Michael Alig, the extravagantly dressed “King of the Club Kids” in Manhattan in the late 1980s and early 90s, whose involvement in the dirty murder and dismemberment of his drug dealer was recorded in the 2003 feature film Party Monster, died early this morning a suspect overdose of heroin. He was 54 years old.
Alig was found unconscious by a friend just before 3 a.m. in his apartment in Washington Heights, Upper Manhattan. Medics pronounced him dead on the scene. The death was first reported on the New York Daily News.
Alig, who ruled the Manhattan club scene as the party promoter for Peter Gatien’s hugely popular Limelight and Palladium dance clubs, was notorious even before the murder outside of the city’s lavishly-dressed demimonde, having frequently made Club Kid performances in shock Daytime talk shows like The Joan Rivers Show and Geraldo.
Notable Hollywood and Entertainment Industry Deaths in 2020: Photo Gallery
Alig in Club Kid days
The apparently fun facade of the Club Kid scene went irretrievably dark when, in March 1996, Andre “Angel” Melendez disappeared, a night owl who hung up, wore angel wings and dealt drugs. In November of that year, parts of Melendez’s body carried by the Hudson River washed ashore on Staten Island.
Although the case initially received little media coverage, a blind Village Voice article written by nightlife columnist Michael Musto named Alig and his clubmate Robert “Freeze” Riggs as the killers.
Eventually the bizarre, dirty story surfaced: An argument over drug debt turned violent, with Riggs pounding Melendez’s head and Alig smothering him with a sweatshirt. The duo, who were stoned with ketamine, heroin and cocaine, among other things, dismembered Melendez’s body and left him for days in the bathtub of Alig’s Hell’s Kitchen high-rise apartment, doused with Drano and Cologne. Alig was even throwing small parties in the apartment when the hidden body parts rot.
Seth Green, Macaulay Culkin ‘Party Monster’ (2003)
Strand Releasing / Everett Collection
Alig and Rigg eventually tossed the remains into the Hudson River. The murder became an open secret in the club scene, and both Alig and Riggs pleaded guilty in 1996. Alig spent 17 years in prison, was released in 2014 and ended his parole in 2017. Soon he tried to return to the city’s nightlife culture, selling works of art and was once arrested for smoking crystal in a city park. (Riggs was paroled in 2010.)
The murder and club scene were captured in two documentaries: 1998’s Party Monster: The Shockumentary and 2015’s Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig.
Best known, however, is Alig’s 2003 tale of the Party Monster, starring Macaulay Culkin as Alig, Dylan McDermott as Gatien, and Seth Green as James St. James, Alig’s Club Kid friend and mentor, on whose book Disco Bloodbath the film is based.
After his release from prison, Alig ran the YouTube talk show The Pee-ew with his club colleague Ernie Glam. Recalling his jail time in Rolling Stone magazine, he said, “I went to jail addicted to heroin and it’s a very difficult drug to get out of – especially in jail. I would wean myself, go through the withdrawal, and expect to feel better a week or a month later. And when that didn’t happen, I decided, ‘Fuck it. I committed this horrific crime, no one will ever forgive me, I might as well aim high and don’t have to worry about it. ‘“