was busily turning them into great paintings. I also started buying small Commissary items, sugar, creamer, ect. to have on hand to give to guys who didn’t have anything. In hindsight, it was incredibly vane. I should have realized things would get out of hand. It’s just in my nature, I guess, to want everyone to “like me.” In all the time I’ve been in jail, everywhere I’ve been I’ve been the one who’d always help someone with a bag of coffee, creamer, ect. And it’s never been a problem. In fact I’d always thought it’s one of the reasons I’d made it this far without ever being hurt or threatened, because the people I’ve been good to watch over me.

Of course, this was all during time spent in Max Facilities where we had our own locked rooms & where no one had this kind of unfettered access to me. Being in a Medium, living in a Dorm where other guys get right up in your face & you can’t get away, is a whole different ball game.

Still, I thought, no big deal. Sugar is only 56 cents a box; creamer 78 cents. If all, it takes a few bucks a month to keep the wolves at bay, that’s not so bad. All I had to do was make it to November.

Unfortunately, this made the situation worse. Guys sensed I was afraid, they began demanding things, coffee, deodorant, laundry soap. Guys started fighting over who got to “control” the things I bought. From here, things escalated pretty fast. One day I came from the gym to find a note on my bed; “we know who you are,” the note said, “And we know you’re trying to go home.” An “associate” of theirs would be approaching me, & would give me an address that I was to send $100.00 a month to. “Once the $100.00 touches down,” the note said, I’d be “Untouchable.” No one would hurt, or try to extort me for anything.

I went to my counselor the next morning (Thurs, 10 Feb) & told her what was going on, said I felt “uncomfortable” in the Dorm & that other inmates were abusing my kindness & feeling resentment towards me. We discussed the note, & she asked if I felt my life was in danger. I said no, I didn’t think it was quite that serious. She & I felt the best thing would be for me to continue programming, so that when I go before the Time Allowance Committee in October, they’d see that I was working as a Porter & fulfilling my duties. If it gets any worse, she said, or if I feel my safety is in jeopardy, let her know.

I returned to the Dorm & basically told everyone that I’m done being their personal ATM & that I wouldn’t be buying everyone’s commissary from now on. I then mentioned the note, & said there’s no way I’m going to be forced into paying anyone for “protection.”

That’s when the shit really hit the fan. On Monday, 14 Feb, someone dropped an anonymous note telling the Sergeant to “look inside Alig’s large locker.” Inmates here each have 2 lockers, a smaller locked locker for storing valuables, and a larger, unlocked locker, more of a “wardrobe” with double doors, accessible to all in the Dorm for regular, daily stuff. The Sgt. Send a C.O. to my large locker where, inside on the 2nd shelf, right in front, was an open pack of Newports…..

With a joint inside. I knew I’d been set up when the C.O. showed me the pack of Newports…with a joint inside. There’s no reason for me to have an open pack of cigarettes in my locker, as I don’t even smoke! Still, I knew it didn’t look good. “Oh God” I said, “I’m going to the Box.”

The C.O. felt it looked suspicious, as someone had directed him right to where it was. Nonetheless, he sent me to the Box to have my urine tested & await my hearing. You can imagine what was going through my mind! Caught with drugs! No one will believe it’s not mine!

Luckily the staff here was pretty reasonable and fair. My counselor confirmed I’d been having problems in the Dorm, & the hearing officer agreed, it did look suspicious. My urine tested clean, I’d never been caught using marijuana before. The kicker though, was the open pack of Newports. “I don’t smoke” I told the hearing officer. “There’s no reason for that to have been there.” She seemed to believe me, but needed something , some evidence to back her up if she was to find me not guilty. “Well Mr. Alig, that should be easy enough to prove. If you don’t smoke, then there should be no record of you arriving at this Facility with cigarettes in your property, right?” “That’s right” I said feeling certain but not thinking clearly because I was so nervous. So much was at stake!

But in Fact, I do often have cigarettes in my property, as packs of Newport’s are used here as money to trade & barter with, for haircuts, laundry, ect. When the hearing officer called the property room to ask what was listed on my I-64 form (the sheet that lists every item you have in your property when you arrived) it said “5 packs Newports” I was sunk. The hearing officer felt I’d lied to her. There was nothing I could do or say at that point to make her believe I didn’t smoke cigarettes.

However, she still felt the whole thing seemed fishy. How would anyone know there’s a joint in my locker…..unless they’d put it in there? If I’m a pot user, then why have all my drug tickets been for opiates? How has my urine tested clean for 2 years? What about the extortion note? And why would I keep drugs in my large, unlocked locker, a locker that 59 other inmates had access to?

She was really torn. According to the guidelines, she could’ve sentenced me to 36 months in the Box for this. However, based on my own statement that I don’t smoke cigarettes… when in fact my I-64 sheet shows I did bring 5 packs of Newport’s to Franklin, she reluctantly gave me 8 months.

Of course, I’m devastated. This is probably the most upsetting thing to have happened to me in prison. It makes my earliest possible release now, May 2012.

This is going to take some fortitude on my part. I know people will talk & accuse me of lying, but what can I really do? I’m appealing the decision, as the hearing officer neglected to investigate the extortion note & didn’t even bother checking to see if the handwriting in the extortion note matched the handwriting in the note to the Sgt. But it’s not likely that I’ll win, as, to them, 8 months isn’t a lot of time. In the end, all I can really do, is buck up & take it like a man.


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