Having just seen Party Monster for the first time on IFC last night, I was intrigued enough to look up more on Alig and the ClubKids. Now, you have to understand that I remember seeing them on the talk shows and hearing about them from others; this was 1992-96, when I was actively plying my trade as a death metal and hardcore musician, so I was always meeting wannabe promoters, DJs, people starting their own Labels (they always said it with an implied, capital "L"), clubbers, and - basically - whores, thieves, and drug addicts/dealers. Whatever was going on Underground (again, with the caps), I heard about it - if not actually saw it, performed in or around it, or whatever. And I knew more than a dozen people who did the whole Rave thing at least every other weekend.
Also, this all broke when I was working as an online tech and still actively playing, so people were always forwarding me items about things and people they thought I might know or have met or know of. I literally followed the story from the "dark mumblings" to a multi-page online story around 1998-1999 that I'm pretty sure was the reprint of the now-infamous article in a NY-area magazine which detailed the entire thing. I know I read it online because I specifically remember the b&w pics of the Hudson River locale at which the torso washed-up, but I did not come across that particular article in my search.
Further, the movies and culture with which these people pretended or claimed to be obsessed was my bread and butter. I vividly remember one "wild" party - and it was fairly wild, what with the bathtub full of peaches and alcohol, everyone going in and out for a cover charge with funnels and Crazy Straws - where I supplied the movies:
I brought an armful of B-raters, including the now iconic Evil Dead - already a favorite in some circles but literally unknown by the unwashed masses at that time - and got shushed for cracking wise at the good parts - shushed! ME! - by a crowd of useless Nobodies I'd never before met.
Most of those "clubbers," or whatever, were utter wastes of flesh - total pointless wastes of life - as was that entire "scene."
It may sound overly harsh, but I'm just being honest, and these people made a point of celebrating that. You have to remember that here I was, a kid with something none of these people had: real Talent (just keeping with the Elitist theme), and they had no respect for me because I didn't dress up like a total clown and bounce around with Glo-Sticks and kindergarten lunchboxes. Plus, I was a heavy metal kid and they were all House and Techno - which is all totally aimless, repetitive shit, anyway (just like that scene and the people in it). Their entire world and Point was to be completely superficial - fashion over function - whereas mine was just the opposite. So one could safely say it was a mutual disrespect.
At any rate, in reading articles about Alig and that whole scene, I was afraid I might come across some name that I knew or that looked familiar, and I eventually did. I cannot say for certain whether or not it was who I think it was, nor if I actually met any of these ClubKids, but I can safely say that if I ever knew any of these people, it was before things got really bad, because I was never big into the whole heavy, heavy drug scene. That having been said, I can safely say that, with frighteningly few exceptions, none of the raver kids I knew were worth the salt in their bodies. Nor the water, for that matter.
I've read a lot about Alig and his supposed antics and behavior. "Supposed" is a bit nebulous; even "alleged" doesn't quite cover it, since several sources seem to confirm the reports, but I really don't know which sources work from the others, so I can't call them "second sources" (as in confirmation). While Alig's behavior was definitely reckless, insofar as the murder itself goes (and everything else), we need to put that into perspective: something like the rest of the underworld, Andre Melendez was no Angel.
I mean, this was not a stand-up guy here; this was a two-bit, drug-dealing hustler whose own sociopathic behavior led directly to the deaths of several others. He was, in fact, strangling Alig at the time of his murder - something James St. James, and most other sources, casually mention. Alig did not even hit the guy: it was the roommate, Freeze Reyes, who bludgeoned the drug-dealer to death. This was one of those sticking points for me, as the movie pointedly repeated that: Alig's insistence that it was self-defense, as well as the fact that Alig didn't actually kill Melendez.
So after two days of following every lead and article I could find, I came to some fairly definite conclusions. Now, early leads uncovered reports of Alig's pedophilia, but I assumed this was smear and some of Alig's notorious bad behavior eclipsing the truth (club rats are infamous for their prowess at gossip). However, later leads confirm this behavior from different angles, which leads me to believe they weren't merely repeating stuff in other, more popular, articles. In fact, this information came from at least three, very disparate, sources, including two pieces written by actual ClubKids (including the loquacious St. James, which is what originally made me question the stories' veracity). The sources independently confirm that Alig sold young boys as sex slaves and more than once hint at more.
I'm not here to spread gossip - but you have to remember that gossip is the club-goer's stock-in-trade - so one report from a bitchy (ex-?) socialite is gossip; two reports from two peas of the same pod is more of the same; three or more reports - all independent of one another and citing different sources - is confirmation.
And here is why I bring this up: it took until well into the second night of research (it's not like I'm particularly industrious or intrepid) before I came across it, but there was something darker hinted at in almost every piece I read, including those from Alig himself (quotes, interviews, etc.), that kept me looking, and then I found it:
When the torso washed ashore, there were signs of sexual abuse.
According to the revised scenario - which one can never really be sure of, because cops are notorious liars (far worse than any club-goer, sadly) - Alig may have been guilty of far more than just smothering Angel Melendez and putting Drano in his mouth and taping it shut (or injecting it into his veins) and later chopping-up the body:
All stories, including Alig's, maintain that the killers left the body in the bathtub, packed on ice and covered in baking soda with a mattress atop it (they later placed it in a box), for up to a week while they partied on Melendez' drugs and money, but the new scenario has Alig (and maybe others) Doing Things (remember The Caps) to the body. Dirty things. Sexual things.
This is what I'm getting at: was Angel Melendez' death A Tragedy? Well, if we're going to put it into context and call a thing what it is, no - not really. In fact, his death may very well have saved scores of others from death by overdose, as well as (far more insidiously, in my estimation) countless others from ever trying the shit in the first place. But I'm not justifying Alig's (nor anyone else's) behavior - murder is bad, mmkay? At any rate, Melendez' death, while tragic to some extent because a human being died, was not really A Tragedy because Melendez wasn't a good human being; he wasn't worthless, mind you, and he had every chance of changing and becoming a boon to society instead of just a drain on it had he lived, but let's be honest... it, he, you know. Not likely. This blows all sorts of holes in the oft-reported theory so many have forwarded that Angel Melendez "just wasn't considered cool enough by his fellow ClubKids for them to worry about."
Face facts: Melendez' ultimate fate was either death or imprisonment, and he wasn't likely to change his ways until his fate had been served.
That being said, this new information brings me around to St. James' oft-repeated assertion that Alig is a Sociopath.
Remember, Evil really can be "measured." To murder someone is an Evil act; to cover it up is an attempt to escape the consequences and, again, merely an Evil act; to be guilt-free and remorseless over your actions is Evil; to actually commit atrocities to the body over the course of several days, culminating in the ritualistic dismemberment of it, is nothing short of pathological and, simply put, Evil. The problem is, as I've frequently opined herein and elsewhere, you can't blame mentally-ill people of being Evil; it's the equivalent of calling a Dyslexic "stupid." Not to mention that they were On Dope - true addicts - which makes you a Sociopath, period. No questions. Drug addiction does not excuse their actions, but it does explain them.
I'm not minimizing the murder, nor death, of Andre Melendez, but I find it negligent to paint him as some poor, hapless victim who innocently walked into a deathtrap. I know the prosecution was trying to use Alig's previous creative works against him in an effort to prove premeditation which I, as an artist, find particularly disturbing and completely reprehensible (especially since I have personally seen Blood Feast and it blows antelope), but there's a heavier Thing at the heart of all of this into which I think St. James has some insight, if not a handle on:
While I don't think the murder was premeditated, I am starting to think that Alig was just strung-out enough to be completely disconnected from reality and to have approached the entire thing as some sort of Project - an "artistic" one, I mean, not an industrious necessity (the disposal of the corpse, itself). It's as if he thought, "Here, at last, is the chance to do all those sick Things I have often thought about and made the themes of my club events; here is my chance to Keep It Real. No one is going to top this."
That is truly Sociopathic; that is the very, specific definition of Sociopathy: to do as you please without regard for human life.
But, then again, that was the entire point of that whole "movement" and every Glo-Stick-wielding, self-proclaimed "E-head" ClubKid who ever "raved 'til dawn" championed that very ideology. So Michael Alig actually became the ultimate ClubKid, the one who Kept It Real to the very end, the one who always took it one step further...
Still, I think Alig is being driven insane by being in prison (which is the entire goal of prison nowadays, thus ensuring recidivism, which ensures further and increased funding for the prisons and prison programs - that, and the fact that the American penal system is designed to implement a controlled sex- and drug-trade under the auspices of the government - whoops! Did I blog that out loud? Wait, you didn't realize that?) - and that's no good. I think he's a true creative force who deserves to be in a position where his creativity can flourish instead of held in a position where it works against him.
Like it or not, Angel Melendez was going to end up dead or imprisoned, one way or another, and what happened to him, while lamentable and deplorable by any standard, is what is commonly referred to as "street justice."
Michael Alig has served his time and those who are upset that he may have some sort of career when he is released should check themselves at the door; Angel Melendez' very (short) career was profiting from crime, and no one would be against them both having legitimate careers now, had this unfortunate incident never happened.
Of course, Alig was at the forefront of the very movement which both spawned and validated Paris and Nichole, so... maybe a longer sentence is necessary - for purely punitive measures.