With his life and creative partner Fenton Bailey, filmmaker Randy Barbato carved a distinctive niche in film and television with his nonfiction works about such intriguing pop-culture subjects as the infamously groomed ex-wife of fallen TV evangelist Jim Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000), before trying his hand at dramatic features with the adaptation of his and Bailey's documentary Party Monster (1998) in 2003.
A native of New Jersey, Barbato attended graduate film school at New York University in the late '80s, where he met classmate and fellow pop-culture enthusiast Bailey. Along with dabbling in music as the Pop Tarts, the pair dropped out of N.Y.U. to form their production company, World of Wonder, in 1990. Based in their tiny New York apartment, World of Wonder notched its first production with the series Manhattan Cable, a compilation of clips from New York City's strange and risqué public-access cable programs, for British TV. Barbato and Bailey subsequently executive produced Hollywood Fashion Machine (1995) for AMC and The RuPaul Show (1996) for VH1. Building on those credits, Barbato and Bailey relocated to Los Angeles in the mid-'90s, where they focused on such L.A.-based subjects as Ellen DeGeneres' decision to come out on her TV series in The Real Ellen Story (1997) and the O.J. Simpson murder case in Juror Number 5: 58 Days of Duty on the O.J. Simpson Civil Trial (1998). Barbato and Bailey began to earn serious attention as directors as well as producers, however, with the Emmy-winning Cinemax documentary Party Monster, about the strange life and violent downfall of New York City club kid-turned-murderer Michael Alig. Barbato and Bailey garnered more kudos for their next directorial project, the Cinemax documentary 101 Rent Boys (2000), about the lives of 101 Los Angeles male hustlers.