NYC Club Kids
New York City was a fantastic place in the early ’90s. Brimming with talent, looks and excitement, the club scene unleashed an avalanche of party monsters who were more than eager to do their mash. Some media pundit called them “a world of disorientation, drug-induced euphoria and glamour beyond belief”. Those carefree pre-Giuliani days proved to be unprecedented and they still have yet to be bettered.
A new crop of club kids and freaks suddenly set about throwing their weight around Manhattan’s clubs and outlaw parties, not to mention the fun-packed annual Wigstock festival. They went out of their way to show off, shock and horrify the masses with their twisted imagination. The outfits they worked weren’t just outrageous, they were purposely meant to disturb. As John Waters lovingly observed, “freaks should scare families, not make them feel good about themselves”. However, if those kids were bent on shattering America’s whiter-than-white conventions, they also secretly longed to embrace them in order to become rich and famous as quickly as possible.
At the helm, a fearless novice from South Bend, Indiana, soon realised that the city’s dancefloors were paved with gold while he had a job emptying ashtrays at The Danceteria. His name was Michael Alig and he wasted no time securing financial support from coke-head Peter Gatien, The Limelight’s eye-patched owner. That allowed him to promote innovative club nights and several outlaw parties in and around the Village. He had remarkable pulling power and never ran short of ideas. He loved creating cartoon characters for his entourage to play with, the likes of Clara the Carefree Chicken, the Drug Child (acted hilariously by James St James), Ulrich the Dog, IC the Bear, etc. He undoubtedly brought much-needed new blood to an anaemic scene and enabled it to thrive again.
However, curtains came down in the spring of 1996, complete with foul play, when the astronomical amount of drugs that Alig consumed finally got to his head. One night, a drug-related argument resulted in the well-documented gruesome murder of his dealer Angel Menendez. Michael got arrested and locked up for 17 years.
That truly marked the end of an era as New York’s clubland sadly never saw lip-gloss quite so shimmering again. And if that momentous era paved the way to what is happening today, a fully-fledged renaissance is still well overdue.
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