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  • Writer's pictureMacabre Emporium Pod

Episode 36 - The Club Kids Murder and Mail by Missile

Sarah:

The Club Kids Murder


Michael Alig, Club Kids murderer
Michael Alig, the Club Kids murderer

The 1980’s was filled with pop culture. Some of the greatest movies to ever exist came from this time (John Hughes, anyone?), some of the absolute BEST music came from this time. The clothing was often bright and colorful - usually neon - unless you were in the punk scene, which is what today's world calls goth, so you know, black everything from your hair to your makeup to your fishnets and your Doc Martens. The fashion wasn’t always fashionable, however, it became a fad. And let’s not forget the jelly bracelets and bangles! The ladies AND men of the 80’s rocked hair bigger than a mushroom cloud, and probably ruined a layer or two of the ozone with all of the Aquanet used to hold their do’s in place. Technology was advancing and out come MTV, which is still a thing today - but not even remotely the same as the MTV back then, as in the 80s it was nothing but music videos…now it’s just trash reality-TV shows and zero music.


The 80’s was a time of fun and entertainment. The teenagers and those in their 20’s found a sense of freedom in the music and clubs that popped up. Dancing and music became a way of life. You find your niche, you’ve found your people. That’s what they did, and that's when the Club Kids gathered.


The Beginning

One of the most famous Club Kids to exist was an artist and American club promoter by the name of Michael Alig. Michael was born in South Bend, Indiana on April 29, 1966. He attended Penn High School and got straight-A's during his high school career. When Michael became a teenager, he was constantly bullied after he came out as gay. So once Michael graduated in 1984, he chose to move somewhere less conservative when it came down to how you lived your life. He chose to move to New York City and attend Fordham University to study architecture. After some time, he chose to transfer to the Fashion Institute of Technology. This is where he met the boyfriend of artist Keith Haring. He would show Michael what New York City nightlife was all about. And with that, Michael knew where he wanted his life to go. He dropped out of school to work at a nightclub called Danceteria as a busboy.


Club Kids

As Michael worked at Danceteria, he also studied the business side of nightclubs and soon thereafter took the job as a party promoter. He had a real knack for thinking up and creating some of the most over the top parties in the scene, which sent his name skyrocketing in the club world.


Michael and his regular clubbers started to present some quite flamboyant personas, which later got them the nickname of “Club Kids”. The clothing they wore was more costume-like than clothing. Former Club Kid, James St. James described the Club Kids as “part drag, part clown, part infantilism.” The Club Kids was just a group of different people with huge dance club personalities. As you can imagine, drugs were a huge factor within the club scene. Ketamine (Special K), Heroin, Cocaine, Ecstacy and Rohypnol - which is a ‘roofie’ the date rape drug.


Michael was the ringleader of this area's Club Kids. Some of the names that were created for some of the participants were Jennytalia, Dan Dan the Naked Man, RuPaul (yes, that RuPaul), Astro Erle, Superstar DJ Keoki, Lady Bunny, Andre “Angel” Melendez,, Richie Rich, Walt Paper, Robert “Freeze” Riggs, Charlie “Dash” Prestano, Desi Monster and Amanda Lepore.


The Club Kids started in the backrooms of small clubs, and then blossomed to be front and center wherever they were. They had been known to throw outlaw parties, where they would hijack a McDonald’s, Burger King or Dunkin Donuts. They would show up with a boombox and blast their music, starting wild dance parties, before police were called and they were eventually cleared out. At one point this large group of Club Kids were touring the US throwing parties and certifying that area and the people there as a chapter of the Club Kids.


They appeared on numerous talk shows such as The Phil Donahue Show, Geraldo and The Joan Rivers Show. Many of the celebrities we know today were in some way linked to the Club Kids. The most famous drag queen - RuPaul, Singer Bjork, actress Chloe Sevigny were just some of the celebrities that were enticed by the Club Kids scene.


In 1988 Michael had been hired by Peter Gatien who was the owner of a club called The Limelight. Working for Peter, Michael was able to throw some of the best parties at Peter’s other clubs like Club USA, Tunnel and the Palladium.


Damn near every one of Michael’s parties became infamous due to his own bad behavior. He would often throw $100 bills into the crowd to watch people fight over them. He would piss on patrons and/or piss in their drinks. He would also stage dive and knock others to the ground for no reason other than to just do it.


As Michael Alig became more prominent and gained the high popularity that he did, his drug habit skyrocketed, just like his name had. He was arrested numerous times for drug related offenses before he ultimately put himself into rehab. Which didn’t do much good, since he just continued using. Peter Gatien, Michael’s boss, had actually sent him to rehab in 1995, and Michael claimed after he finished his time there, that Peter fired him.


It came out later on that Michael had a personality disorder called histrionic personality disorder, so some of the weird shit he did made sense. With this condition, it caused high levels of attention seeking behavior. Michael is quoted as saying “The doctor said I was the most extreme case he’d ever seen. Everything has to be completely over the top and exaggerated. It worked well for my job - I was a promoter.”


Angel

One of the Club Kids most notable regulars was Andre “Angel” Melendez. He worked at The Limelight where Michael Alig had been hired to work by Peter Gatien. He was the resident drug dealer, and used The Limelight as his home base for drug deals. Peter Gatien knew this was happening, and seemingly allowed it. The Limelight was closed for investigation by federal agents once they found out that Peter was allowing the drugs to be sold and distributed there. Angel was immediately fired, for something he was allowed to do in the first place.


Not long after that, Angel moved in with Michael at his Riverbank West apartment. On March 17, 1996, Michael and his other roommate, Robert “Freeze” Riggs, killed Angel after an argument and a physical fight. One of those things was a long-standing drug debt. Michael said numerous times that he was too high on drugs to remember what happened, and that the events of the murder were still unclear to him. But what became clear was how Angel died. During the physical fight between Michael and Angel, Michael cried out for help. In comes Robert with a hammer, where he hits Angel 3 times in the head with it. After that, Michael grabbed either a sweatshirt or a pillow - the story on that varies, and smother Angel with it. He then poured a chemical into his mouth and duct taped it shut.


The two men then took all of Angel’s clothing off, and placed him in a bathtub full of ice. His body laid there for almost a week. According to Robert, the two then purchased a cleaver and 2 chef’s knives at a local Macy’s. With those kitchen items, Michael dismembered Angel’s legs before wrapping them in separate garbage bags, putting each one in its own duffle bag, and dumping them into the Hudson River.


The day after the men dumped Angel’s legs into the river, they wrapped the upper body in a plastic bag and sheet. They shoved it into a cardboard box big enough. They made sure to remove anything that could link back to them…including the UPC code. Together, the men walked the heavy box down to the elevator, rode down, and walked it through the main lobby. They then placed it in the trunk of a Yellow Cab that was sitting just outside of the apartment complex. Robert confessed that “we took the body to the Westside Highway around 25th Street. The taxi drove off, and we threw the box into the river.”


Michael gave his side of the story, which gave different details that Robert’s side had. Michael stated that he used liquid Drano and baking soda to get rid of the smell of the decomposition that had taken place during Angel’s week in the bathtub. Michael initially claimed that he killed Angel in self defense, but later on admitted to committing manslaughter.


Angel’s father and brother went to the press for help on the whereabouts of their missing loved one. On September 8th in 1996, a homeless woman simply walking by the Harlem River, discovered a dismembered body. It was pulled from the water and identified as a John Doe. The Staten Island Police Department had to use dental records to try and figure out who this person was. The coroner had misidentified the person as being an Asian male. But on November 2, 1996, the mutilated partial corpse was identified correctly by dental records as being that of Andre “Angel” Melendez. With this discovery, the details of his death came out. There are also some articles that say it was not a homeless woman that found the body, but children playing in the river found the box that contained the torso of Angel. It’s a fairly even split on that particular detail so I’m not certain one way or the other.


Now Michael knew he fucked up, and he fled before the authorities could get to him. He took off to Toms River, New Jersey. There, he moved into a motel room with his boyfriend of the time, who was a drug dealer named Brian. However, the law caught up with him, and on December 5th, 1996, Michael was caught and arrested at the motel. Hours after Michael’s arrest, Robert was arrested in Manhattan.


Michael kept claiming and he and Robert killed Angel in self-defense, and hacked up the body, wrapped it all up, and discarded it in the river “out of panic.”


Robert confessed to the authorities by stating:

“On a Sunday in March of 1996 I was at home…and Michael Alig and Angel Melendez were loudly arguing…and getting louder. I opened the room and started towards the other bedroom…at which point Michael Alig was yelling, “Help me!” “Get him off of me”. Angel started shaking him violently and banging him against the wall. He was yelling “You better get my money or I’ll break your neck”...I grabbed the hammer…and hit Angel over the head.”

He confessed to hitting Angel in the head 3 times with the hammer as well. He then went on to describe what Michael had done with the chemicals in the mouth as well as the smothering.


Prosecutors were wary of charging Michael with first-degree murder because they were hoping he would testify against his former boss, Peter Gatien, for allowing the drugs to be sold in his establishments. They felt if they worked with him on his plea, that he may be inclined to help them with Peter. But alas, both Michael and Robert were offered plea deals, sentences from 10-20 years, but only if they plead guilty to manslaughter, which is a lesser charge. They both did just that on October 1, 1997, they plead guilty and earned themselves 10-20 years in prison.


Prison Stay

Michael’s incarceration led him to be transferred from prison to prison within the New York State prison system. He also did some time in the psychiatric ward at Rikers Island. In 2000, he was placed in solitary confinement after being caught using heroin at the Southport Correctional Facility. He remained there for two and a half years beyond that after he kept failing drug tests.


Michael was eligible for parole in 2006. November 2006 was his first parole request, which was denied - and Michael claims it is because the officers had watched the movie Party Monster, starring Macaulay Culkin who played the role of Michael Alig. He was denied again in July of 2008 due to numerous failed drug tests. In March of 2009, Michael decided he would finally quit using, and stated he had been sober since then.


Living the Free Life

Michael was granted parole on May 5, 2014. The conditions of his parole was that he was to return to New York City. He had to adhere to an 8pm curfew, random drug tests, anger management counseling as well as job readiness training.


Once back home, many of the original Club Kids came by to offer Michael aid, or help him get set up back into society and real life.


At the end of 2014, Michael had attempted to make a career out of pop music, and released an EP called What’s In. That didn’t take him very far, so he turned to literal art, and in June of 2015, Michael held his one and only art show in three different art galleries at the same time. The invitations were handmade and only contained the address of where they were invited to.


Though all of the careers he tried to set for himself, he always returned back to his Club Kids days roots. On February 2nd, 2017, Michael was arrested again for trespassing in Joyce Kilmer Park to smoke crystal meth at 1:30am. He was brought in to the station solely for being in the park at 1:30am, when it closed to the public at dusk. However, once they got into the station, the police found a baggie of crystal meth in the pocket of his jacket. He subsequently pleaded guilty for this.


He did get back into hosting parties, but this time virtually. He hosted virtual zoom parties every Saturday night during the Covid pandemic along with a few of the other original Club Kids.


On December 23, 2020, just after midnight, Michael was found unconscious by his ex boyfriend in their home. He had used heroin and gotten really sick due to it, and was pronounced dead at the scene. He was only 54 years old. The day after Christmas, Michael's mother came out and confirmed the cause of her son’s death was from an “accidental” heroin overdose. The medical examiner verified in May of 2021 that Michael hadn’t died from just heroin. He also had fentanyl, acetyl fentanyl (an offshoot of fentanyl, that has been clinically proven to be several times stronger than pure heroin) and meth in his system at the time of his death.


 

David:

Mail by Missile


Mail by Missile, Rocket Mail
Rocket-Mail, Mail by Missile

With next day delivery or same day via drones with Amazon in some areas I was curious on how in our past we have tried to deliver packages and mail faster than using trucks. Everyone’s first thoughts might come to being the pony express with promises of mail from Sacramento to ST. Louis in 10 days by horseback. Which still seems like a lot of time today but for the year the service existed this was a big deal.


One of the early trials of missile mail or mail by rocket took place in New Jersey in 1936 when a stamp dealer Frido W. Kessler, thought he could profit by having mail delivered by a rocket propelled plane deliver a bag of mail with special stamps of his own design. Then make a profit selling off the special rocket mail as souvenirs.


Kessler would go on to create the Rocket Airplane Corp. and hire a German Rocket expert named Willey Ley that recently immigrated to the United States after fleeing Germany as the Nazi’s came into power. Kessler would also have Ley design the plane itself along with the stand he would launch this rocket plane from. Kessler would actually have two planes constructed; the second would be designed by Dr. Alexander Klemin of the Guggenheim Institute of Aeronautics. Each of these plans would be constructed from duralumin. Duralumin is an earlier type of aluminum that can be hardened. These planes would be 14 feet in length and a wingspan of 16 feet and they only weighed 60 pounds without fuel. A gas powered catapult would help launch these planes into flight.


Before Kessler’s rocket mail planes would take flight he took out full page ads in stamp collecting magazines offering stamps for $. 50 and flown covers or envelopes for $ .75 (11.05 for stamps and 16.58 for covers).


John G. Schliech of Greenwood Lake, NY and stamp collector himself would campaign to have this rocket plane launch take there. It wasn't an ideal location for this launch since the lake would be frozen solid during the winter months. Their plan was to collect all the purchased stamps, letters and postcards totaling 2,500 pieces and placing them inside of an asbestos lined back in the fuselage of the rocket plane and launch it to Hewitt, New Jersey on the South end of the lake 2.5 miles away. Kessler expected his rocket plan to reach a top speed of 500 MPH.


The first launch would be on Feb, 9 1936 and 500 people showed up to witness this historic event. The superintendent of Air Mail Service Charles Graddick and Edward Pendary of the American Rocket Society were among the spectators. After an attempt to christen by John Schliech’s 5yo daughter Gloria, with a cup of snow but it had frozen solid in the cup. The rocket planes named Gloria would be placed on the catapult ready to launch.


The first attempt was canceled due to the extreme cold, an hour later as the sun was now higher in the sky the second plane was loaded on the 45 ft ramp. Ley would shout to everyone to stand back as he applied a torch to the motor, igniting the gasoline, methane, and alcohol mix for the fuel and the rocket didn't leave the ramp. The cable to release it was frozen.


After thawing out the release and cable a second attempt was made. Once again Ley ignites the rocket's main engine and instead of taking off the ramp with chariots of fire playing in a montage sequence with everyone cheering in slow motion as it soars across the sky. It lands on the ground about six feet in front of the catapult. Kessler would blame the cold and the liquid oxygen freezing up in the feed line and decided to try again in two weeks. Some members of the crowd would point out they are only 400 yards away from the state line and they could just thro the mail over there instead.


Kessler wouldn't lose his enthusiasm to accomplish his goal, “I’m really dead serious about this you know, what happened was this: The motor had been ignited and the mechanic that was stationed to release the catapult but failed to do so. Now the motor runs for only three minutes and it had already been going for three-quarters of a minute before the mechanic released the cable. Practically all the power had been used up and instead of rising it went slowly to the top and glided down.” Kessler would also say that the pressure of newsreel companies, the crowd and his invited guests put a lot of pressure on him as well.


On his second attempt more than 500 people showed up this time along with the newsreel cameramen and CBS radio commentators. So with a much larger crowd and a live radio broadcast the pressure was even higher. Willy Ley and his fellow engineers advised Kessler it was still too cold to try and launch his rocket plane, but Kessler didn't want to disappoint people a second time and afraid they wouldn’t return he ordered the launch to happen.


Gloria would be refueled and loaded on to the Catapult and Ley this time would ignite Gloria’s engine and as flames shot from her engine with a shriek. Gloria would take flight into the sky and veer to the left, closely circling to the onlookers and then straightening out before crash landing onto the frozen lake. Gloria was badly damaged in her landing and wouldn't be able to fly again, however it did make it across the state line into New Jersey. The mail inside the rocket would be collected by Willy Ley and taken by sleigh to the Hewitt post office to be stamped by the postmaster. Mission accomplished and the stamp collectors are now happy.


The rockets named Gloria wouldn’t fly again after launching the second her wings folded up mid flight into the first 50 feet of its flight. Kessler ended up discovering later on that his rockets were intentionally sabotaged before their Feb. 9th flights. He found the fuel lines being bent at right angles similar to what you would do with a garden hose when someone is using it as a harmless prank. This bends would the fuel and liquid oxygen from reaching the motor. Another line was cut as well with dirt and grit as they described it was placed in the fuel tanks. Kessler found it astonishing that neither of his rockets don't explode because of these sabotage methods. He did blame a disgruntled mechanic about this wanting to get all the credit for building the rockets when it actually took multiple people to build them.


In 2021 Gloria would reappear and be turned over to Warwick Municipal Airport and later on restored and put on display at the Teterboro Airport Aviation Hall of Fame museum.


This wouldn’t be the only time in history mail would try to be sent by rocket or missile. Later on in 1936 similar attempts would be made for the first international rocket air mail flight.


July 2, 1936 the patrons of the U.S. Bar in Hidalgo, Mexico would have quite the sudden shock while nursing their shots of tequila and their beers, when a rocket comes flying into the bar. This was only one of five rockets launched by 16yo Keith Rumbel.


Keith Rumbel and his father Oliver came up with this idea when American Legion post 37 in Mc Allen, Texas, that Oliver was a member of was trying to finance and own their own building. Keith came up with the idea to make special stamps that they could sell to raise money for the American Legion post after hearing the rocket planes in NY. Keith told his father that if we launched them into Mexico from Texas and then back, it would make international mail since these two towns were only separated by the Rio Grande. His father thought this was a great idea. The Legion would sell triangular shaped “rocket stamps'' for .50 cents each as Kessler did in New York.

Keith’s rockets would be constructed from cardboard and fiberboard and be about 7 inches in length and 12 inches in diameter but to upsell them for a news story they grew to be 7 feet in length by the press. Unlike Kessler’s rockets using fuel crafted by experts, theirs were fueled by gunpowder. So their rockets were more like oversized fireworks. After getting permission from both Us and Mexico, July 2nd would be their big day.


This might be the only time two countries might have fired rockets at each other for fun you could say. The first rocket would be lit by American Legion historian Garland Adair and this rocket would explode over the river about 100 yards away from where it was launched.


The second rocket would go sailing into the U.S. Bar that I mentioned in the beginning and some of the bar goers swore off drinking after a rocket landed inside. Mexico officials insisted on calling it the U.S. Bar tragedy after this happened.


The third rocket took on its own trajectory and landed on the roof of a house along the river. And just by chance this house was one of few houses in the area with shingled roofs instead of thatching which if it landed on one of these is most likely would have caught fire as well.


Rocket number 4 would end up landing in a cornfield and catching it on fire as well. I couldn’t find anything about what happened to the fifth and final rocket, assuming that it landed safely with no incidents in Mexico. Mexico would send those rockets back to the United States without incident. These stamps and postcards go for anywhere from 50 to 150 dollars online today.


23 years later in 1959 the Postal service would try to send mail via a cruise missile. Postmaster General was quoted during this experiment before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.``


Despite his enthusiasm, the Dept. of Defense saw this more as a demonstration of U.S. missile capabilities than the future of logistics for the mail. Because unlike the previous rockets I mentioned before, this missile had advanced guidance systems that would guide the missile to where it needed to go and make a successful landing to its destination.


June 9, 1959 submarine U.S.S. Barbero would launch a 13k pound Regulus cruise missile from its deck to a Naval Base 100 miles away to Naval Station Mayport Florida. This missile was designed for nuclear payloads but Regulus I carried 3,000 letters addressed to President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, congressmen, state governors, and all Postmaster Generals in the Postal Union:


"Your receipt of this letter marks an historic milestone in the use of guided missiles for communications between the peoples of earth.


It represents, too, the close cooperation of Secretary of Defense Mc Elroy, the Department of Defense, and the Post Office Department in utilizing scientific advances for peaceful purposes.


A limited number of letters identical to this one were placed in the REgulus I training guided missile on the guided missile submarine USS Barbero in the first official missile mail experiment of the United States Post Office Department.


The missile was then flown at near the speed of sound from international waters of the Atlantic Ocean by the USS Barbero while on a regular training mission.


After the Regulus I reached its destination, the Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Mayport, Florida, near Jacksonville, this letter was canceled and forwarded to you as a significant philatelic souvenir.


The great progress being made in guided missiles will be utilized in every practical way in the delivery of the United States Mail. You can be certain that the Post Office Department will continue to cooperate with the Defense Department to achieve this Objective."


Even with the success of the Regulus I launching and landing in Florida safely the cost of this project could never be justified by the DOD as this mail missile project took place right in the middle of the cold war.


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