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WANTED: MACHO MEN WITH MUSTACHES
August 1, 2013 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Looking around the room, the producers were thinking the same thing. Belolo grabbed a napkin and jotted down: “Indian, Construction Worker, Leatherman, Cowboy, Cop, Sailor.” Morali walked over to the Indian (Rose was, in fact, Lakota) who’d enticed them into the bar. He wasn’t shy. “Hey you, Indian—you want to be in a group?” (SLTheBeliever)

Songs mentioned in the article

"San Francisco"
"In Hollywood"
"Fire Island"
(I couldn't find the song "Village People" by the band The Village People)
"Macho Man"
"Y.M.C.A."
"In the Navy"
"Go West"
"Sex Over the Phone"
Pet Shop Boys, "Go West"
posted by Rustic Etruscan (32 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wait. So that's why they were called the Village People. I get it now. I never stopped to think about it.
posted by Redfield at 8:06 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


"thick mustaches or short, trim beards, plaid flannel shirts, bomber jackets, work boots, and Levi’s 501s tight enough to highlight a bulge"

things have come full circle, then? (at least sartorially) :P

really a great article. turned into something unexpected very quickly.
posted by raihan_ at 8:17 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is one of those articles I didn't even know I needed to read and once I did it was amazing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:17 PM on August 1, 2013


"thick mustaches or short, trim beards, plaid flannel shirts, bomber jackets, work boots, and Levi’s 501s tight enough to highlight a bulge"

things have come full circle, then? (at least sartorially) :P


The true classics never go fully out of style. Thank God.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:20 PM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


And yeah, the "straight people don't believe the Village People are a gay group" thing is hilariously true. I tried to tell my mom that once and she started screaming at me THAT CAN'T BE TRUE JUST LOOK AT THAT GUY WEARING ALL THE LEATHER AND THE CONSTRUCTION WORKER AND THEY SING THAT SONG ABOUT BEING A MACHO MAN...
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:26 PM on August 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


Great article. I would be interested in hearing other mefites' thoughts about the pessimistic coda: "Forty years after gay liberation, the dominant, visible gay culture has departed from the clones’ attitudes toward sex and relationships in favor of a new version of the old masculinity and a new take on heterosexuality: gay men getting married. But we’ve forgotten what was at stake during the Stonewall riots and the AIDS crisis. Institutions like marriage, the military, and the police force still persecute queerness and ignore complexity." I'm inclined to be more optimistic, on the basis of the fact that I like being married to the person I love and would wish the same good luck for anyone I care about, but straightness is one of the many things in my backpack of privilege so I don't know.
posted by sy at 8:29 PM on August 1, 2013


It's very true. I was going through my dad's vinyl collection a few years ago and he had three Village People albums and I'm very certain that he just didn't know.
posted by detachd at 8:29 PM on August 1, 2013


Wait, are you telling me Can't Stop the Music isn't a documentary?
posted by Merzbau at 8:30 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's great. It's confirmation bias of course but in retrospect it seems obvious from the photos who the straight one is.
posted by unSane at 8:55 PM on August 1, 2013


Got this in my inbox this morning:

KINGS OF DISCO "VILLAGE PEOPLE®" CELEBRATE FIRST NEW SINGLE
IN OVER 25 YEARS IN WORLDWIDE RELEASE AND A NEW "COWBOY" TOO!

New single: "Lets Go Back to the Dance Floor" written by KC (of the Sunshine Band) & Chris Cadenhead.

Available on Tuesday August 6, 2013 on i-Tunes, Amazon and more, the one and only "Village People" will introduce their new single in their live concerts in the US and around the world as well. Now in their 36th year of touring as the 'Kings of Disco', Ray Simpson (Cop), Felipe Rose (Native American), Alexander Briley (G.I.), David Hodo (Construction Worker), Eric Anzalone (Biker) and Jeff Olson (Cowboy), the group known for the dance hits "YMCA", "Macho Man", "Go West", "In the Navy" and so many memorable disco-era songs, collaborate with songwriter/hitmaker Harry W. Casey ("KC") and Chris Cadenhead on a new dance party anthem: "Let's Go Back to the Dance Floor"!


Here's a preview of it
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:59 PM on August 1, 2013


Really good article. Thank you.
posted by latkes at 9:31 PM on August 1, 2013


the "straight people don't believe the Village People are a gay group" thing is hilariously true.

Freshman year of college, 1989, I got called a homophobe after I'd insisted the Village People were gay. "Look at their outfits!" I said.

"Oh, that's just a stereotype."

Years later I blew my roommate's mind by informing him our landlords were gay.

"How can you say that about them?"

"I'm not saying anything bad about them. Anyway, they live together in a beautifully decorated Victorian mansion and they refer to each other as partners."

"I'm sure they mean business partners."

posted by hydrophonic at 9:46 PM on August 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


And yeah, the "straight people don't believe the Village People are a gay group" thing is hilariously true. I tried to tell my mom that once and she started screaming at me THAT CAN'T BE TRUE JUST LOOK AT THAT GUY WEARING ALL THE LEATHER AND THE CONSTRUCTION WORKER AND THEY SING THAT SONG ABOUT BEING A MACHO MAN...

It's very true. I was going through my dad's vinyl collection a few years ago and he had three Village People albums and I'm very certain that he just didn't know.


You people are blowing my mind. I had no idea there was anyone who thought that.
posted by bongo_x at 11:52 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a kid in the late 1970s, I think the rumor for us was that one of the members of the band was gay. Not the other way around; fascinating to think how that tidbit had worked its way down to us.

(I think I had Y.M.C.A. on 45, now that I think of it. What would the "B" side of that have been, I wonder? Of course, I also had CW McCall's "Convoy" on 45, and I can recall the "B" side of that: "It's Long Lonesome Road (in the Lifetime of a Trucker)"...and, my atheist god, that was, is, forever will be, awful. As was "Convoy"...to anyone other than a 10-year-old boy obsessed with trucks, I imagine. I found a clip of "Convoy" on youtube a couple of years ago, and only got about ten seconds in before I had to turn it off; the vicarious embarrassment was too much, both for 10yo me and especially McCall. I also have a vague memory of watching Real People where McCall performed the song into a CB handset.

This has been your "what made maxwelton the horrible person he is today" aside for the evening.)

posted by maxwelton at 1:50 AM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


At least there is no "I liked them before they sold out".
posted by thelonius at 3:42 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had no idea there was anyone who thought that

Some think the entire German nation thought that - or they would not have invited them to er, perform with the national Mannschaft...
posted by Segundus at 4:59 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


What would the "B" side of that have been, I wonder?

There were two singles released for Y.M.C.A. One of them had The Women on the flipside, the other had Macho Man.
posted by hippybear at 5:50 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


THAT CAN'T BE TRUE JUST LOOK AT THAT GUY WEARING ALL THE LEATHER AND THE CONSTRUCTION WORKER AND THEY SING THAT SONG ABOUT BEING A MACHO MAN...

Your mother's right, damn it. THEY HAD GIRLFRIENDS! I SAW THEIR MOVIE AND THEY HAD GIRLFRIENDS IN IT!
posted by Naberius at 6:04 AM on August 2, 2013


Wait. So that's why they were called the Village People.

Heh; you've just reminded me what I thought when I was about seven or eight and first saw them on TV - I was thinking they were called "The Village People" because it was some reference to a sort of Richard-Scarry-type-thing where they were showing us an example of all the different jobs that people could have in an average city or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 AM on August 2, 2013 [18 favorites]


Empress, that's exactly what I'd thought! I was in preschool and that was the connection I made.

A song not mentioned in the article is Just a Gigolo and it's so joyful and and happy despite the lyrics. I think it's my new Favorite Song.
posted by mochapickle at 6:42 AM on August 2, 2013


hippybear, thanks. I think mine must have had "The Women" on it, as I liked "Macho Man" as well and don't remember having that available in my very small stash of 45s.
posted by maxwelton at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2013


My previous understanding of the Village People was actually that they were mostly straight but had been created cynically to exploit the gay disco market. So I guess part of that was true.

I would add, though, that everyone I have ever known to dance to Village People songs (including a bunch of Lutheran college students in 1992) thought of all those songs as a bit of a giggle because they were understood to be about homosexuality. It was like "oh, this is kind of kitschily transgressive because we know it's about gay sexual culture but we can pretend that we don't know! And also, it's such a dated portrayal that it is not threatening at all, whereas we would probably be pretty darn uncomfortable dancing to anything played in gay clubs subsequent to about 1985!"

Until recently, I was not aware that the Pet Shop Boys' version of "Go West" was a cover.
posted by Frowner at 11:42 AM on August 2, 2013


I found the section on Stonewall much more interesting then the bit on the village people. I mean, of course they are gay, everyone knows that. While I knew about the Stonewall riots of course I'd not seen so much detail before.
posted by Canageek at 12:05 PM on August 2, 2013


I was one of those millions of clueless straight people who boogied awkwardly to "Y.M.C.A." when it came out and had no idea! My kid brother (who was gay, but we had no idea about that either at the time) brought the single home and played it for the whole family, and I honestly don't know how he kept a straight face.

Great article, thanks for posting it. (Also, I'd somehow never seen the video for "Y.M.C.A." before, and it made me nostalgic for '70s New York.)
posted by languagehat at 12:18 PM on August 2, 2013


(About Stonewall and this story - I actually looked up the Edmund White business, as that sounded inaccurate. He was there, but in his own memoir he notes that he thought that the rioters were taking too big a risk, making too big a deal out of things and should not have done it. (His politics changed - he writes about this in the context of closeted self-hatred.) Also, I wish this story had noted that a LOT of the rioters at Stonewall were queers of color and trans women of color, and the harassment of those people by police was worse than the harassment of analogous white people.)
posted by Frowner at 12:20 PM on August 2, 2013


Speaking of Village People Memories Dredged Up By This Post -

I don't know Jim Henson's temperment well enough to know whether this is another example of "someone innocently thinking The Village People were mainstream" or whether he knew exactly what he was doing.

Also - my sophomore year in college my dorm room was next to one shared by five guys who often liked to watch cheesy movies and bust on them (think like a proto-MST3K). Meanwhile, I was personally in a really heavy "yay Irish culture and literature and music and books and everything" phase. So one afternoon when I was leaving to run some errands or something, I stopped when I heard music coming from their room - someone singing "Danny Boy" in a lovely tenor. Their door was open, so I peered in.

And that's when I saw that they were watching Can't Stop The Music and the song was The Leatherman's audition scene. At which point I backed out and left again, feeling vaguely disappointed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:51 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


There were two singles released for Y.M.C.A. One of them had The Women on the flipside

Oddly enough, I dragged a box of 45s in from the alley this morning, and it included this one. If anybody wants it, send me a memail.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:05 AM on August 3, 2013


Free, I should add.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:25 AM on August 3, 2013


(Also, I'd somehow never seen the video for "Y.M.C.A." before, and it made me nostalgic for '70s New York.)

I hadn't seen it either til just now, and it made me wonder where the hell the doing-the-letters-with-your-arms dance came from if it's not in the original video.
posted by rollick at 10:53 AM on August 3, 2013


it made me wonder where the hell the doing-the-letters-with-your-arms dance came from if it's not in the original video.

As far as I know that came much later, I never saw it until the mid 80’s maybe, and by that time it was nostalgia camp. I’ve never seen the video or knew there was one, this was before videos being a common thing, I would bet hardly anyone had seen it at the time.

I’m still surprised that there were areas were people didn’t think they were gay. I was a teen at the time and the big rumor was "I heard all of them aren't gay".
posted by bongo_x at 8:35 PM on August 3, 2013


The article claims "a group of cheerleaders in the audience at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand...were the first people to spell out the letters with their arms" though who knows.

What the article doesn't mention, and what I try to mention everytime it comes up because it blew my mind the first time I heard it, is that Victor Willis, the straight lyricist and original cop, was also once Mr. Phylicia Rashad.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:38 AM on August 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fantastic article, thank you. The Village People will always have a place in my heart -- their movie is one of the first I remember seeing. A neighbour wanted to take her kids and me to a movie, and my parents told her I wouldn't be able to handle seeing Jaws.

(This is true. Thirty+ years later, I still haven't watched it.)

I don't know when I realised the Village People were mostly gay/gay stereotypes, but it was many years later. And I still have the cassette of the soundtrack somewhere!
posted by Georgina at 3:43 AM on August 8, 2013


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