Michael Alig: I Spent a Lot of Time in Solitary Confinement

Artist and Party Promoter

Photo Credit: Shefik

Michael Alig is an artist and party promoter, who served almost 17 years in prison for manslaughter. He was a co-founder and ringleader of the Club Kids, a group of New York City clubgoers that became a cultural phenomenon during the 1980s and 1990s.

Hi, I'm Michael Alig and I'm an artist and party promoter. You know, resilience is something that, I think it's probably one of my strongest qualities and it's the one that I noticed the least until I came home recently from prison and realized that I was able to somehow make it through 17 years of, you know, prison in sort of one piece. People are always telling me that, you know, I have courage or that I'm courageous. You know, what courage it took to get through. I really didn't see it as courage getting through because it was sort of like I have no choice. It was like saying somebody is courageous for jumping out of a second story window when the house is on fire. You kind of just do what you have to do. And so I saw it more as resilience. I was just able to make it through that time without, I guess, killing myself or without, I'm going crazy. But, you know, I developed-- I spent a lot of the time in solitary confinement and I developed little games to keep my brain occupied, I guess. And so everyday I would pick a different topic and then I would just think about that topic until there was no more to think about. And I remember one day I thought about the happiest day of my life, which was weirdly enough it was when I was living in the Bronx with Keoki and we didn't have any money and we couldn't afford to pay the rent and we didn't know where our next meal was gonna come from, but we had something to aspire to and we knew that Downtown Manhattan was calling us and we were going to be something. And it gave us something to look forward to and that was all we really needed. The most depressing day of my life, ironically, was when I think I had the most money. And I was living in a loft in Chelsea and I had come home from a party with, I think, Boy George and it was at a gigantic club and then there was a smaller party at an after hour club and then a smaller party at a hotel, and eventually it was just me and some other person. I remember coming home and stopping at the local deli and seeing a magazine that said, "Are you still in love with your high school sweetheart?" And I had taken so much cocaine and rohypnol, and Special K, and heroin that I was feeling kind of loopy and I thought, "You know, I am still in love with my high school sweetheart and I'm going to go ahead, and I'm going to call him, and I'm gonna tell him that he should move to New York and I've got a lot of money and I can afford to support him." And I went inside and I tried to call him and I hadn't spoken to him for 20 years. He hung up on me and told me never to call back again. And it was really terrible. I was just in a terrible frame of mind. And at that point I realized that I was getting dope sick because I hadn't had any heroin in a long time. I was so tired from being awake and from taking all those downers that I couldn't muster up the strength to go get anymore heroin unless I had some cocaine to get me there. Just the ridiculousness and the depressing-ness of the whole situation really hit me at that point and I thought, "What am I doing to myself?" Why is this happening? Why am I doing this to myself? I guess it was because I had the financial means to do so.

Last Updated: September 26, 2021

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