Sympathy for the Devil: The Prison Art of Michael Alig

When news broke last week that Michael Alig had indeed been popped for a dirty urine sample, I wrote a piece which was a harsh assessment of not only what happened but how I was going to deal with it. There was a subsequent healthy back and forth in the usually sleepy comments section which has greatly influenced my thinking. I also received a great many phone calls and emails and Facebook messages as well. So I’m going to be something I don’t like to be: a Monday-morning quarterback. Since this is my column and I do indeed have the ball, I’m going to run with it.

When I first visited Michael, my ex reminded me of something I once told her about him. He is a chameleon, able to appear to the person he is dealing with as that person wants to see him. When he was sober and working the clubs, this was an amazing quality that he indeed turned into an art form. I am reminded of Max, the John Cusack/Noah Taylor movie about Adolf Hitler as a young artist. In this movie, Cusack’s character has a moment when he realizes that Hitler is an artist, but his art is not the oil paintings of German shepherds or idyllic Austrian forests, but the manipulation of the current society and creation of a new one with all-new architecture and rules. Michael Alig had a vision of a new society — the club kids were a movement. It wasn’t an accident or a convergence of stars. Michael was correct that there were thousands of young outcast youths in small towns and cities throughout the world. The flamboyant dress and outrageous parties were flares to these people to come join us. First it was a small gathering at The World on East 2nd Street, then The Tunnel under Rudolf’s direction, and then it became a spectacle at Peter Gatien’s Limelight. It was the driving force that led to the four monstrous nightclubs of the era: Limelight, Palladium, Tunnel, and Club USA. These clubs employed 900 people, and there was always a job for some creative fellow or gal from Bumfuck, Idaho. Long before the drug-crazed party monster days that landed Michel and others in the clink, there was a powerful art, fashion, and music culture being created and grown by him.

Michael manipulated, lied ,cheated, and deceived, and he most of all made it all seem all right, because in the end no one had ever seen a burst of color and light like this since Andy Warhol. Then came the drugs and the changing of Mike from the good Jedi to Darth Vader. All the tricking and manipulations continued, but they were for a far darker reason: drugs. In this darkness, Michael and Freeze killed Angel Melendez. They chopped him up, put him in a cardboard box, and threw him in the Hudson. Michael then tried to manipulate Peter Gatien, the DEA, me, the press, and everyone else to get away with it. He didn’t try to keep it a secret. He told everyone that he did the deed. The arrogance of this is appalling. He dared society to do something about him. He ratted out everyone he could in order to get a pass. But he ended up with 10-20, and now it’s 13 years later, and the games are still being played. How dare he do drugs and lie to us about it? How naive am I to have not heeded my own “chameleon advice”? This arrogant punk thinks biting the hands that feed him is OK because a lie or trick will make us forget. I’m over it, and I will spend my days living a life among pals and puppies and won’t waste any more time on someone who defines a friend as someone who can be used.

I have decided to cut Mike out of my life for at least a couple of years. I see Michael not surrounded by friends but by enablers who actually are a big part of his problem. As a good friend of Michael pointed out, “These are not friends, they are fans.” The people currently running the Michael Alig show buy into his bull and are easily manipulated with his less-than-Jedi mind tricks. If by some chance they catch him in a lie or trick, they merely say “Oh, that’s Michael, that’s the way he is,” or some other stupid justification. There is no room for justifications. Michael is a convicted murderer who has not lived up to the standards that I and other friends expect from him. A new man? He lied to my face, and I warned him that if he did that, I’m done. I may come back if he ever does get close to parole again — and offer him a helping hand again. But I won’t be sad if he doesn’t accept it. Michael seems to have never learned that there are consequences for his actions, and that the world that he dominated so long ago no longer exists. His celebrity is more like Charlie Manson than Andy Warhol. The help I was offering was the expansion of the public’s awareness of his real art. Not the manipulating societal art, but the paintings and writings. Here’s some of that art. Tomorrow I will present a team of art experts and their analysis of his paintings, but for now, judge for yourself.

Share Button

Facebook Comments