The Story Of Michael Alig, The New York Clubland Killer

He went from King of New York's decadent nightlife to murderer. How did Michael Alig's world collapse so spectacularly?
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He went from King of New York's decadent nightlife to murderer. How did Michael Alig's world collapse so spectacularly?

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New York's Limelight club, 1996. It's Wednesday night and the infamous 'Disco 2000' event is in full flow. This is no ordinary house music event however. It's a maelstrom of exhibitionism and narcissism - a throwback to the glitter ball hedonism of Studio 54. Amyl nitrate hangs like viscous fog in the air, whilst the whole room seems to jack and sway under the influence of ecstasy. It's an elastic reality.

Surveying the scene is the self titled 'king of the party kids', one Michael Alig. He has reason to feel pleased with himself. From his humbling beginnings as a club bell-boy, he's somehow rose into prominence as New Yorks top club promoter. It's a role he revels in. He's the second most powerful man in New York clubland at the time. That honour belongs to Peter Gatien. A mysterious, middle aged man with an eyepatch, he resembles an Argentinian serial killer. As owner of the two biggest clubs in the city at the time (the Limelight and the Tunnel ) - his weird presence sets a sinister tone.

This is no ordinary night however. As dj Keoki mixes his underground tracks from the dj booth, Alig seems more wired than usual. His teeth grind like steel castanets against his cheekbones and his eyes flare from his skull as if on fire. He's paranoid too. Something is turning over and over in his head like an angry page. A betrayal. A drug betrayal. He goes to an office out of sight and takes a hit of PCP. It's his drug of choice. It makes his brain feel like a kaleidoscope but it makes him feel powerful too. He's the king of the world. The king of the fucking world. Everyone knows it.

He goes back inside and beckons a friend over. His name is Robert 'Freeze' Riggs. They share an apartment together in downtown New York, alongside a low end Columbian drug dealer called Angel Melendez. All however is not well in their domestic situation. There is bad, blood brewing over a drug debt. The two men discuss the situation with the energy of angry wasps. Riggs tries to calm Alig down but in truth both men have taken too many drugs to rationalise what is a simple financial situation. Instead they disappear into an office and do more PCP. It isn't a holy drug at all. It makes them more angrier if anything. They discuss the situation again, but this time there is talk of violence in the air. Both men hug each other and promise that they'll do something to resolve it.

Some hours later Riggs is asleep in their shared apartment when he hears raised, angry voices coming through the walls. At first he thinks it's the drugs, the narcotic blowback of the night before, but when he concentrates he realises it's Alig and Melendez arguing. He sits upright and concentrates. Melendez is screaming that he wants his money. Riggs goes to the door and opens it, just in time to see Melendez grab Alig by the throat and repeatedly start banging his head off the wall. The sound makes a noise like an axe hitting logs. Riggs screams at Melendez to stop but there is South American fire in his eyes. Thinking he's about to kill Alig, he grabs a nearby hammer and rushes to the back of the South American. He buries the cake hammer deep into his skull and when he doesn't at first release his friend another two times for good measure. He watches as his victim stiffens then slumps to the floor like a heavy sack. When he stares at the bloodstained hammer he notices a trail of light coming from it. It's the PCP, he figures.

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Alig by now is getting to his feet. His windpipe feels bruised and tight and as he walks past the dying man to a nearby mirror he notices the bruising on it. He feels no remorse for the man on the floor just an anger towards him that he has scarred his beautiful looks. Incandescent with rage he rushes into an adjoining bedroom and grabs a pillow from a bed. He uses it to finish Melendez off. He sits on the chest of his victim and is strangely fascinated by the lessening wheezing sounds Melendez is making. It reminds him of air slowly being released from a balloon. A childhood memory he's surprised to be tinged by. When he hears the sound no more, he feels a sad relief. His early life has always haunted him.

Both Alig and Riggs now stare at the lifeless man. They think he's dead but when they stare down at Melendez they notice his chest still rising and that he's merely unconscious. They make those South Americans tough Alig thinks, and has an idea how to finish their man off. Alig goes to his kitchen sink and produces a bottle of Drano. It's an industrial cleaner used to unblock drains and at first Riggs thinks he's going to clean the blood up with it. Alig however has other ideas. He leans over Melendez and begins to pour the thick chemical down his throat. He watches as it disappears and the South American makes a strange gurgling noise like a new born baby. It's only when the sound subsides like a moth fluttering through an open window that he knows for sure that he's dead.

The two men now carry the corpse into the bathroom and drop it in the bath like a lead weight. They grab as much ice as they can from the refrigerator and pack it around the body and in the water like a macabre cocktail. It's a more laborious process than they think. After a while Alig starts to worry about what all this ice is doing to his fingernails. When they run out they simply make a trip to the store and get more supplies. They take it in turns. When they're satisfied they've preserved the body enough to stop it decomposing, they relax and begin to do drugs again. Their highs have long since wore off and more than anything they want to be high again.

For the next twenty four hours they claw at the dark muse of a PCP again. The walls close in. The walls close out and all the time Melendez has the good grace not to turn up as a demonic ghost before them. They hardly talk about the matter to be honest, maybe in the hope that the corpse might disappear down the bath pipes. After a while however and in their heightened state they begin to notice another sense racing before them. A smell. An awful smell that seems to be crawling into every space in the room. They already know what it is. It's the smell of Melendez rotting in the bath tub. When it begins to make both men retch on the floor they realise they have to do something about it. The reality of their situation is beginning to become plain to them.

And paranoia too, creeping through the constant PCP hits like an incessant rash. Alig now begins to think that they're testing their luck against the universe a little bit too brazenly in this matter. Somehow they've managed to sneak Melendez' body into a sack and are now driving around New York with his lifeless, dismembered body in the sack in the back of a car. They cruise for what seems like an age with every alligator eye in the New York twilight seemingly trained at them. It begins to creep the men out. They think they can hear Melendez talking to them from the boot of the car. They turn the radio up to drown him out. Finally they spot a deserted road near the Hudson River with a bridge on it. Hauling the dead weight from the boot they struggle to get it to the edge. When they finally manage it they cast a look at each other. They high five each other as they drop it over the side. It makes less of a sound than they think. More like a dull thud. It's too ordinary Alig thinks and Michael Alig doesn't do ordinary. After all he's the king of New York clubland...

@midnightapes