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Disco icons back in town


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POSTED: Friday, December 25, 2009

Whether you're gay or straight, young or old, everyone celebrates the disco camp classic “;Y.M.C.A.,”; complete with letter-spelling arm choreography, whenever the iconic chorus comes 'round.

“;(The song) will be around as long as ...”;—here the Village People's David Hodo paused briefly when reached by phone, running through all comparable tunes in his head—“;... 'Polly Wolly Doodle.' It's always going to be part of American tradition.”;

The sneakily subversive pop hit is so ubiquitous that it's practically heard year-round at sports events and parties. Hodo and his Village mates should be in top form come New Year's Eve when they headline at the Sheraton Waikiki.

               

     

 

NEW YEAR'S EVE DANCE PARTY

        with the Village People
       

» Where: Hawaii Grand Ballroom, Sheraton Waikiki

       

» When: 9 p.m. Thursday

       

» Cost: $75, $90, $125 and $150 (available at the Blaisdell Center box office, all Ticketmaster outlets and Kailua Sports Gear)

       

» Info: (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com

       

 

       

By his count, this is the third time the Village People have traveled to Honolulu for a NYE bash.

With the exception of a thankfully brief reimaging in New Romantic garb in the early '80s, the Village People have always performed in stereotypic gay-masculine costumes—Hodo as the hunky construction worker, with fellow original members Alex Briley (soldier) and Felipe Rose (American Indian). They join “;policeman”; Ray Simpson, Jeff Olson (cowboy) and Eric Anzalone (biker) as one of the longest-running groups, approaching its 40th year of existence.

Back before there was a Village People, Hodo said he “;worked the California fair circuit in the '60s, appearing in musical revues and cover bands.”;

Based out of the northern Sacramento region of California, Hodo was prime to make the leap into real show biz by “;either moving to L.A. or New York. My best friend dating back from school spent the summer in New York and liked it, so we ended up sharing an apartment there with another roommate on the West side.

“;There was a lot of competition there—we New Yorkers always say that the singers and dancers are much better here than in L.A.—and even though I was a gypsy-like performer in my early years, I was lucky enough to get my Actors Equity card on my second day there.

“;It was opportunity meeting preparation, and I never really wanted for a job. Thank God, because I would've made a terrible waiter!”;

During a rare time without work, Hodo took a chance to answer a non-Equity ad looking for “;macho types”; that could sing and dance. The music trade ad was taken out by French music entrepreneurs Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo looking for performers to work with their American singer Victor Willis.

“;I only meant to stay with this group for a week—just enough time to file for unemployment—and Willis had already recorded 'Macho Man' within the first week of what would become the Village People”; (named after the predominantly gay Greenwich Village neighborhood).

Hodo distinctly remembers seeing themselves, decked out in their costume finery, in the rehearsal hall mirrors and saying to himself, “;This is either going to be one of the biggest flops or a big hit. Nobody saw what was going to happen next.”;

Backed by the promotional power of music mogul Neil Bogart of Casablanca Records (home to hit acts KISS and Donna Summer), the Village People became poster boys for the gloriously hedonistic '70s.

“;It really started in the '60s in the pushing of the boundaries,”; Hodo remembered. “;But the decadence kicked in around 1972. Sometimes, I didn't realize what a prude I could be, but still, it was a wild, fun time, especially the clothes and the music.”;

                       

        Village People
        www.officialvillagepeople.com

The Village People would appear and perform at some of the hippest dance venues in Manhattan.

“;I remember the first time we went to (the notorious) Studio 54, and I thought 'This is it?' It was so small and crammed! There was also a club called Xenon that didn't last long, but there were laser guns that you could shoot at targets above the dancers.

“;Back then, everybody was a star,”; Hodo said.

That feel of stardom really hit home for Hodo in 1979, “;during our first national tour, doing 46 dates in 54 days.

“;Right after that, we went into filming the movie 'Can't Stop the Music.' We were hot at the time, and in those pre-MTV days, you had to make personal appearances. But I remember, after we taped a segment for Dick Clark's 'Rockin' New Year's Eve' show that showed us counting down to the new year, watching it being aired in the U.S. and realizing it was being done again eight more times in other countries.”;

The Village People's celebrity status was acknowledged again last September when the group received its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“;I always enjoyed performing, although I hate the traveling,”; said Hodo. “;I've dragged my carcass several times around the world. ... But people have to realize that the Village People are only half the entity without the audience.

“;Fortunately for us, the kids of 'American Bandstand' came up with the arm movements for 'Y.M.C.A.,' and children in kind have learned it from their parents. When people come to our shows, it's amazing how young most of them are.

“;When we ask on stage who there weren't around in 1972, we always get the largest audience reaction.”;

So what does Hodo plan to do once the construction worker garb is off and he gets to enjoy his time here in Hawaii? Party like it's, um, 1979?

“;I plan to sit under a palm tree and read,”; he said.