THE PARTY MONSTER MASH
an interview with Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey and James St James directors and writer of Party Monster.
The road of excess leads to a palace of fabulousness!!! So shrieks James St James (Seth Green) midway through Party Monster, a profoundly superficial trip to decadent late-80s Manhattan. The rise and fall of the uber-brattish Club Kid scene created by St James his charismatic pal Michael Alig (Macaulay Culkin!) is chronicled by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey previously known for their muck-raking documentaries on Anna Nicole Smith and Monica Lewinsky in a feature based St Jamess tell-all memoir Disco Bloodbath.
Sitting in a hotel conference room in Edinburgh on the eve of the movies UK premiere at the citys film festival, the chatty directors and writer are on full-tilt, high-energy form confident that, whatever Party Monsters fate in the US, British audiences will be seduced by the Alig legend. Theres always been a fascination for this subject in the UK, Fenton enthuses.
Michael has real cult status in England, agrees James, who recalls the cross-fertilisation between his Manhattan scene and the simultaneous Taboo crowd in London its peacock figurehead the unmistakeable figure of Leigh Bowery: Michael bought Leigh lock, stock and barrel ripped off a lot of his looks. But there was a lot of give and take between the two, people would go back and forth. Every time Leigh came to New York, there were like lightbulbs going off in everybodys head. It was like Oh, thats what were trying to do!
Recreating the garish Club Kid aesthetic was a crucial element in the films production. We had a tiny budget anyway about ten percent of what it should have been, notes Randy. All the extras are actually Club Kids, who came in with a lot of their old outfits, and did their own makeup and hair, says James. But given the outlandish excesses of this particular scene, was anything ever too much? Well, says Fenton, James probably wouldn’t have worn the third eye with the troll outfit. James jumps in: I said, Green face, or third eye, or witchy-poo nose but not all three at the same time!
All are keen to distance themselves from previous Manhattan nightlife movies like 54 or The Last Days of Disco: Theres never been a good movie about the New York club scene. Its one of those things that you just can’t capture on film clubbing is a visceral experience, according to Fenton. Randy chips in, Theres one exception to that. Midnight Cowboy? Saturday Night Fever? Randys selection turns out to be rather closer to home: 24 Hour Party People. They got it!
for the full transcript of the interview, click here
For all the reviews from the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festical click here.
by Neil Young