Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig (2016)
Directed by Ramon Fernandez
In the early 1990s a skinny gay kid from South Bend made his way to New York City, where he hoped to be accepted into the city’s much more prominent gay community. But Michael Alig had no clue that his charismatic persona would lead to the creation of a new wave of night life in the city. After the death of pop artist Andy Warhol left a gaping hole in the club scene, and to the chagrin of the older, more established club-goers, Alig’s creative genius helped him break into the alt underground night scene in a big way. He created the Club Kids, a posse of wacky-dressing partiers who became a cultural phenomenon, landing on the cover of magazines and on MTV. But soon, drugs made their way into Alig’s club, called Limelight. And with them came drug dealers, hoping to cash in on the club’s popularity. And once Alig got involved in that, it began a slippery slope that led to a 20-year prison sentence for manslaughter that changed Alig’s life and put a sudden end to New York’s unbeatable night life.
“Glory Daze” seems sadly undercooked, unready to be presented to the world. Not necessarily the content—that, at least, is quickly paced and engrossing, especially for someone without much knowledge of Alig’s story—but definitely the production value. Interviews are conducted in a number of places, all with varying degrees of video and audio quality. Some are extremely professional, well-staged, and easy to understand. Others were clearly produced with much less money. But the people interviewed—from family members to Club Kids to promoters to detectives—all have things worth contributing. The film lays out, comprehensively, an oral history of Alig’s life from his arrival in New York City to his reentry after a 17-year prison term. It provides context, showing photographs and videos of Alig’s wild Gatsby-on-drugs type parties. One Club Kid interviewed said “my drug of choice was ‘more.’” That gives you a perspective of the world Michael Alig lived in. “Glory Daze”—much like the similarly titled Bruce Springsteen song—is a nostalgic elegy. 50-year-old interviewees reflect warmly on their club days, sad that Mayor Guiliani’s war on drugs and his “Quality of Life” program swiftly brought an end to the fun nights they used to have. “Glory Daze” takes a strong anti-drug stance, but also regrets the sad truth that huge nightclubs are no longer a New York attraction. But toward the end, this documentary veers off track, retreads topics they had talked about earlier, and makes you feel all of its 150 minutes. Like the Club Kid parties, “Glory Daze” stopped being fun after a certain point. But for the uninformed, “Glory Daze” unfolds a new and fascinating story for your consumption.