St. James, James 1966- (James Clark)
St. James, James 1966- (James Clark)
Home—Los Angeles, CA.
Writer, performer. Previously wrote a column for Out magazine; works for the Hollywood production company responsible for Party Monster; also appears as himself on various talk shows and in reality television, including America's Top Model and the Tyra Banks Show.
Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous but True Tale of Murder in Clubland, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Freak Show, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Disco Bloodbath was adapted into the film Party Monster, starring Macauley Culkin and Seth Green, 2003.
James St. James was born James Clark in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in August of 1966. When his parents divorced, James began to split his time between his hometown, where his father continued to live, and Saginaw, Michigan, where his mother had relocated. St. James always felt slightly different as a child and young adult, but after reading the Andy Warhol book POPism, he realized that there were other people in the world who were as flamboyant and different as he was. The book inspired him, and following high school graduation, he moved to New York City to attend New York University, where he studied experimental theater for two years before dropping out, and to experience the night life, which ultimately drew all of his attention and enthusiasm. The club scene was loud and exciting and even more experimental than his classes, and St. James soon found himself loving the attention he received. He set out to turn himself into a superstar within the confines of that world, and was soon dubbed a "celebutante." He ended up writing a column for Out magazine, capitalizing on his fame on the club circuit and the people whom he knew through his nights on the town.
In Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous but True Tale of Murder in Clubland, St. James recounts the story of his experiences as a rising celebrity of sorts as part of the New York City club scene, and the horrific events that led to the end of the club scene as it was known in the 1980s and 1990s, and to St. James himself fleeing New York for Los Angeles. Not long after St. James began frequenting the clubs in New York, he caught the eye of Michael Alig, a club promoter from India who was looking to find his own success on the club circuit. Between St. James's friendship and financial backing from Limelight- and Palladium-owner Peter Gatien, Alig got his wish, and became a highly successful party promoter on the club scene, specializing in events where costumes were outrageous and drugs flowed freely. In an article for the New York Times, St. James explains the way things worked: "You would have a bunch of drag queens and club kids in a room, and everyone would be pulling out tiaras and tutus and diapers and clown noses. We'd sit and drink, do a tab of acid, a line of coke, and we would just get hysterical at the combinations people would come up with: I'm a hooker from Mars. I'm a geisha gangster."
The excessive drug use, however, began to alter the dynamics of the club scene, particularly for St. James, who shifted from cocaine to ketamine hydrochloride, a powerful drug meant to be used as an anesthetic for animals. In people, it can cause hallucinations. Alig was also using far more frequently and more seriously than he had been in previous years, and the situation came to a head one evening when Alig, with the assistance of his roommate, killed his drug dealer by bludgeoning him, then smothering him, and finally injecting him. Both Alig and his accomplice were ultimately sentenced to twenty years in prison. The event served as an eye-opener for St. James, who vowed to get clean and moved to Los Angeles to distance himself from his old life.
St. James portrays Alig and the murder from an insider's point of view, highlighting the surreal quali- ties of the event and stressing how much of it stemmed from that same unreal quality that pervaded the club scene in general. Costumes and drugs and the smoothing-over of gender roles were their true reality, with murder relegated to the shadows of fantasy and the unbelievable. Michelle Goldberg, writing for the Metroactive Web site, remarked: "One of the virtues of Disco Bloodbath is the way St. James brings both the viciousness and the liberating joy of this world alive. He neither whitewashes the pathologies that were built into the scene from the start nor turns it into a dreary morality tale." The book was later adapted into the film Party Monster, with Macauley Culkin portraying Alig and Seth Green as St. James.
Following the release of Disco Bloodbath, St. James continued to write. Freak Show, his follow-up title, is a book for young adults, inspired in part by his own childhood and his sense of separateness that stemmed from his complex sexuality and gender role issues. Protagonist Billy Bloom is a somewhat androgynous young man whose mother sends him away to a highly conservative boarding school, where she hopes he might learn to conform. Billy, of course, takes things in the opposite direction, becoming more flamboyant than ever. Ironically, Billy wins the approval of the school jock, which helps pave the way for his gradual acceptance by other students. Jim Bartley, writing for the Xtra.ca Web site, commented: "There is no semblance of the predictable here. St. James turns his final pages into a cascade of cliffhangers, cranking up pain and redemption to a thrilling finale."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James, James, Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous but True Tale of Murder in Clubland, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Publishers Weekly, June 21, 1999, review of Disco Bloodbath, p. 45; March 19, 2007, review of Freak Show, p. 65.
School Library Journal, June 1, 2007, Brian Kenney, "Holden Caulfield in Chanel, Size 4: James St. James on the Absolutely Fabulous ‘Freak Show,’" p. 35.
After Elton Web site,http://www.afterelton.com/ (May 16, 2007), Steven Frank, "Interview with James St. James."
Eros Zine,http://www.eros-la.com/ (October 30, 2007), author interview.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (December 4, 2007), author biography.
James St. James MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/totally_james_st_james (December 4, 2007).
Metroactive,http://www.metroactive.com/ (August 16, 1999), Michelle Goldberg, "James St. James Illuminates the Glamorous Monsters of the Club Scene."
New York Times Online,http://www.nytimes.com/ (September 16, 2003), Lola Ogunnaike, "Disco Legend, but No Feathers."
Wilamette Week Online (Portland, OR), http://wweek.com/ (October 3, 2007), Byron Beck, "Queen James."
Xtra.ca,http://www.xtra.ca/ (September 18, 2007), Jim Bartley, review of Freak Show.