RIDE 'EM, COWBOY!
The retroCRUSH Interview with Randy Jones
from The Village People
INTERVIEW by Randy Waage
During the late 70ís and early 80ís the Village People were extremely
popular. My mom and I loved the group and she bought me the 45 single Macho Man
which I played on my record player nonstop. In fact almost everyone I knew loved
them. You couldnít go anywhere without hearing their hit songs: Macho Man, YMCA,
and In the Navy on the radio or seeing them perform on television.
Recently, a dream came true and I was granted an interview with one of my
personal retroCRUSHes, the original cowboy from the Village People Randy Jones.
Did you always want to sing? Musical Influences?
I guess I've always BEEN singing since I can remember. Being raised in the
Baptist Church I was always singing on Sunday mornings. My dad's favorite music
was country western. Fifies pop music certainly made an impression upon me. My
parents, who were home movie enthusiasts, have these great early 8mm images of
me at age 3 or 4 dressed in my denim jeans, cowboy hat and boots, doing my best
Elvis Presley impression complete with gyrations. So you could safely say that I
came by singing and dancing naturally AND at an early age! I have always loved
listening to Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Ella
What was it like performing with Grace Jones? Is she as wild as she seems?
Grace and I first met while we were both working the runway at a fashion show. I
don't remember if it was in Paris or New York. When she got her first record
deal and was putting her live show together, she needed two guys to be onstage
and perform with her. At that time, few if any artists performed in the numerous
clubs and discos with a pre-recorded instrumental track. We were actually
pioneers is creating that type of show. Most of early '77 we spent travelling
over the eastern part of the USA doing gigs and promoting her first LP
PORTFOLIO. I sure got a baptism by fire introduction into the music business and
learned a helluva lot about being onstage in that VERY unstructured, fluid type
of performance format. Previous to that much of my performance experience, aside
from modelling, was traditional musical theatre, i.e. CAROUSEL, OKLAHOMA,
BRIGADOON, etc. I had also danced in dance companies such as The Agnes deMille
Heritage Dance Theatre, The Pauline Kohner Dance Consort, The Anna Sokolow
Company and The North Carolina Dance Theatre. However, working with Grace was an
incredible eye-opening experience that I would not exchange for anything. There
is still NOTHING like Grace Jones.
Tell me about the heyday of the VP? What are gay groupies like? Was it as
crazy sexually as has been said during the gay culture of the 1970's/early 80's?
The heyday of Village People was probably the most breathtaking whirlwind
experience of my life. There was hardly ever a moment to stand back and take a
deep breath in the schedule that we were constantly involved. We could easily
find ourselves on three different continents in the space of five days. I
distinctly remember performning on AMERICAN BANDSTAND in LA, then flying to Rio
de Janiero for a stadium gig, and then taking the Concorde to Paris in order to
work on a French film entitled JE TE TIENS PAR LE BARBICHETTE. We did this all
in less than a WEEK! Somehow, once in a while, I was able to force myself to
pause and just look around to take in all the glorious madness that was
endlessly swirling around us. Like taking advantage of a free evening to go to
the top of the Eiffel Tower and look out at Paris, the City of Light, realizing
that this experience is NOT the common experience of the majority of the people
on this planet...so f--king enjoy this and EVERY moment that comes along. Those
moments were precious and far between. For a period of several years, I never
really heard the word "No" very often. When most everyone around you are
answering "Yes" to your every request, it can be easy to lose perspective. I
guess you can say groupies, of any sort, are by their very nature extremely
enthusiastic and cooperative. And believe me, I have been blessed with a very
generous amount. Despite the impression that many may have of the late '70's
lifestyle, it was not really my cup of tea. I certainlly know that there was a
helluva lot of wildness going on...I observed alot, but it wasn't my
predilection particularly. I know that there are many people that I knew and
worked with through the years that are no longer with us, for various reasons.
God bless them all.
Do you think it's odd that for a group with gay icons, fantasy figures, even
a few lyrics that were homoerotic you still became so well loved and a part of
suburban American culture? Do you think it's because straight people were
oblivious to all of it?
No, I don't think that it is particularly odd, especially when we're so lovable
(smile) AND taken with the fact of the group's success as proponents of Popular
Culture over the past quarter of a century. Indeed, we have become cultural
icons, with our images and music in every manner selling products as diverse as
soft drinks, fast food, children's toys and automobiles, not to mention the
numerous films and television programs that utilise our voices and music in the
soundtracks. I believe the perception of our iconic qualities is definitely in
the eye of the beholder. One of the very deft points in our creativity was the
opportunity for any audience member to impose upon us its particular fantasy. I
believe people saw in our performances EXACTLY what they wanted to see. Whether
that fantasy was straight or gay, sexually, or the fantasy of youngsters looking
up to us as comic book figures or ANY other imposed fantasy, it was strictly up
to the individual and what was going on in his or her mind at the moment. We
were just able to create fertile figures for others to just let their
imaginations go wild upon. And trust me , they DID!
How about the song, "YMCA". How in the heck did all those hand movements come
Ah!....those hand movements! Those hand movements came about from the debut of
"YMCA" on Dick Clark's AMERICAN BANDSTAND. Dick really enjoyed what we were
doing and had us debut each of our songs on his programs. When it came time to
perform "YMCA" on BANDSTAND, the album, CRUISIN' had already shipped platinum,
so it was very familiar to the audience from radio and record. As we launched
into our performance of the song, the audience quickly began to sing along with
us and by the time we got to the chorus of "YMCA, etc", the studio audience
began to form the letters with their hands. So during the next verse, we looked
at each other and by the time that the next chorus came round, we had picked it
up ourselves and were forming the letters, "YMCA" along with the audience, LIVE
on television. That's how all that madness came about and it has endured for
more than 25 years. It's a simple little song with an incredibly sincere and
uplifting lyric that even young children can sing along with. The Young Men's
Christian Association has used our song, "YMCA" in it's public service
announcements. The WALT DISNEY Co. even uses "YMCA" on one of their compilations
to teach the alphabet to youngsters. Now that's some legacy!
"You Can't Stop the Music" is a Cult Classic and I know I LOVED it when I saw
it as an 11 year old child. What was it like working on this fine piece of
cinema? Meeting Bruce Jenner? Steve Guttenberg? Working with Nancy Walker? Did
you know it was going to bomb?
Hmmm...."Can't Stop the Music". Working on that film was truly an incredible
experience. I mean, how many people can say that they have had the opportunity
to portray themselves in a major Hollywood motion picture. I can't think of
many...maybe Audie Murphy in "To Hell and Back". He portrayed himself in that
film as America's most decorated war hero. Come to think of it, "To Hell and
Back" might have been a better title for "Can't Stop, etc". Only kidding.
Getting to know Allan Carr, Nancy Walker, Valerie Perrine, Bruce Jenner, Steve
Guttenberg, Tammy Grimes, Marilyn Sokol and all the rest of the great folks
involved with that project was just part of the non-stop whirlwind that we found
ourselves caught up in LESS than TWO years after we recorded our FIRST album as
Village People. Yes, in less that two years we went from recording our first
album to shooting CSTM, a major Hollywood film, budgeted at more than 25 million
dollars, which was a helluva film budget in 1979 dollars. And we were surrounded
by ALL the trappings that one would expect in a "Hollywood' scenario. The house
in Beverly Hill, the car, the parties, etc. All of it happened so very quickly.
There are hundreds of tales...you'll have to read my book for all the good
stuff. This interview is just the tip of the iceberg. There's everything from
Rock Hudson to Ladybird Johnson to Falcon Studio Models to meeting the Queen of
England,.. and more!
I know this is sort of silly, but I grew up with these 70's shows & I
considered them my Gods. Describe your experience on the Love Boat? Dance Fever?
Solid Gold? Other TV shows of the time?
Yes, it IS silly. But isn't it amazing how so many of those '70's TV shows have
such a fascination wtih folks even to this day? 'LOVE BOAT' was a great
experience. Aaron Spelling just knows how to do a tv show. He always makes the
celebrity guests feel just that way. I still have this beautiful 6"x9" silver
box engraved with my name and "LOVE BOAT 1980". Mr. Spelling is a class act all
the way. I think he has been that way with every show he's ever produced. I got
to know Betty White on that show. She is hysterical lady with a fiendish sense
of humour. She and her husband Allen Ludden were guests on the show in the same
episode. Loni Anderson was in that episode too. And that was the period when she
was built like a brick s...house. I mean STACKED!!!! I also hung out quite a bit
with Lauren Tewes(Julie) during that period. Believe me, 'LOVE BOAT' was indeed
a rockin' raft!
As VP we did the pilot episodes for both 'DANCE FEVER' with
Denny Terio and 'SOLID GOLD'. I think SOLID GOLD had the Jeff Kutash
Dancers....they were sweet, in a '70's kinda way. Of course, we did 'DANCE
FEVER' for "Uncle Merv" (Griffin). We had done his show lots. Merv, Dick Clark,
Bob Hope and Hugh Hefner were kinda like Godfathers to us in Hollywood. It just
seemed that somehow they tuned into us a s group and understood what it was that
we were about and were always there with an opportunity to make an appearance on
one of their programs or specials or at an event with which they might be
involved. Hef had several Pajama Party Specials that we performed in and I
always had a standing invitation to the Los Angeles Playboy Mansion. In fact,
that's where I first met Dorothy Stratten and got to know her. She and I went
out together a couple of times. Of course no one really knew what that insane
husband, Paul, had in store for her. I also got to know Patrick Cassidy at the
Mansion in LA when he was just a kid...maybe 17...he really shouldn't have been
there, but it was the '70's. I was ALWAYS running into someone at the Mansion.
My favorite places were the grotto and the game room.
What was the "Renaissance New Romantic look". Is that what ultimately made
you quit the group? How did the others feel about the new look?
I think "Renaissance" was a reaction as opposed to a creation. Although, CSTM
was successful in several major markets overseas, (we did have several top 10
hits from that soundtrack in foreign territories), it definitely did not live up
to expectaions here in America. Coupled with a record label change, from
Casablance to RCA, I think the Village People Producers thought they could
change the look of the group to something akin to what was happening in Europe a
la Steve Strange or Adam and the Ants kinda thing. When we first started talking
about changing the image and all, I couldn't believe it. I thought, something's
up! And secondly, I thought it wasn't fair to the many millions of loyal fans
who had bought our recording around the world during the past nearly four years.
By that point we had probably sold in excess of 50 or 60 million records...an
impressive amount. That's a lot of album covers to have one's face on. And I
personally thought that to destroy the character images that we had spent blood,
sweat and tears (not to mention money) to sear into the minds of legions of
loyal fans, was a downright betrayal to those same fans and a very unwise move.
It was neither a smart move financially nor career-wise. So, for me, it was time
to move on. We figured out a way to do it and I was OUTTA THERE prior to the
paintin' up for the Renaissance album shoot. I guess the other guys thought it
was a good idea, because they went along with it. But NOT me! The Renaissance
album was the first one for RCA, the new label. I think RCA was a bit shocked
when it received the Renaissance package. It had bought one image, the Cowboy,
Indian, etc., and had been delivered a totally DIFFERENT package of goods. I
don't think that album did very well.
Was it hard coming back and performing with the VP again after the group was
In 1986, Boy George and Cornelia Guest gave me a birthday dinner and party to
introduce a new record I had just finished. At the time I had been listening
intensely to what was being played on the radio in the NYC market and it was
beginning to sound a lot like some of the stuff we had done as VILLAGE PEOPLE.
One of the guys who had sang background with me on my recording of "Pretty
Woman" was Dan Hartman of "Instant Replay", "Relight My Fire" and "I Can Dream
About You" fame. I had consulted with him about creating the background "sound"
of "Living In America" which he wrote and produced for James Brown. He was
looking for a big male-voiced choral sound, a la VILLAGE PEOPLE. In 1985, When
the record was released and appeared in the film, ROCKY IV, I thought, "Damn,
that sounds an awful lot like a VILLAGE PEOPLE song, just with James Brown
singing the lead. I'd been working with lots of different folks doing projects
in the mid-'80's and just about everybody would eventually ask if I'd ever
thought about getting back together with VILLAGE PEOPLE? So, I figured I'd
invite the original VP guys to my birthday party with Boy George and Cornelia so
I could see up close how everyone appeared and frankly to see if we could all be
in the same room together for a couple of hours and not kill each other.
made sure that we got photographed for the New York Post and the Daily News, so
I could see what we looked like in photographs. Photos of the birthday party
showed up in the press over the next couple of days and we looked great...we
looked like VILLAGE PEOPLE! So my mind went into overdrive and I
thought...."Hmmm, given the sound that's out there getting radio play, the fact
that VP has been off the scene for a couple of years, the guys look good and
there is deifinitely industry interest, maybe we ought to give it a shot and see
if there are gigs, etc out there for VP!" So I had everyone located, but I knew
it was an act that DEFINITELY needed skilled management and representation. I
met with David Fishoff, the management svengali who masterminded the revival of
the MONKEES in '85 and '86 and the overwhelmingly successful "DIRTY DANCIN'"
Concert Tour. He salivated. But he was like me....he insisited on meeting face
to face with the guys....to see all of them up close. We met, hammered out our
agreements and begain rehearsals in January of 1987 for our first reunion
tour....which was to be in Australia later in the Spring/Summer of '87. It just
snowballed and gained momentum from there. Was it difficult to accomplish...this
"reunion". It was NOT easy. But the guys needed it. They had been going in all
kinds of different directions since the group previously disbanded. Most of them
were not even involved in the music business at the time that I had gotten in
touch with them, so it all came about at a very good time for everyone. We
worked really hard at creating a damned good show and it paid off. I mean,
VILLAGE PEOPLE is still out there doin' it after more than a quarter of a
century. That deserves respect!
Do you still keep in contact with any of the members of the Village People?
I do. I try to catch at least a couple shows a year when they perform in New
York City. We were all together at Glenn Hughes funeral in 2001. We all keep
pretty busy, but our paths do cross once in a while.
What are you working on now? Is it tough getting past the VP image of being
the cowboy from the Village People?
Right now, I've got two films in the can. One, THREE LONG YEARS is completed and
is to be screened during the New York Film Festival in September of this year.
The other JOYTIME is in postproduction. I'm booked to begin work on another,
SUNRISE, early next year. My partner, Will Grega and I are known as
We have an award winning cd, STEREOTONIC currently in
release that was chosen on June 2nd, as the winner of the OUT MUSIC RECORDING OF
THE YEAR, 2003. As STEREOTONIC, we produce and create 'Music for Your Fabulous
Lifestyle'. It is a mix of Lounge and Dance grooves that is hip yet
sophisticated. Urban, but Cosmopolitan. Drum'n'bass, house, dub, rock, disco,
ambient and jazz are all rolled into one polyrhythmic, polymorphous and playful
musical performance of intricately layered music inspired by such artists as
Kruder & Dorfmeister, Thievery Corporation, Pink Floyd, Enigma, Avalanches, Air
and Aphex Twin. We have another scheduled for release later in the year. As a
solo artist, this summer I'm recording a collection of jazz and standard vocally
oriented songs by Ben Folds, Sting, Gershwin, and others from the American
Songbook. It's called "THE LUCKIEST" and it's due out in late January.
I would not say it's tough getting past the image of the 'VP Cowboy'. It is
however something that I acknowledge, embrace, respect and then get on with.
Having created such an iconic image that has permeated the public consciousness
and achieved such a place in Popular Culture over the last nearly thirty years
is a daunting accomplishment. I've been on the cover of ROLLINGSTONE Magazine,
the front page of The NEW YORK POST ,preserved in the pages of the WORLDBOOK
Encyclopedia and more. And unless I run for President of the United States and
win!....I'm probably gonna always be tagged with the VP association. And you
know, having been part of something like VILLAGE PEOPLE and YMCA, etc....is not
so bad. Every day somewhere in some town, on the radio, on televison, in a film,
at a wedding, a bar mitzvah, or Saturday night dance, people are laughing and
enjoying the work done by my VP brothers and me. Everywhere I travel, my work is
familiar to people's ears if not their eyes and more often than not the mere
mention of VP or the sound of our music will bring smiles to most faces. I mean
what better legacy could one possibly wish for?
Why did you quit the Village People again?
After I was able to locate and convince the original guys (with Ray Simpson
replacing Victor Willis) to re-group again in late '86, we formed a corporation,
SIXUVUS, Ltd., to handle our business affairs as VILLAGE PEOPLE. As President of
SIXUVUS, Ltd., for nearly four years, I learned a helluva lot about the business
of running a corporation, etc. It was a very intense time spent in rebuilding an
audience base for the group and just letting people know that we were still
vital and alive...and still kickin' ass! But we did just that! I mean the fact
that a group is still out there performing as VILLAGE PEOPLE testifies to the
hard work we did in the late eighties. Of course, the group out on the road
today is only "fifty percent Village People" or "Village People Light" as I like
to refer to it. The present group is comprised of only three original members
and three replacements. In the early nineties, I began to really think about the
future, my individual career and my relationship with my life partner, Will
Grega, which is now approaching twenty years. Life on the road continuously with
VP, was and I'm sure still is a very demanding mistress, emotionally and
physically. After a year of soul searching(my last year with VP), I came to the
conclusion that my relationship and homelife were more important than spending
the greater part of each month out on the road with VP. I figured it was a good
time to make a change. I was eager to pursue my individual career as a performer
and explore other facets of my training as an actor and a singer that really
weren't utilised as a member of VILLAGE PEOPLE.
CLINT WALKER: A retroCRUSH fit for a Cowboy!
Can you tell us an actor/singer from the past you have a retroCRUSH on?
As a kid growing up in the Fifties, we had many fewer choices of shows to watch
than kids do today and most of them were in black and white...as difficult as
that is to imagine. Even more unimaginable, there was actually an end to a
programming day where an image of the American flag and the STAR SPANGLED BANNER
were the last things one saw and heard if one caught the final programming
moments of a station. I was a huge fan of Roy Rogers and the many western
television programs...such as PALLADIN, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, SUGARFOOT, HAVE
GUN WILL TRAVEL and THE REBEL. Of course I was a huge fan of I LOVE LUCY, AMOS
'N ANDY and THE LIBERACE SHOW as well, of course. One of my VERY favorite
television shows when I was a kid was "CHEYENNE" starring 'the big guy himself',
Clint Walker. He was one of the most popular 'cowboy' actors on tv and he had a
presence like no other western "style" actor. The man is 6 feet four or five
inches tall and weighed in somewhere around 220 or so. He really was a HUGE guy!
And he was one of those guys in the Fifties that really took care of
himself...he had a great body and was very handsome. Needless to say, Warner
Bros. Studio took every opportunity to exploit his obvious physical assets. So
at the young tender age of 7 or 8 years old, I'm fixated with this image of a
nearly perfect specimen of a superhero COWBOY. And nearly every week for four or
five years, this heroic figure of a human being is beamed into my folks living
room for me to view, performing within some plot where he always ends up being
the good guy while finding some reason to play at least a portion of the hour
WITHOUT his shirt, displaying what even by today's standards would be a very
well-built body and an excellent hairy chest to boot! So how could I grow up and
turn out to be any different. I mean C-O-W-B-O-Y!!! I remember once reading in
TV Guide that "Clint Walker enjoys using a sewing machine". Somehow, without concious recognition, that must have given me some kind of alternate
perspective. I guess you could say I had something of a crush on CLINT WALKER.
Thank you again Randy Jones for sharing a part of your world with us.
For more info about Randy Jones go to his website at
WWW.RANDYJONESWORLD.COM. He also
has a dance and lounge music site that every RetroCrusher would love at
The Village People are still going strong and for those of you near the
Central Valley in California they will be playing July 25th at the
STANISLAUS COUNTY FAIR. I will be there
taking pictures and cheering them on. Donít miss your chance to see these
incredibly talented people! Not to mention who doesnít love waving their hands
in the air to the song "YMCA"? To find out more go to