A motley crew of disco dudes.
I've given the Village People quite a bit of shit now and then, I admit.
But let's face it: When you think of 70s disco, you really only think of
four groups — The BeeGees, Donna Summer, ABBA, and the Village People.
I suppose the reason this came to mind is I caught a movie yesterday
called Can't Stop the Music. From what I can discover, the movie is pretty
far away from being a realistic history of the Village People. Which is
strange considering that the then-current line-up of the group participated
in the movie. Perhaps they just felt that the real story was too boring.
In any case, I greatly enjoyed this little piece of disco-70s history. It
has some good funny moments. My favorite was the guy that I normally
think of as "The Biker" (but who is usually called the "Leather Man")
singing the song "Danny Boy" at a party. Yep, Danny Boy, and done pretty
much straight except for one short break to take a swig of a can of Old
The Village People are normally known as a "gay" group. Or maybe a "very
gay" group. To be honest, back in the late 70s I never knew they were
gay — if they were, that is. It was long after disco died and long
after the Village People were being played on turntables and jukeboxes
that I found out that they were gay — once again if they were, I really
Greenwich Village in New York City has been known for decades, of
course, as a gay area. In fact I visited the Village in 1979; and trust
me, it was totally friggin' gay. Indianapolis might have been the 11th
largest city in the U.S. at that time, but in a lot of ways it was a
relative backwater. I was really shocked when the people I knew took me
to all these almost unbelievable places (unbelievable at the time, that
is). We visited a house that was in every way a drug store — two
cafeteria tables, the surfaces of which were totally covered with
different types of drugs. Then they took me to a bar which, at least at
first, seemed totally normal except for the exclusive presence
of men. But we had only been there a half hour or so when a few guys
came out and started covering the pool tables with plastic sheets. When
I asked what was going on I was casually informed that the live sex
shows were about to start. I managed to talk my friends out of seeing
that one. Instead we went back to Manhattan and to an after-hours club
and played some pool. I should mention also, just for the sake of
balance, that I had a really good dinner at a French Restaurant in the
Village that night.
I was just extremely naive back then in many ways, and my trip that year
was a real education. The Village is gay. But does that mean that the
Village People themselves where gay? The band certainly was created to
mimic gay fantasy stereotypes. And the music that the group put out
certainly seemed popular with gays. But the music was popular with
straights. Truth is, I don't know. Victor Willis, the original "Police
Officer" of the group, got married in 2007. So I just don't know.
There have been "gay" groups and then there have been "gay" groups.
Depeche Mode was originally known as a "gay" group — and if you listen
to their first album there is no doubt that they were at least going for
that image. But then, after a few years, they all started getting
married. In fact I think that the only group I could be sure of with
respect to the old "gay group" thing was Culture Club — pretty damn
sure Boy George is gay.
Not that it makes any difference. I think that no matter what the case
was with their personal lives, the Village People will continue to
attract people, what few there are left, who like listening to the old
70s dance stuff. And perhaps, somewhere down the line, it may even
attract new, younger fans. That kind of thing happens a lot in music.
Personally, I never was into the disco thing myself. But as for some of
it, ABBA and the Village People at least, I like to listen to it occasionally.
It's fun music with a great beat that you can dance to.
Not that I dance anymore. (Though I do spin occasionally.)
And by the way, though I sometimes listen to ABBA, I'm not Swedish.
So perhaps that may answer any unasked questions in your mind.