By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Since their inception in 1977, the Village People have sold more than 85 million albums and singles. With omnipresent hits like "YMCA," "Macho Man," and "In the Navy," the group has become universally known for catchy disco hits as well as distinct onstage costumes. Ray Simpson, who plays the policeman, joined the band in 1979. I was lucky enough to speak with the living legend recently via telephone. I have never laughed so hard — in a good way — during an interview.
The Village People have been described as a "gay-theme disco group."
No, it was never described like that. That whole thing happened because of an interview by one of our producers who was very, very gay. He is the one who put the group together; his name was Jacques Morali. He had an idea about the different stereotypes in the Village at that time: people wearing cowboy hats and leather outfits. He had some characters in mind for the group, and then slowly we kind of evolved into six distinct characters. He was a great producer.
You've done a number of gay pride festivals.
Sure. We do all kinds of things: weddings, bar mitzvahs, big gigantic fairs, jazz festivals. We work every weekend. We do a lot of stuff in L.A. and Europe, all over the world. The gay undertone was a double entendre ... and to be perfectly honest, it wasn't that deep or clever [laughs]. It was really about having fun, being a dance party kind of band. We put a face to disco.... We were a group first. We practiced hard choreography. If you're gonna get onstage with six people fully costumed, you better know where everybody's moving or you're gonna get smacked in the face quite a bit.
Bar mitzvahs and weddings?
It's rare, but trust me, they definitely have a lot of money [laughs]. They've been a hoot. You know that they want to have a good time, and that's what we're about.... And it still feels new. The people are still fun; we get incredible reactions to the songs. We're starting to see a lot of kids at the shows. People that knew us back in the day are bringing their whole families to our shows. A grandmother threw her bra up at me at one show. I have really made rock and roll stardom, you know? She showed me her breasts. That was pretty wild. The demographics for our shows are eight to 80 [laughs].
Wait, a grandmother threw her bra at you? How old was this woman?
Um ... yeah. She was about 75 or 80 years old. We are just about having fun. If that's fun to you, we'll go with the program.
How did your cop character play into your real life?
It's funny, once you put a suit on like that, it's like joining the military. If you put on a police suit and you wear the hat and the badge and the holster, after a while you know what it feels like. We developed into the characters that we are. It would be awkward for me to try and be an Indian.