Notorious Club Kid killer Michael Alig, once played by Macaulay Culkin, dies of ‘heroin overdose’ on Christmas morning

Michael Alig in a printed blue shirt against a white background

Michael Alig, the magnetic former king of the club kids who was once played by Macaulay Culkin, was found dead Friday morning (25 December) of an apparent heroin overdose, police said.

Some 23 years after he pleaded guilty to killing Andre Melendez, a fellow club kid known as Angel, in a heroin-doused stupor in 1996, cutting up the body and chucking it into the Hudson River, Alig was found dead by his ex-boyfriend.

The 54-year-old was discovered just before 3am, authorities said according to the New York Daily News, in his Washington Heights, New York City, apartment. Investigators believe his death may have occurred 24 December.

A New York City Police Department source told the newspaper that his former partner “was there and saw him unconscious and called 911. [Alig] was on his side.”

Detectives found a tossed salad of drug paraphernalia as well as zip-lock plastic bags allegedly containing heroin, they said. He had moved to the upper Manhattan apartment on West 159th St six months ago.

Michael Alig, a smalltown gay kid who became New York City’s gangly club kingpin

Alig sought to position himself in the 1990s as the reigning club promoter of Manhattan, staging some of the most sought-after parties and assembling a ragtag team of outlandishly dressed followers known as the club kids.

The Limelight, a former church on West 20th Street, became almost a place of worship for the clubgoers. But the scene was mangled in 1997 when Alig was convicted on one count of first-degree manslaughter.

It followed the nine-month-long disappearance of Melendez. The abrupt vanishing act of the feather-winged club kid fixture, just 25, tore through the city’s downtown until his body washed up on Staten Island in 1996.

Melendez’s death, and its grisly details, sent shudders throughout Manhattan, casting a man who grew up in the small town of South Bend, Indiana, in a sinister light. He spent 14 years behind bars and was released in 2014.

Alig arrived in New York in 1984 to attend Fordham University, but swinging by a party thrown by a friend’s partner placed him on the path to become the flamboyant man for whom clubgoers would orbit almost religiously.

Michael Alig with blue hair and wearing sunglasses blows out the birthday candles of a cake

Michael Alig is seen during his birthday celebration at Drop Off Service on April 30, 2019 in New York City. (Chance Yeh/Getty Images)

Carving out a career as a magnet for beautiful people, he ensured that even honky-tonks would draw the glitterati after he lined up the music and set the outrageous theme.

“[I was] a misfit from the Midwest who came to New York City in search of acceptance, opportunity and a whole lot of fun,” he recalled to The New York Post in 2014.

“As a gay teen coming to terms with my sexuality, I was overwhelmed and exhilarated. It was liberating.”

“Talk about being in the right place at the time. While the rest of the country was entrenched in depressing Reaganomics and [the anti-drug campaign] ‘Just say no,’ downtown New York nightlife was having a moment.”

Dropping out of school, Alig went onto party among Grace Jones and have an entire movie based on his life made – the 2003 Party Monster – where he was played by Culkin. He was, to the club kids who followed him, the centre of the world.

After Melendez’s disappearance, however, there wasn’t much to party about. As details of his brutal murder surfaced, it emerged that Alig throttled Melendez with a hammer and poured detergent down his throat before wrapping it with duct tape.

Alig, alongside friend Robert Higgs prosecutors at the time said, cut off the victim’s arms and legs before disposing of the body.