Party Monster

(USA 2003)

“Money. Success. Fame. Glamor.”

—Michael

“Clubbing” in the late ’80s and early ’90s was about having fun, being seen, getting some attention when you could, and simply being fabulous. I was already past my clubbing days (or nights) and into raves when I read something about the horrific murder and dismemberment of a club kid in New York City in 1996. It hit home, albeit in a small way: not a club kid myself, some of my friends had been—or at least they were club kid lite—and I was familiar with the scene, which wasn’t violent. I followed the story for a little while but didn’t keep up to see what eventually happened—I was busy doing other stuff, like getting my shit together to go to law school and move somewhere else. The incident wasn’t front page news. A few years later, a friend gave me a copy of Disco Bloodbath by James St. James. I was floored to discover that it chronicled the story I started to follow. I absolutely loved the book—even with a drug fueled murder at its climax, it’s an irresistible mix of club queen adventures, flip observations, dish, dirt, and even a dash of nostalgia. Plus, it’s well written. I devoured it over a few days on the beach in Puerto Vallarta.

Party Monster is Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s film adaptation of St. James’s memoir. They take some liberties—they aren’t totally by the book and some of the music isn’t quite right—but they still manage to brilliantly capture the look and feel of those days and that scene. The cast members, known and unknown, are excellent: Seth Green, Macaulay Culkin, Dylan McDermott, Wilmer Valderrama, Wilson Cruz, Justin Hagan, Chloë Sevigny, even Marilyn Manson. John Stamos makes a cameo as a talk show host with actual club kids, including Amanda Lepore, Richie Rich, and Walt Paper (who oddly enough I knew briefly in undergrad). Green and Culkin have a natural chemistry as friends and foes—one of my favorite scenes is James (Green) showing Michael (Culkin) how to work a room at a Dunkin Donuts knockoff. The thing I love about the movie is how fun this world is—parties, costumes, Disco 2000, ordering burgers for 300 clubgoers at a fast food chain, piling into the back of a semi with a guy in a chicken suit, even doing drugs. The genius of the film is that, like the book, it makes me want to be a part of this world despite its flaws and the tragic ending.

98 minutes
Rated R

(Home via iTunes) B

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