On December 25, 2020, notorious New York City “Club Kid” Michael Alig died of an accidental heroin overdose. He was 54 years old. After spending approximately seventeen years behind bars, Alig was paroled on May 5, 2014, but what the notorious murderer did in the six years between his release from prison and his death remains a subject of interest.
Alig spent the greater part of the late 1980s and early 1990s in the spotlight, and following his release from prison, when the initial buzz of press died down, he talked up a lot of plans for a big return to the party scene, but nothing ever panned out. With one of the 20th century’s most notorious killers now deceased, we’re looking back on what kind of life he led before and after his prison stint.
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Alig was born in South Bend, Indiana on April 29, 1966. As a gay man, Alig was bullied for his sexuality as a teenager. Looking for a way out of his conservative hometown, he moved to New York City and enrolled in college before dropping out to invest his creativity in the city’s nightlife as a club promoter. His parties drew in major crowds, and he soon cultivated a coveted status as ringleader of the “Club Kids.” This group of dance club personalities influenced fashion and youth culture, making frequent appearances on daytime talk shows at the height of their popularity.
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While the Club Kids appeared to solely concern themselves with having a fun time, it all came crashing down when an argument over a long-standing drug debt turned violent. On the night of March 17, 1996, Michael Alig and his roommate Robert D. "Freeze" Riggs murdered Andre “Angel” Melendez in Alig’s apartment. Afterwards, Alig dismembered his former friend, and the two accomplices disposed of Melendez’s body in the Hudson River.
When Melendez’s body was discovered months later by children playing along the coast of Staten Island, Alig fled New York and Riggs confessed to police. Both men accepted a plea deal in which they pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and received a sentence of ten to twenty years in prison apiece.
Alig’s newfound status as a killer coupled with his time as a Club Kid made for a fascinating true story. In 1999, Alig's close friend, and fellow Club Kid, James St. James, published a memoir about his time with Alig called Party Monster: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland. In 2003 the book was made into a film with the same name. Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, the movie immortalizes Alig’s rise and fall in the New York City club scene, with Macauley Culkin in the starring role, and Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) portraying James St. James.
Alig first became eligible for parole in 2006, but he wasn't given it until 2014. His release from prison came with several restrictions. Alig returned to New York City, where he had to undergo drug and anger management counseling, job readiness training, and abide by a strict 8 p.m. curfew.
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However, Michael Alig didn’t want to leave the spotlight forever, no matter how restrictive his parole was. In the months following his release, he took numerous interviews, expressed interest in creating a reality show that would follow his life after prison, pursued a journalism career, and tried to sell the rights to his memoir. Alig even joined Ernie Glam—a Club Kid from his past—in creating the YouTube channel Peeew! For the newly freed Alig, 2014 was a very busy year, and yet, still, things didn't have quite the same shimmer as they once did for the attention seeking ex-con.
From mid-2015 until early 2017, things got even darker for Alig. He became rather reclusive, and dropped nearly every project he’d been working on. When he resurfaced in the public eye, it was for another arrest. This time the charge was smoking crystal meth in a closed park at 1:30 in the morning on February 2, 2017. Alig was arrested and pleaded guilty to trespassing in exchange for a conditional discharge. Before this arrest, he'd claimed to have been sober.
Alig didn’t disappear entirely, as he continued his comedy YouTube channel and marketed it on his Twitter account (@Alig_Aligula). If you were to scroll through his profile, you would notice just how integral his years as a Club Kid were to his identity. He shared posters and photographs from this era in pop culture and even featured contemporary reinventions of this imagery, such as FKA Twigs’s 2018 issue of her Instagram zine AVANTgarden.
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As the years and months went on, Alig started to drift away from the account, which was one of the only outlets where fans, true crime researchers, and other curious parties could get a peek into Alig’s current daily life. Once items from his estate went up for auction on eBay in early 2020, people became suspicious that something was amiss. As Alig’s personal effects went public, he himself withdrew further and further.
On Christmas Day 2020, Alig’s ex-boyfriend discovered his lifeless body in their Manhattan apartment. He died of an accidental heroin overdose. The Party Monster Killer who helped create the Club Kid scene in the 1990s was officially gone, but his impact on New York City nightlife remains a fixture of the city’s history.
At the height of his party lifestyle, Michael Alig craved being in the spotlight—at one point even suggesting that murdering Angel Melendez was a drastic attempt at seeking attention. But by the end of his life, instead of learning whatever lessons were to be learned from his murderous ordeal and ultimate imprisonment, he was unable to shake the demons that inflicted him, namely, addiction, which shut the party down for Alig once and for all on Christmas Day, the most glittery day of the year.
Featured photo: Murderpedia