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Party Boy in a Cage

Alig is desperate to be loved—by the skinhead, by his therapist (“Michael,” the shrink has to tell him, “you are not allowed to touch the therapist”), by me, by everyone. And this is why he is reluctant to tell me about what is perhaps the worst punishment for his crime: a pinched nerve in his back that has gone untreated by prison doctors for the past seven years and caused numbness from his groin area all the way down to his right foot. One of the results of the loss of feeling is that he has lost muscle reflexes in his bladder and sphincter. He is incontinent. His mother is constantly sending him new underwear, and he regularly has to wash his soiled sheets in the toilet in his cell. The condition is called Cauda Equina Syndrome, and, if left untreated, it can result in a permanent loss of sensation. But the thing he’s really worried about is, who will love an incontinent man in his forties? “When I ever get out of here,” he says, “I will never find a boyfriend.”

Alig was up for parole for the first time in October. “I’m thinking, Wow, this is kind of exciting. I’m thinking parole. I’m thinking home.” Then he met his parole officer. “He did not seem like the fabulous type. And he did not understand the fabulous type. And he told me that I am a little bit too fabulous. He didn’t use those words. He said, ‘Tell me, why was there so much publicity surrounding your case?’ I said, ‘Well, have you seen the movie?’ Four days later, he made a special trip to my cell, came right up to my bars, and yelled at me like a drill sergeant. ‘I saw the movie you were so interested in having me see! And you can be sure that other members of the parole board will see this movie and will know exactly what your lifestyle was!’ ”

“I’m thinking parole. I’m thinking home.” Then Alig met his parole officer. “He did not seem the fabulous type. And he did not understand the fabulous type. And he told me that I am a little bit too fabulous.”

Needless to say, Alig was denied parole. He’ll get another chance to go before the board in two years. When I ask what he wants to do when he eventually gets out, he begins by telling me about the letters he gets, sometimes more than a hundred a week, from kids all over the country who have watched the Party Monster films and read Disco Bloodbath and see Alig as some kind of dark prince. “The letters fall into two categories,” he says. “First of all, most everyone who writes me is either a gay boy or a lesbian or a 17-year-old in Iowa feeling suicidal because they, like I did, feel like they are the only one. Still! In 2006! With Will & Grace on TV! And they’re all artistic and creative. Not all gay, but all kind of weird in some way. I don’t want to say I enjoy getting those letters, but part of me feels pretty good. Then there’s another kind of letter I get that really bothers me. They’re from kids who think it’s cool what I’ve done.”

He senses the opening, the chance to show how rehabilitated he really is. “Listen, since the second after it happened, I have had a knot in my stomach that has never gone away. I think that’s what they mean when they say, ‘When you kill someone, a little part of yourself dies.’ That must be what makes humans different from animals. I’m still trying to figure it out. The time that the knot subsides a little bit is when I offer someone in here a little assistance. So what will happen when I get out, I hope, is that I will be able to convince some of these people who think that what I’ve done is cool not to go down the same path.” He looks around the room. “This is not cool. This is not fabulous.” Then he gets a naughty glint it his eye. “Maybe if I would have died during that struggle. Maybe that would have been cool.” He laughs. “But I know in my heart and soul that I have the ability to become a Larry Tee or a RuPaul, one of the successful ones who is able to lead a creative, artistic, even edgy lifestyle. You can be edgy without being self-destructive. I know that I’m smart enough to do it. I’m smart enough to do anything.”

It’s telling that those whom Alig cites as role models are gay icons who made their mark in the early nineties. Almost all of his references throughout our conversation are to people who have long since fallen off the cultural radar, though he speaks of them as if they just shared a laugh and a drink only yesterday, people like Diane Brill, Lady Miss Kier of the band Dee-Lite, and the nightclub impresario Rudolf Piper, who hasn’t operated a club in Manhattan since 1991. It’s as if he’s been preserved in pop-cultural amber for the past ten years. When Alig does return to Manhattan to try to make a new life for himself, he might be surprised to learn that the world he left behind is almost entirely gone, except perhaps for Patricia Field’s store, which just relocated to the Bowery and still sells the ass-less hot pants Alig favored in his glory days. “The scene in New York has been so drastically overhauled from when he was king of nightlife,” says Musto. “It would be hard for him to find a place in it, because it is so sanitized that even the freaks are out of central casting. There are still club kids, there are still crazy, zany people, they are still doing drugs and acting up, but it all seems very Disney movie compared to Disco 2000.”