A truck stopped on Metropolitan Avenue, had “My World is Empty Without You Babe” blaring, and a middle-aged driver singing and banging his dashboard as if he used to date a Supreme or something. He smiled at me when he saw me laughing with him. The song was very relevant. as I thought my world was pretty full, not empty at all, until Michael Alig the supreme mayhem-maker came back and dominated my usually busy life. I’m not even hanging with him yet, can’t until Parole Officer says O.K., but there’s the phone calls and emails and mile long Facebook threads and all the writing I’m doing about my boy wonder, which has me burning the candle on both ends, and the middle too.
Take yesterday trying to have a burger at Kellogs Diner, when a 323 area code pops up on my phone. I knew it had to be someone about this circus. It was James St. James of World of Wonder, who I sort of slapped around in my column because of his shenanigans regarding Michael Alig. To me and those who care about Michael, it seemed that James was playing him and us all like a fool. Michael was posed like a garden gnome and made to again look like the uncaring clown that got him in trouble over a decade and a half ago. My experience is different . The Alig I have been visiting in horrible prisons is now humbled, grateful, and remorseful and really trying to be what is, well, not expected of him.
I had lashed out at James and he manned up and said all the right things. James and I went back in time and expressed a love and respect that goes back three decades. He knew I could never stay angry. James and I and Michael have been to the same places, breathed the same air, heard the same sounds, have seen so much change, and made things change. Our common history includes a coming down, a knock down, a massive defeat and much change as a result. James settled in California where he wrote the book on the whole thing, I went to prison and emerged as a different person with a new pile of careers, and Michael is just out now—and of course his face is everywhere. He popped up on my Yahoo page today and on Billboard yesterday. Paper magazine, People, The New York Times all have piece popping or about too. There is an endless list of Alig stories.
But why is America obsessed? What is it that we are looking for. There is no longer actual blood on his hands. He isn’t carrying weapons, nor has he carved a Manson-esque Swastika on his head. He’s been locked up for 17 years and hasn’t done much to create news. Very few saw the movies about his claim to fame, the murder of Angel Melendez. Michael doesn’t know either. He cannot explain it. I tell people that he lived on the edge, did something we wouldn’t and couldn’t do, and like the grandest of the reality shows that obsess us, we want to see what that creepy person or manufactured celeb will do next. We just can’t turn the TV off. Have our lives become so boring that we must live vicariously through rednecks and bad housewives and a murderer like Alig? I’m trying to understand it all as I continue to support him.
Last night I went to a Party Munster event at Bowery Electric . Kayvon Zand the greatest thing since sliced bread told me he was getting a lot of heat and criticism for this weeks theme. He might of, should have, not gone there. What do they say…”Too Soon.” No one was partying like it was 1996 anyway, but it was a great crowd all dressed up like creatures of the night and listening to progressive music. Nightlife thrives in the cracks. Astro Erle, who I blasted in that very same column, showed up dressed like it was 1996. He was all smiles to me. I guess I spelled his name right. Kayvon told me about his new track #JustGiveItAway, and I was all goosebumps as the hottest crowd in town danced to the hottest track from Brooklyn, Light Asylums’ “Dark Allies.”
The sad part about the Michael Alig’s return to the living, is of course, the waste—Angel’s life wasted, Michaels years behind bars and of course all the other people we don’t ever talk about that got hurt because of their association with that old scene. Of course many went on to great success. Many are fashion super stars or TV stars or movie stars, writers and moguls. The scene allowed many creative people to develop their talents. I won’t name names because those peeps now want distance and deserve not be associated.
James told me that he and World Of Wonder have only the best intentions for Michael. As the first week of freedom develops, the camera crews are starting to pack and in a few days or weeks the media might be sated. I have a story I want to tell early next week, but after that, Michael stories will need to be about the new stuff he is doing. There is no reality TV thing happening right now and probably will never be. He won’t throw a party, as some people fear. For every hater there seems to be ten people who want to give the man a chance. I told him that within 25 miles of where he is there are like 25 million people, so he shouldn’t worry about that small fraction of the population that will never forgive or give him an opportunity.
Life is too precious to be fighting over all this. Angel is gone and nothing will bring him back. The violence and hatred and stupidity and all those other words that contributed to his death are shadows and echoes. We can direct our hate at one man who indeed deserves a lot of it or we can choose life. We can wish him the best and hope that he brings meaning to the rest of his time. It isn’t enough to hate. Hate doesn’t pay the bill and it wont bring back the dead. I hated James St James a day or two ago, only to find and remember how much I love him. We feel helpless in Angel’s death and frustration flips easily to hate. Let’s remember Angel and grasp how precious our time here is and in that, we honor him and maybe it isn’t all in vain.
If you want to discuss this more I’ll be DJing at Hotel Chantelle. You can slap me too, if that suits you. I will understand. You can also go to Flashback at The Flat (308 Hooper Street, Brooklyn) where Michael Alig’s old boyfriend and Disco 2000 DJ, Keoki, will be spinning. He will be joined by Scotto, who chronicled Michaels’ release with video and photos, and DJ Richard Vasquez of Choice and Paradise Garage fame.
Somehow after 17 years, horror and despair and venom and such, Michael Alig is still in the air we breathe. I’m trying to understand it.