Sex and the City. CBGB. Andy Warhol. Rent. Everyone who dreams of moving to New York City has that one rose-tinted fantasy of what they hope to find here. I had Michael Alig, the most infamous party boy in the world.
Well, not exactly. I had Macaulay Culkin in face paint, prancing below disco balls in Party Monster. The cult movie immortalized Alig's rise from suburban outcast to the city's most powerful party promoter—and his inevitable fall in 1996, after Alig and his roommate, Robert "Freez" Riggs, killed their friend and drug dealer, 25-year-old Andre "Angel" Melendez, while high on a cocktail of ketamine, heroin, Rohypnol, and crystal meth.
I discovered Party Monster as a lonely teenager halfway across the world, in Tokyo, around the time that I'd begun sneaking into local clubs. I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for in those seedy spaces, but watching Alig and his friends dancing in a van steered by a drag queen on acid, I knew that they had found it. "It doesn't matter what you look like!" declares Alig's friend James St. James in the 2003 film's most famous quote. "If you have a hunchback, just throw a little glitter on it, honey, and go dancing!" Party Monster showed me how clubs could be radical spaces where freaks become glow-in-the-dark superstars. On solo bus rides to swim practice, I sunk into the movie's soundtrack, an anachronistic collection of electroclash tracks from the likes of Vitalic, Miss Kitten, and Ladytron. I started to understand how dance music sounded like freedom.