My Meeting With Michael Alig At Elmira Correctional Yesterday

This Mayan thing right in the middle of Christmas shopping is very annoying. I’m messengering everything just in case. Fed-Ex might not do. On the other hand, I think I only know one Mayan. He’s an actual priest and and lives in Guatemala. I saw him in Puerto Rico a few weeks ago and he assured us that we "had nothing to worry about." But then again, he doesn’t speak much English so maybe he was telling us something completely different like "the end is near so there’s nothing to hurry about." I’m not believing this end of the world stuff, but I am finding myself peeking up at the sky a bit more often lately and I haven’t been putting money aside for January’s rent.

Speaking of world’s end and such, yesterday I visited that good ol’ party monster and dear friend Micheal Alig at his place of confinement: Elmira Correctional Facility. I hadn’t visited Mike in a minute. His last address was 12 hours away and that meant overnight stays at cheap motels and I’ve had enough of that for a lifetime. Elmira is a mere 4 1/2 hours away. I stayed up from the night before and depended on my nightlife stamina and sugar-free Red bull to get me there and back again. 

We started out arguing as we often do. He was upset at me for believing the last charge he caught which guaranteed his parole denial and a life spent mostly in solitary. In retrospect, the concept of Michael smoking pot is ludicrous. He hated the stuff, always opting for the more sensational. 

He has used his isolation well. He looks better than he ever has…a major concern for him. He has lost close to 50 pounds and has been working out like a fitness model in a late-night info-mercial. He showed me his six pack and his bulging biceps. His mind is sharp. He is making art and refining his book Aligula. When I’m with him he picks my brain for clarification of events of yore and people’s names as he is striving that this tome be an accurate account of his era. He will have a chance to join the living as early as this year if the cards fall right and the Mayan thing doesnt get in the way. 

Michael has media projects in mind and a good attitude. He is genuinely remorseful and ready and willing to do all he can to right as many of his past wrongs as possible. He understands that Angel will still be dead and that he can’t expect to ever crawl out from that. He understands that a whole lot of good-doing won’t get him close to even. But it’s been 15 years and the man who is eventually coming out is not the same as the one who pranced in. I believe in Michael and think that a great deal of his story is still ahead of him.

I traveled and visited with Victor P. Corona, Ph.D., a sociologist at Hofstra University. Victor teaches courses on culture and gender. He earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia and a B.A. in sociology from Yale. His work is available here. He is currently writing a book that traces a social and aesthetic lineage from the Warhol Superstars to the Club Kids and the current generation of performers, artists, and nightlife personas in New York. In addition to ethnographic research, he has interviewed Warhol Superstars like Jane Forth and Ultra Violet, former Club Kids like Walt Cassidy and Zaldy, and current nightlife stars like Darian Darling and Ladyfag, among many others.

Victor was a great person to have in a car for nine hours of driving. He picked my Red Bull-racing brain to better understand the feel of what happened back then and who the players were. It’s impossible for any individual to grasp or define a huge scene that was taking place in numerous clubs during numerous nights. The scene was 24 hours, with real work being done during work hours. Most pedestrians believe that nightlife just happens; no, nightlife is planned, adjusted, tweaked, and theorized in offices during the day. Operators diagnose mistakes or think of ways to support successes while the sun is up. People are hired and fired, and concepts are floated. 

I was part of that inner circle – as was Michael. During those meetings, the supreme leader of the so-called Club Kids was a formidable brain and contributor to business meetings…although sometimes he would get up and pee in a cup right in front of everyone. I had always thought of Andy Warhol as the second coming. I believed at that time that Michael might be the 3rd. I still have hope. He claims he has a zillion ideas that will blow my mind. He is ultra-aware of our culture, despite being locked away in very dark places for so very long. He has never used a computer or cellphone, but has absorbed our world through magazines and information sent to him from his ever-loyal followers.

Victor and I spent a great deal of time debating Michael’s role with his fans. I have always preached that Michael must avoid his cult followers and embrace friends who can help him further his art and establish a positive media presence. The Michael I visited yesterday was sharp and focused on the important things of his future. I told him I believed he is finally ready to join the living.

A Springtime Visit to Michael Alig in Prison Before His (Possible) Release

The four hour trip north to Elmira, New York saw the promise of spring fade into the endless winter. There was snow and ice and roadkill, sometimes disturbed by a torrent of rain and sometimes a tardy sun. There was a constant of apprehension. How would Michael Alig be? After a decade and a half of incarceration and more ups and downs and dips and spins than the Cyclone on a summer day, would he be as sharp as he was during my December visit? Professor Victor P. Corona came along for the ride and for the endless debate on what our pal will do when he hits the streets. When will that happen is the question of the day from those who still care. Those who still care consist partly of a group of old friends and business associates who have forgiven him or feel he has paid the price for his part in the 1996 murder of drug dealer Angel Melendez. Other people concerned with Michael’s fate are his fans. All over the world people who have never met Michael Alig or been to one of his parties read all that they can about him as if he was more than prisoner #97A-6595. He is a cult-like leader of a generation of young ones who have little else to latch onto and don’t really know the man behind the ancient makeup. They seem to worship Michael’s life without much consideration of Angel’s death, or understanding of the consequences of his bad deeds. Part of Michael’s price for return to our world must be an attempt to truly show these vulnerable minds the error of his ways. Steering his disenfranchised flock in a positive direction is called for.

Michael is doing well. He is beefed up from daily workouts with a personal trainer. He is proud of his six-pack and his biceps. He is in a drug program, a step toward returning to the living. He is preparing for the street … for his new life amongst us. When that will be is decision beyond my pay grade, beyond Michael’s. If I were a betting man I’d say before this Christmas. He is a noticeably different man than the one I have visited over the years. Gone is the hunger for the way it was … his life as king of the club kids. Gone is his anger, his self-loathing, his need to spin the story in any direction but the truth. He is deeply remorseful for his disastrous past. He is focused on a future which has been previously very ominous. He is chock full of ideas and art projects and game-changing concepts. He has stopped giving interviews and participating in the TV show du jour. He will wait until they have something new to talk about before he talks again. His mind is clear and sharp. He is the Michael I loved and befriended, not the Party Monster who let a generation down with an inexcusable evil act and subsequent cover-up. Nothing he does will bring Angel back or sway many to accept his release into society. He vows to try to live a life that helps others. I relayed all the "hello’s" and "miss you’s" from mutual acquaintances and headed south to my own world. Amanda told me I missed a beautiful day. Michael has missed 5000 as punishment for the life he took and the hundreds he ruined as his personal spring and summer, his days and nights spent in the light of the notorious Limelight and other joints turned cold and increasingly dark. He has moved on and is hoping the world will see him as he is now, embrace his new outlook , forgive him, and allow him to thrive.

Visiting Michael Alig In Prison: His Past, Present, & Soon-To-Be Future

I visited Michael Alig at the place of his incarceration: Elmira, N.Y. It’s about a four-hour drive unless you stop at Friendly’s or Dobb’s Country Kitchen to commiserate with locals. On the way, I stop a lot. I get gas. I buy cigarettes. I buy Redbulls, coffee, water… mixed nuts too. I pause to watch the rapid waters of the Susquehanna roll by. If I had seen roses on the way…I’d have stopped to smell them too. 

Part of me hesitates heading up to a joint. Elmira Correctional Facility is nice compared to other such places. Even the concertina wire and steel gates seem less foreboding than at Coxsackie or Rikers or the other places where Michael has been rehabilitating over the last 16 years. It’s been 16 years. 

Jeter was Rookie of the Year when this started. The Taliban had just taken Kabul. Tupac had just died. The O.J. trial had begun. Braveheart was best picture. Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, was caught. The Summer Olympics was in Atlanta, and Yassar Arafat and the Israelis dropped the removal of each other as a plan. Peace seemed at hand. Clinton was president and some people were talking Whitewater. A cloned sheep named Dolly was the buzz, and Motorola introduced it’s easy-to-handle StarTAC cellphone. The world was changing fast as Michael was forced to slow down.

Michael went in an asshole, a murderer, an out-of-control drug maniac. I had long stopped being a friend. He needed to be locked up. His world of wonder, glamour, glitz, destruction, and self destruction ended the hard way. Michael rarely chose the easy way. His moment in the sun has been filmed and written about and discussed in magazines and on the world wide web, which he has yet to experience firsthand. 

People tweet for him, spewing out his snarky, daring, and eyebrow-raising takes on everything. He is very prolific. He has a lot of time on his hands. He paints a lot. He sent me home with a bunch of good ones. He has become an artist while inside. The guard at the desk on the way out told me "we have a lot of artists in here." There’s some sort of scandal going on with some of his paintings. I’ll get to it soon, but want the opportunity to talk to "Mary" who allegedly sold some of Michael’s work, claiming they belonged to her. Life has taught me that there are at least two sides to every story. 

Michael looks better than ever. I met him back in ’83 when he was a busboy at Danceteria. He threw some small parties and rose quickly. Me and mine picnicked in Central Park with him and his. We took day trips to farm country, saw concerts at night. Drugs and the scandals that rocked our worlds would come later. We were very naive.

He is healthier now. Muscular and trim from working out in his spare time. Everything except working on his book, painting, and flirting is spare time in the joint. I am amazed at how focused and coherent he is. His incarceration seems to have rehabilitated him mentally as well. He laughs and tells tales of days of yore – the good days, not the chaos – and hate at the end. Everyone who meets with him or corresponds with him looks for remorse as a measure of the man who may soon join the living.

Around me, he is wholeheartedly remorseful. I believe in him fully, knowing that he knows remorse is the price of admission for a continued friendship with me. I wasn’t born yesterday and will judge Michael on his actions till our end. 

He is finishing a drug program aimed at preparing him for life in the real world. The real world is scary. He is worried how he will be viewed. When told "so and so" won’t want to see him again, he is visibly upset. The desire to have everyone love him which drove him to massive success and a massive crash and burn still runs deep. He needs to be loved and hates being hated almost as much as not being noticed. Although supremely informed about tech stuff, cell phones, social media, reality TV, and the internet – he has never experienced these things directly. 

We who love him for the most part understand him and fear the bombardment of food, sex, and media that awaits. I have a feeling on a possible release date, but will just cross my fingers and say a silent prayer. i don’t want to jinx it. Release is inevitable. There are those that will never accept his return to society. They have a right to their stance. They have lived for 16 years without Michael, but without Angel Melendez as well. 

A new life is Michael’s fate, while no such fate belongs to Angel.There will be books and films and TV shows. There will be interviews and public appearances. Someone is even trying to bring a musical about it all to Broadway. Those who haven’t been blessed with Michael and his charms will be made aware of them. 

Old friends and companions hopefully have outgrown the "old" Michael. The fans, zealots, and losers who worship at the old alter must not have a say. Michael will be lifted in a sea of attention. 

Will all this attention unleash the long-buried, controlled-by-incarceration Party Monster, or will the Michael I hung out with on visiting day with Victor Corona and Amanda Noa emerge? We’ll see.

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Lala Brooks and the Crystals; Michael Alig Update – BlackBook

By Steve Lewis , November 15, 2013

My Saturday will be spent in Brooklyn, I am RSVP’d at the Banzaii!!!!! event that Muffinhead and Eric Schmalenberger are presenting at Red Lotus (893 Bergen St.). At one point I must whisk myself away to Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Ave.). There I will attend the huge New York Night Train Soul Clap and Dance Off with Reigning Sound and special guest Lala Brooks of the Crystals (Then He Kissed MeDa Doo Ron Run). This is a must see/hear. The A-Bones and Bloodshot Bill fill the bill. This will be followed by my favorite DJ not named Paul Sevigny, and that’s Jonathan Toubin. He puts on a show with 45 RPM records and I’ll spend my time shakin’ or Shazaming. There is a dance contest with Billy and Miriam from Norton Records with a $100 cash prize and a Metropolis Vintage Shopping spree. If all this doesn’t make sense to you, I guess you’re living in some rent controlled L.E.S. apartment or in one of those nouveau dormitories for slaves that they build every day. I’ll have dinner at Hope Garage (163 Hope Street) or Bozu (296 Grand Street) and at the end of the night walk home in the crisp air.

Tuesday the two-year anniversary of Sons Of Essex (133 Essex Street) will be celebrated. Pete Rock will perform. This is an early (7 p.m. – 11 p.m.) RSVP type event so wrangle your way in or come later on for the fun. I worked last night DJing at Hotel Chantelle and could not attend the soiree for my dear friend Heather Hunter who celebrated her HunterGlam.com Digital Magazine at HK (405 West 39th St.). Michael K. Williams, currently a favorite as Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire(previously the amazing Omar Little on The Wire) was hosting. There were a bevy of Hunter Glam models on hand as was DJ Envy. I was DJ Envious because I couldn’t make it.

My Wednesday was spent driving the five hours to the Elmira Correctional Facility and back to visit Michael Alig. I was accompanied by Victor Corona and my gal Amanda Noa. There isn’t much to report on this front except to say that Michael is in great shape mentally and physically. Over the years I have been hyper-critical of my friend regarding his long hard journey back to society. I am happy to report that Michael has seemingly purged his demons and is armed with remorse and dedication and gobs of creativity as he awaits the inevitable end of his incarceration. In the past I have covered all the bases about Angel and dotted all the i’s on the rights and wrongs of things. Today I won’t go there, I’ll only offer that I do hope to see him soon without the road trip.

Lala Brooks and the Crystals; Michael Alig Update – BlackBook.

A Tale of 2 Felons—Or is it Three?

A source close to the ground told me, Peter Gatien—the disgraced club mogul of Limelight fame—was in NYC the other day. I asked around looking for confirmation and got a couple "you didn’t hear it from me(s)" and lot of incredulous "no’s," as opposed to it didn’t happen "no"s. But a little luck brought me to Griffin honcho Chris Reda. I called Chris and asked him if he took a meeting with the "Dark Night." He seemed surprised and replied,  "I saw him." I pushed, "In New York, at dinner?" He replied "yes" but had to "call me back."  Then, guys who he called after my conversation called me to make sure I told Chris that I hadn’t heard it from them. I hadn’t, but it did serve as a confirmation. I called the filmmaker daughter of the one-eyed blunder Jennifer Gatien and asked her if she had seen him. She hadn’t heard from him and didn’t expect to. They haven’t talked in a while.

There were rumors a minute ago of Peter plotting a return to NYC to do a joint. There was talk of him lawyering up. I don’t think a billion lawyers could help him grasp back his gory…er glory days.  He tried to do a place Circa in Toronto, but the exile not on main street couldn’t succeed. I never thought he was that good at running clubs anyway. He did put together an empire of sorts that ruled nightlife a long time ago; he hired everyone who could compete with him head-up and bought and re-modelled the best spaces. He lost it all in a sea of finger pointing. He blamed everyone else and the Federal government for the great demise. He was to blame. He created a monster and hired and supported monsters. In the end, it was an evil empire with victims of many kinds strewn in its wake. It was fun, but not viable, and I have never heard him own up to the grief while he took all the credit for the success. I will say that his enemies were as bad—if not worse—than him and the company he chose to keep. 
 
I worked for and with the best in clubland. Peter Gatien never had the people skills the good operators had. He was great at the back of the house stuff and hiring the best of the best, but that was way back when. Now the best of the best have their own places and Peter would attract lots of attention from much stronger community boards and neighborhood organizations. With his felony convictions it would be hard to own a dive bar let lone a real club—but he could try to prop someone in front of him, on all the papers while he pulled the strings from behind the scene…where he is most comfortable anyway. Peter has his fans, people who he paid and shared a good time with a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. I have no ill will towards him, but not all that much respect either. This is all probably just a rumor anyway; Peter Gatien couldn’t possibly believe that he could come here and make a mark. He’s smarter than that. The organizations that rule this town’s nightlife are far more sophisticated and clean than he could ever be. The ghosts of club nights past would surely haunt him. I don’t really care if Peter had dinner with Chris Reda in NYC and except for the back story I’m not sure anyone else would care. There won’t be a front story. That ship sailed and it’s only hot air and ego that floats that balloon.
 
Speaking of the Peter Gatien era and ghosts and such, his right hand man from back then, Michael Alig got a mention in Michael Musto’s column the other day. Michael (Alig) has been in prison for 16 years for numerous crimes against humanity—including drug dealing while working for Peter at the Limelight. Oh, and murder as well. Peter beat those drug charges but got nabbed and deported to his native Canada for Tax inaccuracies. Anyway, Michael Musto reported that Michael Alig might be returning to the living as early as a couple months. Now, Micheal (Musto) listened to someone who spoke too soon and didn’t have it right, but great journalists end up right even when they’re wrong. At the time of the article, Mr. Alig had been denied a hearing before the Time Allowance Commitee—which will set a release date and is now actually going to happen. Congratulations to both Michaels.  
 
Michael Alig never used a cell phone or a computer. I visit him from time to time. He will probably write or continue with his painting, which he picked up behind bars. He has a place to stay and job offers. He won’t return to club life. He realizes he won’t be allowed to do that even if he lawyers up. His victim Angel Melendez of course won’t be getting a second chance at life. Michael Alig is aware of this and vows to do whatever he can to prove worthy to walk among us. He knows sorry isn’t enough. He says it all the time. I have never heard Peter Gatien say that. Peter didn’t kill anyone and has always professed his innocence of everything he has been accused of. I wish Peter and Michael Alig and Musto as well the best of luck in their 21st century lives. I have worked at rebranding myself and putting that past behind me. It’s working for me.

Synth-Pop Singer-Songwriter Charli XCX Talks True Romance, Tasting Sweat, & Lena Dunham

Charli XCX is no newbie to the music scene, though her age might indicate otherwise to those not in the know. The 20-year-old Brit, born Charlotte Aitchison but recognized by her hotly debated stage name, has been making people move since she was an adolescent.

At 14, XCX was already on the radar, albeit far from mainstream, discovered on MySpace and invited to play raves at the weekend. An only child, her parents would drive her to and from performances—sometimes staying, watching on like ever-adoring chaperones—then take her to school come Monday. What might have remained a fond memory or a passing phase, however, evolved into a career, with a capital “c,” her warehouse party past giving rise to a girl who knew her pop hooks and dance beats.

The past half-decade has seen her morph from girl to woman, as well as release several solid songs, among them one of her best, “Nuclear Seasons.” At 16 she signed a record deal, catapulting the former club kid from promising act to legitimate artist with a single signature. For the past four years she’s worked towards today, which sees her major label release of True Romance. Her lyrical prowess and knack for catchiness continue to impress with this sweeping and anthemic debut, a 13-track album featuring favorites like “Lock You Up,” “What I Like” and “Cloud Aura.”

XCX, who also co-wrote Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” (which, if you’ll recall, was a huge hit following a particularly entertaining episode of HBO’s Girls) is currently touring Europe and the U.K. with Ellie Goulding, and will touch down in the States come May. New Yorkers can catch her supporting Marina and the Diamonds at Rumsey Playfield on May 29 and alongside Little Daylight on May 31 at Glasslands Gallery.

In the meantime, hear from the hard-hitting goth-pop princess herself. She’s got plenty to say, from her outlook on love (which she’s in, with Ryan Andrews) to her fantasies surrounding calling all the concert shots (think outlandish creative direction as it pertains to set design, à la Girls dreamboat douchebag Booth Jonathan).

You titled the album True Romance. Is this record the embodiment of “true romance,” to you? It’s such a bold statement to make. To say, like, Here it is. This is the definition.
This record is, for me, what true romance is. I’ve been writing the record for the past two to three years, but one song I wrote when I was 16. So, I feel like I’ve been writing this album as I’ve been growing up. Your views on love and life change over time. You experience different relationships, that kind of thing, and I think the record is kind of about that. It’s about love from different angles. Different periods of your life. There’s a bratty breakup song, when you went out with a bad boy. Then there’s a song about falling in epic, amazing, real, true love. And I feel like that’s what happened to me during the process of writing this album. I feel like I’ve fallen in love, massively. I feel like the record looks at how you can be on this love trip, in this dream state, but at the same time you can feel lonely and isolated. I think it’s interesting how schizophrenic love is. And that’s what the record is to me. It’s schizophrenic. It sounds that way. It sounds like love.

Did the title come at the end?
The title came last, actually. It was kind of, like, a reflection. I never wanted to make a concept album and come up with the title track and write songs around the title. I wanted to write the songs as naturally as possible and as naturally as they came to me. It just so happened they were about love. Once I started writing them, I supposed that was an appropriate title.

Makes sense. Can you tell me a bit about being so young coming up in the music scene?  
It was kind of crazy. At the beginning, I was very, very excited about everything. I was 15, signing a record deal. I was so elated by it. So, whenever there were highs and lows—which there definitely were, and still are—I took them really personally. It was a quite traumatic experience making this album, especially when I was younger. It can be emotional making an album, putting all your thoughts and feelings on a CD. I found the industry very difficult. There were so many expectations I thought I had to live up to. I was unsure who I was. I wrote the song “Stay Away” then. I began to find myself and what kind of music I wanted to make. I feel like I’ve changed a lot. I realized I don’t have any criteria I need to meet. I’m just doing my thing. I’m not feeling like I have to please anyone.

Even with the tumult, it had to have been a blast.
It was really fun. When I was younger, I’d go to raves, and that was crazy. Then, I’d go to school on Monday, and that was weird. But, it was cool. I kind of feel like I got sucked into that. I’m glad I left that scene and started making real music on my own.

Oh, yes. You’re talented, your debut’s a gem and, on top of that, you’ve traveled the world touring in support of Coldplay, Santigold, Ellie Goulding. Was it difficult to adjust to the limelight? MySpace and late-night raves are one thing, but stadiums are another thing all together. That’s rock star status.
For me, I can’t think about going on stage as the “limelight.” I think about it as playing my songs for people and losing my mind. When I’m on stage, I feel completely free. I feel completely inspired. I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m getting lost in the moment. It’s like one big trip.

Speaking of trip, do you have a favorite place to play?
I love America. I love L.A. and I love New York. And I haven’t been there yet, but I know I’m going to love Tokyo so much when I go. It sounds so magical.

It does. So, which one: New York or L.A.?
I don’t know. People compare them, but they’re so different. It’s so difficult to compare the two. I feel like L.A., maybe, for me, just because it’s so different from London. Whereas New York is so similar.

Aww, shucks. So, do you have any down time when you tour?
Never. It’s constant. But, that’s fine. It feels good to play shows and have people come listen to my music. That’s really nice. I mean, it’s weird doing promo every day. You have to talk about yourself all the time, and I don’t really like doing that. It’s just strange. I’m starting to get used to it. It’s all right.

You’re adjusting. How’s tour going so far with Ellie?
It’s fun. The crowds are big. She’s cool. I think I managed to convert her into a platform shoe-lover. She tried on my Buffalo platforms and was like, Oh my god, these are amazing!

How would you compare the experience of performing at big venues versus small?
Playing big venues is always less personal. Like, when I was doing the Coldplay tour, there were, like, seven screens. Only the front, like, five rows can see you up close. But, in a club it’s wild. You can taste everyone’s sweat, which I really like. I feel so much more alive. You can really get in touch with the crowd and make it, like, an apocalyptic, end of the world party. So, I really like that. Obviously, it’s a dream to play in front of as many people as possible, so big stages are good. But, when I have my own massive shows, I want the walls and ceilings and floors to be made of screens. So you’re in a screen box. And it’s, like, my favorite videos and mash-ups of my favorite movies playing. It’d be a mindfuck.

Do you watch Girls?
Yeah! Like that artist [Booth Jonathan]’s thing. Exactly like that, except on a massive scale.

That’s also, as you know, the episode featuring the song you wrote, performed by Icona Pop.
That was really cool. I’m a big Lena Dunham fan. I feel like she’s this sexy, hilarious, fierce super-girl. So, it was really cool seeing her singing that song. It was quite funny.

Is Hannah your favorite character on the show?
I don’t know. I also really like Adam. And I really like Shoshanna. And I love to hate Jessa, because I know so many people like that and they’re so frustrating.

Do you have a lot of super-fans?
I do, actually. They’re all sweet, but they’re crazy. It’s cute, though. They’re all young. They message me all the time. Like, everyday. It freaks me out that my music can mean that much to someone. I didn’t have that. Even if I did, I wouldn’t have had the power to tell them, because I didn’t have Twitter. Now, everyday, you can build up this false relationship in your mind. It’s scary. It’s mad.

I’d agree with that. After all this, the journey so far, what do your parents think?
They’re proud. Whenever I’m in London they’ll come to my show. They’re really supportive. They took me to the raves when I was younger, came with me and were really cool. I’m really thankful for that, actually.

That’s awesome. I imagine a lot of parents wouldn’t be as nurturing when it comes to their young daughter rocking the sometimes seedy rave scene. You also dress pretty provocatively. From where does your aesthetic sensibility derive?
I’m really inspired by movies. The Craft. Clueless. Empire Records. I just love that nineties aesthetic. I like basics, grungy stuff. I’m a big fan of the Spice Girls. Some of their music videos are my favorites. Like, “Say You’ll Be There.” I feel like I came through the third wave of the club kids in London. I was watching Party Monster, finding out who Michael Alig was. Part of me will always be interested in that world. DIY, but high fashion at the same time.

So, do you have a dream collaboration?
I’d love to work with Bjork. She’s incredible. I admire everything she does. Her voice is like butter. So angry but so sweet and beautiful at the same time. I think she’s wonderful.  

Whose music are you really into right now?
Jai Paul. I’ve always been a big fan of his. Kitty Pryde. I think she’s really cute. I love her lyrics. I always listen to the same stuff on repeat. Like, Uffie, Kate Bush, The Cure. Robert Smith is, like, my hero.

Last but not least, what would you be doing if not this?
I’d be crying probably. 

Why It’s Time for a New Breed of ‘Club Kids’

I was in high school when my father showed me a Boston Globe article about the Club Kids in NYC. Michael Alig and the rest of his beautiful outcasts were the central focus–this was a couple years before Alig ended up in jail for murdering Angel Melendez.

Since I was about 15 at the time, I soaked in the article like a sponge that needed validation for my own freak-dom. They were colorful, and they didn’t play by anyone else’s rules. They were, in my mind, spectacular. I ripped out the article and placed it on my wall: this was the world I wanted to know; this was the world in which I wanted to live.

I moved to New York City in 2004, eight years after Melendez’s murder. Michael Alig was in jail and I had seen Party Monster more times than I was willing to admit, despite the fact that Macaulay Culkin was horrible in the role of Alig.

When I moved to New York City, it was no longer the city that embraced the “freaks” that I had loved from afar based on the Boston Globe article I read so many years before. Granted, New York will never be short on freaks, but the Club Kids, the group of individuals whom I learned to love through articles and then documentaries after the murder, the people with whom I thought I could be best friends were long gone. Their time in the sun had fizzled, Peter Gatien’s Limelight was no longer, and although it was turned into the club Avalon for a short time, it is now a fucking market place. If Alig and Gatien were dead, they’d be rolling over in their graves.

Some of the best parts about New York is that it’s forever changing. A restaurant you love is something else a month later, the bookstore you adored eventually becomes a boutique, and Starbucks are subtly putting proper cafes out of business one by one. It’s either gorgeous, or a heartbreaking sort of affairs—depending on what side of change you reside.

But if change is part of NYC, if evolving, embracing the new is how we roll, then isn’t it time for a new breed of Club Kids? Someone has to step up and take their place, and fill the void they left behind. Why? Because being a freak should never go out of style.

Michael Alig, realizing he was an outcast in his Indiana hometown, moved to New York City to find a place in which he could fit in and feel at home. James St. James had a similar story in that he, too, left Michigan behind to pursue a life far more extraordinary than the one he knew. Together they indulged in a life of excess, and were the leaders of a pack of misfits who had come to New York City for the same reason they had: to find others like them. They may not have been a voice of a generation, and no one would probably ever consider them perfect role models, but what they did do, what they did that was more important and for which that era will always be remembered, was that they made freaks the world over feel less alone.

Kids, like me, read about them, watched them on talk shows, and although some would argue that they dressed and acted that way purely for attention, who the fuck cares? They were living the life they wanted; the life they chose.

In a world where mediocrity is practically championed, and the conventional expectations of working nine-to-five, living in a house in the suburbs, and having three kids with names that will be out of style by next year, the Club Kids stood for something else. They stood—and still do, although they’ve all grown up and moved on from that part of their life—for a polar opposite of the mainstream. They were distinct on all levels, and their uniqueness, I imagine (although I was too young to have known it intimately), was contagious.

I’m not sure who we can delegate to start a new wave of Club Kids, but it has to happen. There’s too much emphasis put on people like Kim Kardashian and other two-bit, semi-celebrities who have nothing but the mundane to offer, and a mundane that the masses eat up. The masses are boring and lack originality. Club Kids, on the other hand, are colorfully exempt from such a drab adjective. And if one kid from somewhere in middle Ohio can look at a Club Kid and realize that’s the person they are, too, then it will be worth it.

So do we have any volunteers for someone to take Michael Alig’s spot sans the murder part? It’s not as though he’s getting out of jail anytime soon, and we really need to start working on this revolution now. 

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‘Limelight’ Documentary Still Brings Back a Flood of Memories

So, I warned you that I’d be whipping this horse, but as far as I can remember this is the first time I’ve gotten an IMDB listing. Yes, I’m talking about the Limelight documentary again, and since I was one of the players at the now defunct club, I am a player now. That statement has so many layers, so I’m just going to ponder it. Celebrity lawyer Benjamin Brafman attended the premiere and was applauded loudly when his name appeared during the credits. He got Peter Gatien off. Gee—I hope I didn’t spoil the ending.

Shoot, he has gotten more people off than Heidi Fleiss. The last dude was that French guy who tangled with that inconsistent maid. We chatted and chatted and I was in awe of him. When it wasn’t all fun and games and nostalgia and lives were on the line, Ben was an honest broker. Gee, I wish I had one of those. The after party was at Westway, that strip club which has now sunk itself morally to accommodate hipsters.

There I hung out and mugged for camera shots with long time friend Moby. I thought his lines from the movie were spot on. He really dealt with the glory of the joint and not all that trial stuff that dominated the final cut .While the feds came to bury Caesar (Mr. Peter Gatien), this movie came to praise him. I can’t object as he, for the most part, got a raw deal. Peter and I disagreed on many things, including his inability to accept any responsibility for the terrible ending. I agree as captain of the ship that he didn’t actually create the iceberg, but he certainly didn’t steer away from it fast enough, nor did he handle the big gaping hole it caused very well.

As I shook hands with the blasts from the past, it was clear that all this happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. We also knew that any sequels have always and will always turn out badly. Peter seems to be stuck in a rut of his own making, in glorious Canada, not allowed to come here, while I’m stuck here and not allowed to go there. That’s worth pondering too.

The bad guys on screen were proud about their badness. They all told tales to save themselves the jail time and some were more successful at that than others. At this point, a decade and a half later, it’s all good too. I wish them all big mirrors to better look at their despicable selves. Many of them thought that they were indeed victorious in that ancient rat race. The thing about rat races is you’ve got to be a rat to win, or even place, or show.

Michael Alig, of course, was not at the premiere as he is still busy entertaining up at Southport Correctional over that little murder thing he copped to. I hear he was surprised that the film dealt with the trial so much and dwelled little on how fabulous it was when he called the shots. Baby Joe Uzzardi wasn’t there either. He DJs now, here in the Big Apple, under a new name to protect and fool the innocent. Although Frank Owen and I have had some spats—a bit too publicly over the years—I respected his insight and found myself missing my old friend.

Jen Gatien, my long-time friend, was all smiles with her child, this film that she produced that is finally ready to fly (this Friday at Sunshine). I sat next to the Baroness Sherry von Koerber-Bernstein an old-school club fixture who told us she was “90 and a half.” Her now adult niece Carrie, her constant companion when she was 15, is now married with a couple of non-club kids. Much of the crowd was unrecognizable due to age and my addled memory. Some of it has never grown up. I said hello to everyone, with ancient squabbles now forgotten or lost in space and time. The movie opens in the big cities where Limelights were and then the Miamis and such. I’m sure it will get some traction but doubt it will play in Peoria.

I dodged raindrops as I walked to The Box all the way East. It was a glorious night and I couldn’t help but think, having just flashed through the past, how in retrospect I had dodged a lot of bullets both metaphorically and in reality. I arrived at The Box and was greeted by gentleman doorkeeper, Giza, who whisked me inside to join the beautiful people. Giza had texted me to join him for Genc’s birthday. Every time I go to The Box I find it to be wonderful. I know some say its day has passed, but I see it differently. Maybe it has changed, settled into being something different. Maybe it’s a little tamer, though maybe it’s a little less forced. I think it’s sexy and now it feels like home. To me it feels like one of those clubs that people say don’t exist anymore.

The crowd last night is the type that can get in anywhere. Hell the crowd left out in the rain can go to most places. The Box was great. I stayed for a minute glad handed all the players, chatted up a very frisky Erikson Wilcox and headed into the night. The night always seems darker down there. There are no more beach days and the coolness and rain and the noir of it all was my element. The dame on my arm and I didn’t need to chat. An evening like this is made for people like us.

This Sunday, if you want to serve me with papers or whack me I will be dependably at home watching Boardwalk Empire’s season premiere. I love Atlantic City. I’ve been going there for decades. It used to be Limelight-like, dangerously fun. I admit to hanging there in questionable places with questionable people doing debatable things. Somehow I survived, except for maybe a few brain cells. The old A.C. was charming while the new one spearheaded by the delicious Borgata Hotel Casino is more fun than a barrel of club kids. Their Boardwalk Empire promotion sounds like wow! Here’s their pitch:

Tale of a Few Empires

“Nosh Like Nucky at The Metropolitan at Borgata The second season of Boardwalk Empire starts on Sunday and to time with the famed HBO series, The Metropolitan is introducing a 1920’s menu recalling the days when Enoch “Nucky” Johnson ruled the town. Executive Chef Ron Ross created an authentic three-course selection inspired by actual menus from the decade that made Atlantic City legendary. Guests can feast on items like Lamb Chops with Mint Jelly or Scallops Mornay for $29.95 per person every Sunday. An Old Fashioned, Bronx Cocktail or Side Car can be enjoyed.”

I’m heading down next month for Duran Duran. Although the summer is famous for the hordes that come for the beach fun and games, the city is truly beautiful and exiting this time of year. I prefer it a little less crowded and crisp.

My Early Review of the Upcoming Limelight Club Documentary

I’m sure at one point you’ll be sick of all the chatter about the Limelight film opening this week, but I think it’s significant and I’m going to write about it. Maybe there will be a Pacha movie, or a Marquee movie, or a Provocateur movie—but I doubt it. Limelight: The Rise and Fall of New York’s Greatest Nightclub Empire is a documentary that deals with certain happenings at that club and the other three joints Peter Gatien owned and operated back in the day.

In the end, it’s more of a crime saga than a movie about any particular club or person. Limelight, Palladium, USA and Tunnel were awash with drugs, waylaid by gangsters, and pushed over a delicate edge that we now seem to have drifted far away from. We—and that “we” has a lot of names in it—tried to create a place where music, fashion, art, and dynamic people from all fields, walks of life, and arenas would mingle and be alive. We ruled over a creative cauldron that had almost a Camelot-like feeling. Until it crashed.

The public wanted our product; they would do anything to get in. Celebrities, politicians, off-duty law enforcement agents, the successful, as well as the young and the useless clamored to join the party. Like most large clubs, we were pushing an international DJ agenda, as well as the social one. The music of that era had bounced around Chicago and Detroit, was kicked to England and came back here energized by a variety of drugs including ecstasy. “X,” as it was known then and now, was the greatest high since Mount Everest. It took humans to a place of love and awareness and at the end, didn’t even leave them with a hangover. It was cheap compared to the drugs of choice at that time (coke and heroin) and as far as anyone knew, it didn’t kill anyone.

For the club operators there was an added twist—ecstasy wasn’t illegal in NYC. When visited by NYPD, X dealers were not arrested. Few knew that it had been criminalized on the federal level. Did that matter? Not much. Operators don’t favor drug dealers because, first of all they are competition, and second because they often fight each other over territory, possibly bringing weapons. Coke and H dealers are the worst and club security devoted themselves to kicking those types to the curbThe X dealers, often club kids, all dressed up in outfits and sporting makeup were less of a threat. Threat was the concern. If they were caught, they were ejected with extreme prejudice but we weren’t looking for them as they were…not threatening. That changed in time as organized “crimesters” saw the cash potential. It’s a different world now. Club operators worry about stealing, sexual harassment suits, bottle sales, and competition. We had to watch our backs as well. I was constantly threatened, constantly given ultimatums by people and organizations that seem now to have faded into the twilight I won’t make apologies or try to justify my behavior back then. I was not part of any conspiracy to traffic drugs. The film has plenty of those guys in it bragging about their escapades wearing their deeds as badges of honor. None of them went to jail. Talk is not only cheap but it gives you a free pass, a get out of jail free card. And for the record we are talking Monopoly. Although other joints certainly existed and thrived, the Gatien empire was the talk of the town. Now after all of these years Billy Corben has directed and Peter’s daughter Jen Gatien has produced this documentary. The question I’m getting from everyone is—“How authentic is it?”

I haven’t seen the final cut but what I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival was spot on and fair. Albeit it is a look at a room through a peephole, but the feeling of the time is there and the players on film were the players. Many of the bad guys were missing, as well as the stories of the millions of good people who passed through the door. The stories of love found and lost and of young people finding themselves and how the worker bees of our metropolis celebrated their decision to live here partying away cleanly, safely, sanely at these great clubs. The story deals with a minority and paints a picture and although accurate, it dismisses the fact that we sold oceans of liquor and offered countless great bands and fashion shows and fun. One critic said not enough celluloid was spent on the good…the music, the thousand and one nights of glory. That part isn’t the stuff of dreams or movies like this. In the end the legacy of Limelight must be told with blood, drugs, tears and the destruction of people and ideas.

The four Gatien joints were as good as any I’ve ever experienced; Gatien was a solid operator. His talent was accumulating the best people in the business and creating spaces that were ambitious, wondrous, and still very functional. They were money machines and the numbers are mind blowing. In an age without bottle service patrons, paid to get in and dressed and pleaded with door people for that privilege. We serviced thousands every night and turned away as many. Peter’s weakness was his business model. He pitted people against each other and thus created cliques and power bases that in competition did anything to service the bottom line and win his favor. The result was a number of drug-based promotional groups that led to his demise. During the Tribeca cut, Peter’s wife was the subject of much abuse which, I feel, was deserved. I described her as evil and will stick to that story. I heard that all that Alexander stuff was cut from the film but will be in the DVD.

We will see. Tomorrow night when the film premiers I will be there to say it as I saw it to those in attendance. There will be people who love me there and some not so much but even in what may be a sanitized version the story told will be worth watching. For me it defined my life and is a legacy that I will never shed. I went down for the count but here I am doing my thing. In a way my fall from grace led me to a much better place. My work is now different but still satisfies or at least challenges my creative urges. I will be talking to Director Billy Corben today and I’m getting feedback from Michael Alig, who is still paying the price. The club world then was not better than it is now. The big clubs, save for a few dinosaurs, have faded from relevance. The former hot spots that are the subject of this flick are now a mall, a hotel, student housing and a theatre for the absurd. Nightlife today is diverse and spread through a thousand specialized venues.

It’s as fun as ever and gone is the violence, the drug overdoses, and the bad guys. I’m fine with that. That world now preserved in film is better off gone. It was a product of its time and although the products that fueled the fun are still around, they are rarely the driving force behind the action. I hope that up north in his Canadian Elbe Peter Gatien finds some peace in this release. I hope he feels vindicated… although when I watched the film my take was that everyone was to blame. Peter, the evil doers he cultivated, and certainly the unfair folks at the DEA, and other governmental agencies. I’m to blame too. I was in a position of great power and control and didn’t do enough. Clubs were the drug for me and I just couldn’t say no.

Limelight: The Rise and Fall of New York’s Greatest Nightclub Empire opens in theaters this Friday.