The Limelight, the Club Kids and the scene they created has evolved into a nostalgia moment for those who came of age in the late ’80s and ’90s. Rather than quaint memories of poodle skirts and greasers of the “American Graffiti” variety, our nostalgia involves platform shoes, techno music and MDMA (Ecstasy). Frank Owen explores the inner-workings of the New York scene centered around “The Limelight” and how it interlocks with the mafiosi-run clubs of Miami in his excellent book Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture. Mr. Owen, who is featured heavily in the documentary The Limelight, kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Impossibly Glamorous.
Charles (C): You lived in New York during the zeitgeist of big ’90s club scene. What city do you feel is under the world spotlight now?
Frank (F): Club culture as we used to know it is dead, buried underneath the rubble of bottle service, horrible techno music and brainless bottle bimbos. The only party that I’ve seen slightly mimic what we had back in the ’90s is Miami’s monthly fetish party called “Submission” which is run by a Limelightveteran.
C: You’ve written quite a bit about drugs including Special K, meth, heroin and more. Which is the most dangerous?
F: It’s not the drug, but the dose that makes the poison. It is ludicrous to say that one drug is more dangerous than the other. Over-the-counter Tylenol in high doses will do more damage to you than a small bump of meth ever will. Also, in most cases it is the combination of multiple drugs that’s most lethal. That’s why I never take Ecstasy anymore. It’s not just that there’s very little MDMA in Ecstasy, it’s the polydrug combos contained in the pills: Oxycodone, methylone, LSD, crystal meth, 2C-B, BZP, Special K etcetera. Less is more when it comes to both architecture and drugs.
C: You said in another interview that you like to tell stories from “the criminal’s point of view.” Which of the criminals you have written about do you still find most intriguing?
F: Chris Paciello is intriguing not because he is so interesting but because after all that he has done, all the crimes he has committed, people treat him as if he is God in South Beach. People will forgive anything for a good time in South Beach.
C: Who would win in a fist fight, Al Capone or Jack the Ripper?
F: Al Capone no doubt. Jack the Ripper was a coward. Serial killers usually are.
C: I discovered your work via your riveting book Clubland, but I always wondered in the Michael Alig case why he could not claim self-defense. Why is that, and what do you personally think happened in that apartment?
F: Well, Michael described the incident as “a sissy fight that span out of control.” I believe him. If after Michael and Freeze killed Angel, they had cleaned up all the drugs in the apartment and called the police, he could have legitimately claimed self-defense, but that’s not what they did, is it? The real horror wasn’t that they killed Angel, it’s what they did afterwards, especially the hell they put Angel’s family through.
C: Do you think he will ever walk free again or is he bound to be a lifelong jailbird?
F: They’re going to have to release him eventually, but Michael is his own worst enemy. More than drugs, Michael is addicted to bad behavior. Michael’s partner-in-crime Freeze was released because Freeze behaved himself inside. Michael would rather be infamous and in prison rather than a nonentity and free. He doesn’t help himself by continuing to give interviews to journalists. Parole boards don’t like that. Michael would have been out by now if he had kept quiet and behaved himself, but that not Michael’s way, is it?
C: Tell me what your fans can look forward to next from you.
F: Just finished a big story for Playboy magazine debunking the myth that there is a “bath salts epidemic” in this country. There isn’t. It’s a minor drug trend that has been hyped by the media. The story comes out in December. Also, I’m about to start on a new book called Kink, USA. It’s a a memoir about my relationship with a 21 year-old dominatrix and my soon-to-be spouse. Anybody who wants to read more of my writing can go to my website frankowen.net.
C: What’s the top song on your iPod playlist now?
F: I don’t own an iPod—I hate listening to music on headphones—but the music I’m listening to at the moment: “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown” by Augustus Pablo. It’s a groundbreaking early 1970s dub reggae album that is a huge influence on contemporary dance music. Also listening to the various remixes of Nick Cave’s Grinderman project, especially “Hyper Worm Tamer.”
You can check out more writing by Charles here: impossiblyglamorous.com