Last time I was in New York I was struck by the huge difference in the city from my first visit in 1990. Back then it had an edge: crime and violence, buildings that were rundown or abandoned, rats and garbage on the streets, and hundreds of homeless people. But it was also a creative city with a palpable sense of energy and a thriving arts and music scene on the Lower East Side. Today it feels like a Disney version of New York, sanitised and gleaming, and filled with hedge fund managers and wannabe Carrie Bradshaws. The soul has been sucked out of it and all the artists are gone.
Glory Daze looks at this change in the city through the lens of the Club Kids, in particular Michael Alig. Alig is familiar to some people as being the subject of a documentary, feature film and book, all called Party Monster. He was the king of downtown clubbing, a promoter who turned everything he touched to gold and who seemed invincible until he was accused of murder.
Alig was involved in an altercation with his drug dealer Angel Melendez, and he and a friend, Robert ‘Freeze’ Riggs, smashed Angel’s skull with a hammer, injected him with Drano and left him sitting in the bathroom of their apartment for ten days, while they continued partying. Eventually the body started to smell so they cut it in two and disposed of it by throwing it in the Hudson River. Alig spent seventeen years in jail for the crime and was released in May 2014.
The documentary looks at Alig’s journey from misfit outcast in small town America to King of the Club Kids, a phenomenon he largely created and managed. The Club Kids were the successor to Andy Warhol’s superstars, famous for their outrageous outfits, hedonistic lifestyle and prodigious drug consumption. They were featured on talk shows and magazines and some of them became well-known, like RuPaul, Chloe Sevigny, Amanda Lepore, and Kabuki.
Many of these people are interviewed and Alig himself is interviewed extensively. He comes across as a superficially charming man, not genius-like as some people think, but someone who found himself in the right place at the right time to best utilise his talent. Glory Daze is an interesting film, a snapshot of a time that will probably never be repeated. As one of the interviewees said, ‘there is no chaos in Manhattan anymore’. It’s true and New York is all the poorer for it.