Rating: 8 out of 10
If you would have told me back in 1982 that in 35 years Cyndi Lauper would be quite a bit more beautiful than Madonna I would have said you were insane. Then again if you told me that one of the most genius heavy metal guitarists was gay I would probably have said the same thing. Then, if you told me that an openly gay man would be responsible for the elevation of Metallica to superstardom, well, need I go on? All of the above make the fabric of the movie “Who the Fuck is That Guy? The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago”. The documentary is about Alago and his journey through life, art and music is quite fabulous!
The adventure begins with the story of a young man who in his rebellious uniqueness escapes the confines of his family’s cramped Brooklyn apartment to explore the exciting and gritty world of music, art, and culture that Manhattan offered in the 1980’s. He was a regular at all the famous clubs including CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. As a young gay man, he also explores the wild and somewhat risky alternative lifestyle scene in the Village with reckless abandon. In typical fashion, Alago gets his first job in the music business with this abandon, which eventually leads to an A&R position at Electra records. Here is the point of the documentary; Michael succeeds by being unique and being himself. He lived fast and played hard and never tried to be something else while attempting to impress others. He wasn’t afraid of his sexuality at a time when it was not an entirely prudent career move, especially when you are going to sign one of the biggest heavy metal rock bands ever. It was in 1984 that Alago’s love for fast and aggressive music lead him to listen to Metallica’s “No Life Til Leather” demo. Alago was immediately blown away by the aggressive hybrid of heavy rock and hardcore punk. He eventually signed them away from Megaforce to join Elektra and the rest is history. True to form though, Michael is an actual part of that history. When Cliff Burton was tragically killed, Alago suggested the leader of another metal band he signed, Flotsam and Jetsam. Jason Newsted says in the movie that if it were not for Michael Alago, he would not have a career. Newsted is only one of many who is interviewed for the movie. Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, and Kirk Hammett are featured as well as a wide array of artists ranging from the aforementioned and quite beautiful Cyndi Lauper to John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten to Eric Bogosian to Rob Zombie and many in between. The pictures of him with some of the biggest rock stars in history will make your head spin. One of the more powerful interviews is with Metal Church’s genius guitarist and songwriter, Kurt Vanderhoof, who is also gay and speaks of his admiration for Alago as a role model. By the way, Alago signed Metal Church and White Zombie.
As with most interesting documentaries, there is darkness that accompanies the light. In the mid-1990’s he contracts the HIV virus and hits rock bottom with drug and alcohol abuse. In true Michael Alago fashion, he tackles the virus and his addictions on his terms and wins. Now clean and sober since 2004, Alago focuses on his passion for photography and art. He’s not entirely out of the music business. One of his favorite bands is the Cro Mags and most recently, Alago helped sign the new hardcore super group Bloodclot to Metal Blade Records.
Truly great things happen organically. Michael Alago is as unique and organic as you can get.
Review written by Joe Becht. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBecht