Word comes that Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig has been picked up by Netflix. This is great news for writer, director Ramon Fernandez and producer Lisa Brubaker. The movie will now be seen by the masses who may be exposed for the first time to a period of nightlife that is looked back at as either wonderful or horrible or both. I enjoyed the movie. It has a different feel than the 2011 documentary “Limelight” from Billy Corbin, Alfred Spellman and Jen Gatien. Jen is of course the daughter of the movie’s focus, Peter Gatien, and I felt the film was a very fair and accurate portrayal of the life and times of the enigmatic club king. I have been told that Peter wasn’t happy with the project and was hoping for something that showed him in a more favorable light. I think he got off lucky.
Glory Daze is very Alig-centric and that is always problematic. I still talk with Michael at least once a week. I often hate him, but I always calm down and embrace my life long friend after apologies are exchanged. I am as wrong at least as often as Mike. He remains a passionate player nowadays involved in multiple book, art, TV and magazine projects. He is a bit unstable but after 17 years in prison it amazes me how well adjusted he is. Glory Daze was screened for the people who were interviewed in it. Many of them saw for the first time a bigger picture and heard the opinions of others who experienced those days.
The mega clubs of that era had multiple dance floors, Dj’s, and crowds of all types. The rooms were dark with distracting , pulsating lights, fashion statements and the antics of the fabulous. The clubs were designed to be alternative universes to the real or day world. One person’s experience of a single night out would be entirely different from another person. Looking back, most memories are obscured by drugs and scandals. After 20 years it seems impossible to have a consensus. Here are the views of Glory Daze from the players involved.
“I love the footage of old New York, the graffiti bombed subway cars, the abandoned buildings, the garbage cans burning on the streets. That was the NYC I arrived at in 1984 and it was nostalgic for me. Plus it put the whole story into context, how the club kids came into the world in this post-disco apocalypse: the death of Andy Warhol, the looming AIDS crisis. The club kids were really a reaction to all that and this is the first film to show that side of the story.
I think Glory Daze is fair. No one is all good or all bad. Everyone is a little of both. There are scenes in the documentary that make me cringe – I was such a spoiled brat! It’s a wonder I had any friends! There are things I am incredibly proud of, the way the club kid scene gave so many disenfranchised people a sense of home, family.
I can’t believe there is even a question in peoples’ minds whether or not I am sorry for what I’ve done. Some wonder why I don’t say ‘I’m sorry’ more often. I just think those words are so trite. No mere words can make up for what I’ve done. In fact I feel they trivialize the crime. I believe in karma, and I have a lot of atoning to do in this next phase of my life. Acts of kindness, altruism. Helping others. Getting back to the roots of the original club kid movement. Actions, after all, speak more loudly than words; but yes I am very sorry for all the harm I have caused, It embarrasses me that I could do such a thing and cause so much pain. Nothing I’ve ever done.or will ever do will make up for my actions 20 years ago.”
Ramon Fernandez (Writer/Director)
“The picture was very much the peeling of an onion for me. The more interviews I gathered and the more research we did the further the abyss stared back. Just a trove of information. The interesting thing about documentaries, especially ones with such volatile characters, is that they write themselves; and I’m pretty much tagging along with the audience. When I started I had an idea of what the film would be, but by the end it had really taken a life of its own.
New York of the 90s really represents a special time and place for me. A place where there were huge dance floors that acted as a great equalizer. It wasn’t about making money, though money was made. It was about your contribution to the room. Period. It transcended race, sexual orientation and economic class. Once it went away, the city never fully recovered. I wanted to remind the audience of that era with all of its decay and danger, but also just how fucking fun it was. I framed it through the experience of the one guy who truly personally changed the zeitgeist for a moment. In all of its glory and tragedy.”
Lisa Brubaker (Producer)
“As this piece is a contemporary documentary, we were pretty much just along for the ride. I had pretty much read every book and article I could get my hands on while producing the film, and thus had a pretty good idea of what had happened with regards to Michael’s crime, which was confirmed throughout the interviews. The fact that it would take him another 4 years to get released after his initial parole date was…unplanned, and extended the life of the project way beyond what I could ever have imagined. We had, from the outset, intended on letting the story write itself, not influencing what happened in any way, skewing shots, or painting any type of inaccurate picture of sainthood or otherwise. I think we were able to accomplish that goal.
I was drawn into nightlife personally and professionally like a month to the flame, a true club-rat at heart. Unfortunately I moved back to NYC in 2001, so I missed the Limelight, Tunnel, et al in their pure unadulterated forms. Michael, and Angel’s murder, are quite polarizing subjects – Did he fulfill his debt to society? Can one ever? – and we put a lot of effort into telling all sides of the entire story; or more accurately, letting the story tell itself. Making this movie allowed me to peer through a window into the past, and to allow the audience to do the same. To experience just a snippet of a fascinating, spectacular explosion.”
Victor P. Corona, a sociologist now at NYU
“Ramon and Lisa created an extremely thorough and visually dazzling record of New York’s nightlife history. It’s a fascinating film that anyone who loves a New York dancefloor should see right away. I heard great feedback from friends all around the country and now they’re anxious to come to the city.”
R. Couri Hay, publicist
“Glory Daze is an insightful, but scary flashback to drug-filled nights that lead to an inexplicable tragedy. In his heyday, Michael Alig was the most talented person in nightlife. I hope his self-destructive story serves as a warning to everyone that sees this film and goes out after midnight.”
Victor Dinaire, DJ / Producer [did the original music for the film]
“Glory Daze took me right back to my favorite club era, of The Limelight and The Tunnel. The story is accurate and lays out the chain of events that ultimately led to the infamous murder of Angel. It was an honor to be involved with this project.”
“It’s not easy documenting a scene that was incredibly fun and zany, but that also served as a stage for scary drug abuse and the horrible death of my friend Angel Melendez. Glory Daze captures the charisma of many people involved in the New York City club scene while depicting Michael Alig’s journey from a charming and inspired party promoter to a depraved junkie. Michael is a longtime friend, so I had a front-row seat to his tragedy. I recommend it because it’s accurate, and it also made me laugh and cry.”
Johnny DynelL, DJ/ Club Legend
“At the time people asked ‘how could such a grizzly murder happen in our world?’ This film, while showing the colorful glamour of the Club Kids, explains how.
Gerald McMahon – Michael’s defense attorney
“Whatever you say or think about Michael Alig, he is a one-of-a-kind. And this film captures that.”
Kenny Kenny, former Limelight Doorperson/ Club Legend
“It’s not up to me to forgive or not. I have already. No one seemed concerned with Angel’s parents. We were friends with people who were worse than Angel, it’s just that they had more charm and charm is always forgiven even in hideous crimes. It isn’t up to us, it’s up to Michael to heal himself and up to Angel’s family to heal. The thing with Michael, it’s an obstacle in his way, being famous, and he keeps thinking of ways to move past it.
Netflix will cut it down to about 90 minutes. This will please many. For me, I couldn’t get enough, which probably shows I hung around a bit too long back in the day. Some poet said ‘you can’t go home again.’ Well Ramon Fernandez proved that wrong.”