Image credit: Michael Fazakerley
The grubby New York club scene in the late 80s and 90s was the playground for a group of rebels and misfits who didn’t fit into the cultural norm. Sleeping all day, partying all night, the flamboyant troupe were led by promoter/personality Michael Alig, the King of the Club Kids. As the nights got wilder, the parties more debauched and the drug taking spiralled out of control, Michael took the life of his dealer boyfriend Angel Melendez and in a drug fuelled haze, disposed of the body in the grizzliest way imaginable.
With a wealth of talking heads including original, night club impresarios, designers and artists, Glory Daze paints a vivid picture of the rich melting pot of the New York club scene in which this vibrant and exotic LGBTQ culture could incubate. Director Ramon Fernandez adeptly reveals the historical, social and cultural factors that led to the Club Kids subculture, while comprehensively documenting the art, fashion and mind-set these creatives as the scene exploded.
The overriding issue with such a vast array of interview subjects is the problem of repetition. The sheer number of personalities and opinions involved leads to an embarrassment of riches where similar voices chime in and echo one another over the course of this 135-minute runtime. Although it seems silly to talk about excess when discussing a documentary based on the Club Kids, a degree of discipline in the edit could have told the exact same story without the recapitulation.
This is most certainly a documentary of two parts, the first involving the rise of New York’s reinvigorated club scene and Michael Alig’s gift as a promoter, while the second covers the gruesome murder of Angel Melendez, Alig’s subsequent seventeen year incarceration and the aftermath following his release in 2014. The crime itself is covered from a variety of angles. From here say and conjecture to Alig’s own blurred recounting of the events; the interviews with Alig are handled respectfully and from a neutral perspective with no opportunistic dramatization or exploitation.
We see Michael re-enter society from a fresh perspective. Having paid his debt to society within the definitions of the law, he emerges in a world of smartphones, social media and must learn to adjust to an altogether alien New York that is wholly reformed from the seedy playground he once knew. Perhaps the interesting aspect of this entire feature is Alig’s re-integration into a world that is more accepting of homosexuality, his welcome return by those who love him dearly and the varied ways in which the public considers him.
For somebody who has followed Alig’s story or has a bent for documentaries on subculture booms and crashes there is a great deal of gold here to mine. Whatever your viewpoint on Michael Alig, Glory Daze celebrates the cultural excitement and striking characters that grew from the murky depths of a bygone era and gives a fascinating insight into where that evolution led.
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