Remembering The Early Days of The Michael Alig Crime Coverage
I'm no Woodward or Bernstein, but I was at the forefront of getting out the buzz on the famed club kid slaying when word started percolating in 1996.
I had chronicled Michael Alig's rise and fall from day one. I was the first one to write about him and was involved in many of his events, celebrating what was exciting about the scene while also acting as an elder statesman and critic who chided him when he went too far, which was often.
And he had started to go so far over the top that I'd decided to stop writing about him. There was no fun around him anymore--just caked-on makeup, drugs, and desperation.
But suddenly he was newsworthy again.
The first week of April 1996, Alig called me to say he'd been fired by Peter Gatien, owner of Limelight, where Alig threw his outrageous and colorful club kid bashes for years.
Alig sounded jittery and messy--really on the edge--and was giving various suspect reasons for his firing.
My column about our conversation came out on April 10, 1996, with a big photo of Alig and Gatien.
I quoted Alig saying of Gatien and company, "They pretended that they cared about me and sent me to rehab. When I came back, the firing and padlocking had happened!"
He made himself the victim.
I also quoted a clubbie saying Michael had actually escaped from rehab and needed a lot more help.
I mentioned the talk that someone close to Alig had disappeared, and there was chatter about who did what. At that point, it was just talk, and hadn't reached the deafening levels it was growing towards, but this was the first public attention to the buzz about a missing person.
Two weeks later, Alig admitted to New York magazine that he had a money fight with drug dealer/clubbie Angel Melendez and knew about the detached body part rumors (which he was evasive about).
In our issue that week, I ran my famed April 23 blind item ("Night Clubbing"), which the lawyer made even blinder, though I snuck in some extra clues.
The item detailed the buzz about Alig and Freeze's destruction of Angel Melendez--the fight over drug money, the hammer, the Drano, and the disposal into the river--while including the obligatory evasive reaction from "Mr. Mess."
It raised a ruckus, especially since anyone insidery and/or who reads was able to figure who it was about.
Page Six certainly got it. They ran an April 27 lead item that picked up the New York piece and my item, and that really put it over the top. It was huge.
The Page Six story, titled "Mystery of the Missing Club Kid," put together all the current reporting while quoting Gatien's publicist shamelessly claiming that this was all scuttlebutt that had gotten ridiculously out of hand.
Meanwhile, a reporter who had viciously implied in my own paper that I was old and out of it didn't know about any of this at this point. Waiting by the elevator several days after the Page Six item, I mentioned the Alig thing to him and he replied "WHAAAAAAAAAT?" It pained me to have to save his ass and tell him everything! This, you'll recall, was the guy who'd called me too pathetic to know what's happening in nightlife.
And after writing a cover story in which he nicely credited me for breaking the details of the story, he went on to try to get producers to bump me from coverage of the whole mess. ("Why are you using him? It's my story!!!!")
Even though I was part of the club kid scene from day one--and again, had handed him the story, despite my reluctance to talk to him at all.
(Also, what he'd called me irrelevant for saying--that clubs were becoming too loungey--was something he ended up screeching again and again. That's a complicated story, so I'll have more on that later.)
Several times I felt forced to fight back and almost sink to an icky level. But I'll say this: At least he did delve into the story and investigate, so kudos to that. As I said, I'm no investigative reporter--though over 16 years later, I was still winning awards for Best NYC Nightlife Writer.
Anyway, from there, the story grew and grew--and horrifyingly enough turned out to be true, true, true.
When Alig gets out of jail, I will be on top of that too.