So the other night, I watched the documentary Glory Daze. It’s a story about Michael Alig, the club promoter and leader of the Club Kids back in the late 80s early 90s. If you don’t know what a ‘Club Kid’ is, it’s basically a person who’s extremely creative in makeup, dress and creative expression who went to nightclubs in New York in and around that time. Lady Gaga really drew inspiration from them.
Pictures of the OG Club Kids, that’s Michael Alig on the left. Walt PaperDJ Keoki with Michael Alig Rupaul was an original club kid.
The glamorous Amanda Lepore was a club kid.
The movie PARTY MONSTER with Macaulay Culkin was inspired by the Club Kids and Michael Alig. You can see all these characters played in the film.Seth Green(left) Macaulay Culkin(right)
These kids would think up the most outrageous looks and dress up as wild as you could imagine. They became so famous, they were even featured on talk shows such as Geraldo and Phil Donahue.
Well, Michael Alig basically fostered an environment where these artistic misfits bloomed. This documentary talks briefly about the Andy Warhol era, it’s correlation to Alig’s club kids. Warhol’s superstars, like Edie Sedgwick and the like. How he created the factory where all types congregated and how they reigned supreme at clubs, especially Studio 54.
Now I am obsessed with this era. I have read Edie by Jean Stein from front to back hundreds of times. I have read the Warhol Diaries. Being a former club goer and raver myself, I have always been curious about that scene. Studio 54, where people like Truman Capote and Liza Minelli hanging around street urchins that wondered into the factory and became famous for being famous, basically famous for nothing except that they got into the good graces of Warhol.Halston(left) Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol(right) Liza Minelli(back)
They cover how when Warhol died, it left a vacuum in New York City nightlife. That vacuum was soon filled by one Michael Alig, a straight A, midwestern, gay kid from a small town with big dreams and an even bigger ego.
With that big ego and a magnetic charisma, Alig was the maverick trendsetter that lead thousands of people into following a vision he had for the New York Club scene.
Michael Alig was Born April 29 in South Bend, Indiana. Not exactly a hot bed of creative expression or alternative lifestyles. So he took off to the the Big Apple, where he hung out and watched the scene for quite a while, building connections, networking, working at the famous Danceteria (you know, the club that spawned Madonna) and eventually creating what was ultimately known to be the Club Kids, a cultural phenomenon that ruled the city’s club scene for the late 80s into the 90s.
As with all good things that involve highly creative artistic types, drugs were definitely abound. I mean, come on, it’s a nightclub, ever since the first nightclub came to be, there was drug circling around. However, Michael Alig and his friends were mixing XTC with Ketamine, also known as Special K, a horse tranquilizer, Rohypnol, speed, cocaine and heroin.Flyer from Michael Alig’s birthday party.
In 1988 Peter Gatien, owner of the Limelight, hired Alig to promote his club. At that time the Limelight was dead. Nobody wanted to go there, so naturally Alig was the perfect choice to resurrect the club and bring in money.
Alig’s parties at the limelight were so successful that he started working for other famous clubs like The Palladium and Tunnel.(I have the same goal tbh)
Glory Daze goes over this time, talking to people who knew Alig, were there and they give details of his notorious stunts.
Crazy stunts maybe, but this extreme behavior of Alig’s was what made the nightclubs thrive back then. What made people from all over the world visit New York and entertain the idea of dropping their lives and joining the carnival of Club Kids. Some even did and ended up learning the hard way that New York is a tough place.
Enter Rudi Giuliani…Because of the crime, directly or indirectly caused by the massive drug wave flowing over the city at that time, the people of NY voted Rudy Giuliani as Mayor. Giuliani thought that nightclubs were dens of drugs, deviants and debauchery and responsible for the prevalent drug use among the youth of America and vowed to end it.
Glory Daze goes over everything that happened with that. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it was pretty interesting to see the changes that New York has been through.
With Rudy targeting nightclubs and Michael’s spiral into hard drugs, Gatien ended up firing Michael and his dissent into drugs, moreover heroin, intensified. This is where everything goes to hell.
Angel Melendez was one of the Club Kid ‘Superstars’ a drug dealer superstar anointed by Alig himself, due to the fact that he could get drugs anytime from Angel and not have to pay. Angel enjoyed the popularity of being in Michael’s inner circle even going on Geraldo in 1994.
Angel Melendez with his famous angel wings
On Sunday March 17, an argument ensued between Angel and Michael over a drug debt and it became violent with Angel allegedly attacking Michael and Michael’s roommate Freeze, hitting Angel over the head with a hammer. I say allegedly because I was not there and this is a delicate topic. In respect to any of Angel’s family who may read this, I do not want to speculate on what actually happened or go into the details of the crime.
Glory Daze handles this well and gives reports from the police and people around the scene who heard rumors, also Michael himself, explains what happened, from his perspective.
The next part of the documentary goes over the after effect of the murder, Alig’s arrest and conviction, the closing down of the nightclubs and the people who’s lives were forever changed by this whirlwind or drugs, dance and decadence.
James St. James went on to write Disco Bloodbath about the murder and his friendship with Michael.James(left) Michael(right)
Glory Daze is there when Michael is finally let out of prison after 17 years, 5 of which were spent in solitary confinement.
So here’s where my review is probably going to be a tad controversial as I am going to be honest.
I do believe that Michael Alig was under a massive amount of substances, an amount which would kill most people when he did the awful things he did. I think he was out of his mind. I think had he not been on copious amounts of heroin and other chemicals, this tragedy would not have occurred.
I realize that is not everyone’s take on it and maybe I’m wrong, but he did his time and what Glory Daze shows is how out of touch Alig is with the changes of the outside world when he’s released from prison. The city he once ruled at one point and the changes are such a culture shock. The camera follows and catches all of his reactions to it. It’s very interesting. I couldn’t stop watching.
Will Michael Alig keep it together, stay off drugs and adapt to the new social media age?
Well, he already has a Twitter account, Facebook, Instagram and a YouTube channel with over 10k subscribers where he cohosts a show The Peeew! with his friend and former club kid; Ernie Glam.
He’s also had showings of his artwork at various galleries.
Painting, Michael has stated, kept him from killing himself in prison.
I believe Michael, older and wiser, comes off really well in this documentary. I think he does show remorse and is also coming to terms with forgiving himself so as to not be eaten up with guilt which would ultimately drive him to use drugs again. I am rooting for his sobriety and him as an evolving person. This was a tragedy and Angel Melendez should be alive, but sometimes life takes an awful turn and sadly, it usually does when drugs are involved. My condolences and respect to Angel’s family. I hope they find peace.
Anyway, I think this is one of the best film docs I’ve seen in awhile. If you are fascinated by New York, the club scene of the 80s/90s and strange stories, Ramon Fernandez’s Glory Daze is definitely a worthwhile watch. It’s free on Amazon Prime now, check it out.