Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato had already told the story of PARTY MONSTER, about the Club Kid murders, a few years back with their documentary of the same name. Turning it into their first feature film seemed, for them, the logical thing to do.
When I talked with them on June 28, 2003, they were being honored at the San Francsico Lesbian & Gay Film Festival with a retrospective of their work. The conversation naturally turned to their interest in documentary subjects that range from Anna Nicole, to Monica Lewinsky, to the politically incorrect surprises they found at an all-gay high school, as well as the secret of directing Club Kids and why Seth Green might be too pretty.
For some people, reality is a choice and they would rather not. Why be an office drone when you can be a star, even if it’s only for a night and in a dress made of toilet paper? This was the thinking behind the Club Kids scene and the backdrop for one of New York’s more infamous crimes, known colloquially as The Club Kids Murder.
The monster of the title is Michael Alig, who, before achieving a more mainstream fame with his criminal behavior, was the king of the club scene, organizing increasingly bizarre gatherings in New York’s gilded 80s. He’s played by Macaulay Culkin, who blithely discards his squeaky clean kid star persona with what can only be described as relish. His Alig is not just a monster of a party-planner, but a monster of self-absorption as well, with mannered self-awareness and the same angel’s face that was left home alone once too often. The metamorphosis from wide-eyed to jaded is tempered with an underlying seed of innate decadence waiting for the right soil in which to flourish and a needy personality that attracts leagues of co-dependents. Chief among them is James St. James played by Seth Green in a spectacularly over-the-top orgy of pretentious sartorial preening. St. James starts as Alig’s mentor, “He was out for revenge, that’s what I liked about him” is the way he puts it, and then watches in melodramatic angst as he becomes a footnote to his protégés legend. In that it is St. James memoir of those times, “Disco Bloodbath,” that forms the basis of the film, though, we can assume he feels the score has been evened up.
There is more to the film than simple voyeurism. Call it what you will, a morality tale, a cautionary fable, one walks away with a sense of catharsis, that, to quote Blake as the film does, the road to excess leads to the temple of wisdom. But only if you’re wise enough to see that the wisdom is that of moderation.