Repost-Death Of The Party: The Murder Of Andre “Angel” Melendez
Written by: Christina Aliperti
They say that when Andy Warhol died, New York City nightlife died along with him, but that death led to the birth of the New York City Club Kids. The Club Kids were the brainchild of Michael Alig, who started as a busboy in a New York City nightclub, studied the club scene and became a master party promoter. Michael created the Club Kids with an attitude of “If you don’t fit in anywhere else, you’ll fit in here.” The club kids grew into a phenomenon, taking over not only the nightlife but the daytime talk show circuit and the gossip columns as well. Traveling and recruiting new Club Kids, they created elaborate, wild personas for themselves complete with mostly homemade costumes, wigs, dramatic makeup and the highest platform shoes you’ve ever seen.
Like Angel. Andre “Angel” Melendez would walk into the club and you couldn’t help but take notice of his giant, feathered angel wings in various colors that he coordinated to match his leather cap. Angel was a vision to behold like the others and he loved being a part of the club scene. He was born in Colombia in 1971 and when he was 8 years old his family came to live in New York. They came for more opportunities and a better life, but little did they know that less than 20 years later, Angel would be brutally murdered. When Angel met Michael Alig and Peter Gatien in the early 90s he reportedly started working as a regular drug dealer in the Limelight and some of Gatien’s other night clubs. Michael, King of the Club Kids allegedly became a VIP customer.
By this time, the club kids were living their dreams being famous just for existing, working in the clubs during the day then partying and working the clubs all night. On Sunday, March 17th, 1996, for Angel, Michael and his roommate Robert “Freeze” Riggs, those dreams would become what nightmares are made of. Michael reportedly owed Angel a lot of money for drugs and Angel came to collect on the debt. A confrontation occurred and turned violent. Angel allegedly overpowered Michael, Michael called out for help and it ended with Alig and Riggs murdering Angel.
Angel was reported missing by his family but they felt his disappearance was never taken seriously and began investigating on their own. When Angel’s remains were found on a beach in Staten Island and later identified by dental records, it led to the arrest of Alig and Riggs. They both claimed the murder was self-defense but in 1997 both accepted plea deals admitting to manslaughter. Riggs was released on parole in 2010 after serving 13 years and Alig was released on May 5th, 2014 after serving 17 years.
We had the opportunity to chat with one of the original Club Kids, the fabulous Ernie Glam and one of the many things we asked him about was how he felt about the murder in relation to what the Club Kids meant and who they truly were. This is what he had to say: “The NYC club kids had nothing to do with Angel’s death. That was a crime committed by two men against another man. The club kids were hundreds of creative young men and women who collectively launched a queer culture archetype in the late 80s and early 90s that continues to inspire queer young people around the world. It saddens me that the club kids’ fashion and artistic contributions to contemporary culture continue to be eclipsed by a crime that did not involve us.”
To hear all of the details about this case including more about the Club Kids, their role in pop culture, the murder of Angel Melendez, the aftermath, what the club kids are doing today and more from our amazing chat with Ernie Glam, be sure to check out our podcast, The Good Wives Guide To True Crime, where we dish it all!