Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig

I think I’ve hesitated to write this review, mostly because, I haven’t really known how to accurately put into words exactly what I’m feeling.

But then again, since fuck it seems to be the motto of this site, let’s just get right to it.

When I was 14, and a little black clad goth queermo from a small town in the middle of buttfuck nowhere BC, Canada, I first heard about the club kids.  A bunch of wacky dressed freaks on drugs who had taken over the New York night life with their particular brand of drug induced fuckery and childlike playfulness.

In my life, I often have and continue to feel like I was born somehow and somewhere slightly out of time, like I didn’t really belong where I was.  I had bigger things in mind for myself than what my life in a smalltown in BC would hold.  I was into dressing wild, being wild and living wild, which was pretty well the antithesis to everything that was stood for in my town.

Finding out that a little small town nancy boy named Michael Alig had led a revolution of freaks to the front door of fame and then horrifically and somehow beautifully had fallen from grace in the same drug induced frenzy that had highlighted the whole debacle was awe inspiring to me.

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For those not in the know, the “fall from grace” I just mentioned was more like, “become horrifically addicted to almost all drugs known to cause fuckery like ketamine and heroin, and then murdering your friend/drug dealer, dismembering their body and chucking the whole works in the Hudson River”.  Somehow it doesn’t sound so glamorous when I put it into plain language like that.

Michael Alig lived life to hyper excess.  Every aspect of his life worked in this manner.  From the ridiculous costumes up to and including the murder of drug dealer Angel.

“Party Monster: The Shockumentary” covers some of these events, “Party Monster” the film covers a few more, based solely on the book “Disco Bloodbath” written by one James St. James, Michael’s friend/frenemy and celebutante.

What isn’t really talked about too much is the aftermath..  what life was like when it swallowed Michael into the prison system and how things managed for him when he got out.  He served almost 17 years in prison for the murder of Angel.

“Glory Daze:  The Life and Times of Michael Alig” tries to sum up the larger than life history of Alig, and seems to both succeed and fail spectacularly.  I don’t think any book, or harrowing interview, or documentary can really serve to highlight the charisma, beauty and horror of Alig’s life.  I don’t know that any ever will.

“Glory Daze” is told from the points of view of many people in the club kid circuit – Alig himself, James St. James, several of the surviving club kids, Michael Musto, and members of the police force.  Each interview and snippet tells little details about the life of Alig, how the club scene came to be, and what it meant for socializing in New York during this time.

Born out of a dying debutante scene against a seedy backdrop of 1980s/1990s New York, the club kids seemed to be the answer to the “what do we do next” question.  Though initially drugs weren’t part of the game, like with most things, they found their way in, lubricating the good times and punctuating the pounding burgeoning rave music, and eventually leading to the epic destruction of this scene.

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The documentary itself is well done.  I liked it, but what became very confusing is that many of the interviewees were not named until much later in the documentary leading me to question who the fuck they were and why they were talking to me.

While some of those interviewed offered valuable pieces of information to the overall story, I started checking my watch with Michael Musto and his blathering, simply because he came off as pompous and grating.

Watching Alig, the years of drug damage are evident in his mannerisms.  He is now, no longer that larger than life figure, but rather is something of a shadow, like most who spend large chunks of time institutionalized.  The documentary seems unsure of if they want to paint him as an emotionless sociopath or confused child, or both, and the fluidity of movement between the dichotomy is often a whirlwind.

While I had thought that documentary would lead up to the release of Alig from prison, it chronicles afterwards as well, from Michael learning about the internet, laughing with James St. James and being met with considerable fanfare from the public who still seem fascinated with this glamorous gay boy.

When the credits rolled, I wasn’t entirely sure of what I had just watched. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel?  I still am not.  Was I supposed to see a broken man trying to pick up the fragments of his life after a five year drug bender followed closely by a near twenty year jail sentence?  Was I looking at someone who felt remorse for murdering their friend?  Was I looking at someone who had something left to give?  I can’t say.

Like most sagas, I don’t know that coloring the whole thing with the broad red brush of the murder and bloodshed is appropriate and yet it’s inescapable.  Varg Vikernes’s name is still heralded in the black metal movement for his slaying and his arson and so too is Alig’s when anyone brings up the early days of rave and clubbing.

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I don’t know what the world has for Alig in 2016.  He has a youtube channel. But, in 2016 where everyone is a freak is there room for an ex-club kid to make his way?  No idea.

I know I’m still a captive audience for Alig.  I did and still find him to be fascinating.  I know what his story did for me as that little cast off freakshow and perhaps that is what can be taken from the club kid legacy – the goodness.  The idyllic scene where everyone would fit in no matter how gay or ugly, or fat, or whatever else..  That is the true promised land of raving, and like most pilgrims who have searched for their Shambhala, their nirvana and their place in this world…  I’m still searching.  And so is Michael.  Somehow that brings me a bit of comfort.

And this is why this story is important.

If you were a freak or you were ever enamoured with the story of the club kids, “Glory Daze” is certainly not a film to miss.

 

 

Thank you to Osiris Entertainment for lovingly providing us with a copy of the film to watch.  It means a lot.  Thanks to Ramon Fernandez for directing, and to Michael Alig for being that shining ray of light and that dark pit of horror that has fascinated me for over 16 years.

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