Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Alig: The Life and Death of the Party

Growing Up Alig

On the surface, Alig and Angel might have seemed very different. But in some ways, they were similar. Both were from a more traditional family, and both grew up as an outsider, gay in a straight world. Alig was born in South Bend, Ind., a small, stifling town to a boy with outlandish dreams and even more outlandish taste.

Elke Blair (Mom Alig) left and Michael Alig
Elke Blair (Mom Alig) left and
Michael Alig

His mother Elke was from Germany, and had given birth to Michael after moving to the States. As a boy, he had less-than-typical taste: He loved I Love Lucy and Dark Shadows, a vampire show. He liked to dress in women's clothes — with the encouragement of Elke. Still, Elke was somewhat strict — fearful that Michael would ruin her faux European furniture, she confined him to play in a small part of the house.

Alig demonstrated his business acumen and showmanship early on. He was known as the Candy Man in junior high and would take the big boxes of candy he bought in bulk and sell them off piecemeal to his classmates. In school, he showed a keen interest in status and celebrity, concocting gossipy stories for the school paper.

Like many gay teens, Alig was tormented by school bullies throughout high school. An A-student, he still managed to graduate within the top eight percent of his class and applied to Fordham University in New York, later switching to the Fashion Institute of Technology, but he never graduated from either as the lure of the downtown party scene swiftly eclipsed his studies.

Instead, he gave himself a nightlife education. He swept the floors of Danceteria and pressed Rudolph Piper, then the city's biggest nightlife impresario, to let him throw parties. Rudolph finally assented and gave Alig a basement room in the Tunnel. From this, the Filthy Mouth party was born. The rest, as they say, is history.

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