Party Monster

Article excerpt

The yuppies huddle just before the fade-out of Whit Stillman's The Last Days of Disco, mourning the demise of the great club years and speculating that it may have had something to do with the outbreak of herpes. As if. Earth to Whit, Earth to Whit: Studio 54 and its spawn were not straight enclaves with a token gay couple imported from some leather dungeon for colorful window dressing, hard as you may try to reinvent the myth. And disco was not dying in the early '80s. It was simply on the verge of turning very scary.

Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's jaw-dropping documentary Party Monster is the awful truth, arriving just in time to expose The Last Days of Disco for the fraud it really is.

On the surface a portrait of Manhattan's original club kid, convicted killer Michael Alig, Party Monster depicts a nightlife in which heroin was ingested like oxygen, folks doffed their Calvin Kleins in front of hundreds for a measly 50-buck bounty, and a golden stream splashing in your face could be either a drag queen giving herself a champagne enema onstage or someone peeing on you from the top of a staircase.

This latter stunt was a particular favorite of Alig's, according to a Limelight nightclub survivor named Lahoma. If only urination in the first degree were the worst of his crimes. Alig is currently serving a manslaughter sentence for his participation in the ultraviolent murder of a roommate, Angel Melendez, whom he dismembered a week later and sent floating down the Hudson River in a large cardboard box.

A refugee from the high school prom scene in South Bend, Ind., Alig quickly rose to the top of the heap as downtown's reigning party promoter through a combination of Midwestern insouciance, a diabolical imagination, and an instinctive understanding of the '80s ethos he sums up as "give me money because I'm fabulous, because I say so." Alig's ascent and fall is described by a pierced array of former acolytes and boyfriends, all of whom seem so damaged from the effects of heavy drugs that their testimony would probably hold little water in a court of law. …