As that special day of overpriced flower deliveries and recursions to childhood guilt known as Mother's Day approaches, we're reminded that there's nothing quite like a mother's love for her son. Even (or maybe especially), if that son is Michael Alig, the most notorious professional party boy in the world. Alig was released on Monday after serving his sentence for the 1996 murder of fellow club kid Andre "Angel" Melendez. Alig confessed to murdering Melendez then systematically dismembering his corpse while doped up on ten bags of heroin, and dumping the body into the Hudson River.
During Michael's seventeen-year sentence, he never stopped calling and writing letters to his biggest champion—his mother, Elke Blair. "I have over 1,200 letters from him. I've saved them all in folders," Elke tells THUMP. "Of course he called me when he got out. I'm overjoyed. I'm glad he's safe now, and we don't have to worry about… other inmates."
The tale of Alig's brazen murder of Angel became the disco version of Crime and Punishment, with the media turning Michael into a symbol of the lurid, drugged-out excess that had taken over the once-refreshingly lighthearted club scene. Though his release has stirred a maelstrom of chatter on the internet along with odes to his grandeur by friends and supporters on social media, Alig's future is uncertain. The man who transformed New York City nightlife into a Boschian fantasyland in the 90s, lording over legions of costumed club kids for nearly a decade returns to a city and a scene that is somewhat unrecognizable.
However, when Ms. Blair is asked about her son's prospects, the German-born matriarch's heavily-accented voice shows no trace of anxiety. "He's a very intelligent and unique person, and he's got many job offers," she says.
For now, what Alig is looking forward to most has less to do with his career, and more to do with his flavor-deprived tastebuds. "He was so excited for his first night out. He said, 'Oh my god I can't believe I ate real food. It was so good.'"
Elke Blair and Michael Alig surrounded by club kids
During his heyday, Michael never hesitated to indoctrinate his mother into the codes of his outlandish lifestyle. He dressed her up at Patricia Field, the club kid-loved boutique owned by the designer of the same name who specialized in things like leather assless chaps. Alig would adorn his mother with neon lipstick and nail polish that would be visible under black light on the dancefloor.
"The first time I realized how famous Michael had become was in 1988 at my birthday party at the Tunnel," Blair told the New York Daily News in 1997, referring to the iconic Manhattan nightclub. "Five limos came to pick us up. A doorman with white gloves held an umbrella for me."
Once they arrived at the club, Michael led his mother by the hand to the dance floor where a seven-foot cake awaited. Supposedly, he even popped her an extra birthday treat—a hit of ecstasy to "take away her headache."
When Elizabeth Taylor was unavailable to escort Malcolm Forbes on one of his nights out, Michael Alig reportedly told him, "my mom will have to do."
Now, it seems like Elke will be the one teaching Michael the ways of the world, steering him up the learning curve as he adapts to technologies like smartphones and computers. "Michael said the cutest things to me on the phone. He said, 'This little black computer machine, it has all this information! How does it do that?'" Elke said, gently laughing. (Despite his befuddlement at iPhones, Alig seems to have already nailed the art of selfies.)
Upon his release, Michael tweeted, "Who needs coke when u can get a caffeine jolt from a Starbucks double espresso? #drugfree"
Blair's tone of amusement quickly turned sour when asked whether she felt if her son has paid for his grisly crime. Amid the flurry of interest surrounding Michael's release, there are many who believe he should still be behind bars rather than cavorting around Manhattan with his friends. Her voice became thin and strained. "We felt justice was served when Robert Riggs [aka club kid "Freeze," who was also found guilty of Angel's death] was released four years ago. He was the one who hit Angel with a hammer! Why did [Michael] have to stay so long?"
Blair believes that Michael was twice denied parole due to his high-profile and because "they wanted to make an example out of him." She pauses to collect herself. "We've put that behind us. He's paid his dues and is starting his new life."
According to Blair, nearly two decades in prison has forced Michael to grow up. He's matured a lot, she says, and has become more concerned with her life. "He's more interested in what illnesses I have, and what the doctors are doing about it."
What about that other son, Angel Melendez, who never had the chance to mature into a fully-fledged adult? Blair says neither she nor her son have had any contact with the Melendez family, and Blair can barely bring herself to speak about it. "I feel awful. I feel so sorry for his family. I can't imagine…." The phone goes silent for a full minute, and the enormity of what happened that spring day in 1996 weighs on this pause heavier than any words that could have. "As a mom, losing a child is the worst thing that can happen. I cant imagine not hearing him on the phone saying, 'Hey mom! What's going on?'"