The Village People Bring the Boogie to Houston

The Village People - costumes and all - will rock Houston with their greatest hits.
The Village People - costumes and all - will rock Houston with their greatest hits. Photo by Aaron Cobbitt
Attention all ladies and macho men, the Village People are bringing the disco love to Miller Outdoor Theatre for a free concert on July 3. The “Kings of Disco” will perform all their greatest hits, including "Y.M.C.A.," "Macho Man," "Go West," "San Francisco(You've Got Me)/In Hollywood," "In the Navy" and many more.

“We are a party band. We’ve always been a party band. Some people refer to us as one of the original boy bands,” says band member Eric Anzalone, better known as “The Biker.” “We challenge our audiences to get up and dance with us.”

Expect plenty of singing, grooving and, of course, those iconic costumes.

Anzalone says the costumes were always a part of the plan when French composer and producer Jacques Morali and his business partner, Henri Belolo, formed the group in 1977.

“Jacques was taken with American stereotypes. He saw Felipe, who would dress up [in traditional Native American attire] to go clubbing,” he said. “He decided he was going to put together a band of macho stereotypes, and the rest is history.”
Thus, the Native American, police officer, biker, construction worker, cowboy and soldier personas were born. The original members of the Village People include Alex Briley (soldier), Dave Forrest (cowboy), Lee Mouton (biker), Mark Mussler (construction worker), Felipe Rose (Native American) and Victor Willis (police officer). Several members of the cast have changed throughout the years, but Briley and Rose remain.

Anzalone joined the group in 1995. He had previous experience as a guitar player and singer in heavy metal bands. He was living in New York City, where he saw an ad in the Village Voice that said, “Well known group looking for a singer with a passport.”

He says, “I sent in my demo, and I kind of forgot about it. A month later I got a call from an agent. I learned it was the Village People. I thought it was a tribute band or wedding band, and they said, ‘No, it’s the Village People.’“

The group is still very popular among crowds. Over the past few years, Village People have performed a full schedule of concerts, festivals, universities, fairs, and casinos throughout the United States and internationally. Anzalone said the group logged more than 80,000 miles in the previous six weeks.

He adds that traveling so much has sometimes led to disaster. He recalled a time the group traveled to Florida when the luggage containing his costume didn’t arrive. Ever the quick thinker, he came up with a solution.

“We have been put in situations where you've got to get whatever you can find,“ he said. “I had to put together a leather outfit, so I went to a sex shop and asked where their leather section was.”
In their 40 years of performing, they have amassed many adoring fans, but none is more surprising than one fellow artist who loves their music: Marilyn Manson. The group met him when they were both in attendance at an event hosted by Ozzie and Sharon Osborne.

“We’ve partied with Marilyn Manson,” Anzalone says. “He is a huge Village People fan. In fact, he has a poster of Can’t Stop The Music in his bedroom.”

He included that they’ve crossed paths with Manson at least three times in the airport, and Manson always tries to bargain for a part of Rose’s Native American costume for his personal band memorabilia.

The Village People’s influence over pop culture remains as strong as ever. Guinness World Records certified their Sun Bowl appearance on December 31, 2008, as the world’s largest YMCA dance, with more than 40,000 fans doing the YMCA moves while the group performed. They received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6529 Hollywood Boulevard between Liberace and Betty Grable.

They have appeared on Fox’s Wendy Williams Show, NBC’s Singing Bee with Joey Fatone, an American Express TV commercial with Ellen DeGeneres and Beyoncé, and the 2012 Wonderful Pistachios spot. Village People sang with Susan Boyle, Lance Bass and Wynonna Judd on a 2013 Miracle Whip promo.
Nonetheless, it’s their live concerts that keep them a favorite among music lovers worldwide.

“It’s just fun, fun, fun. For those of us who grew up in the disco era, it was fun music,” says Cissy Segall Davis, managing director of the Miller Theatre Advisory Board. “You can sit back and giggle or get up and dance. We want people to come out and have fun.”

As always, the ticket prices at Miller Outdoor Theatre can’t be beat.

This is a ticketed event for the covered seating area. Free tickets are available (four per person over age 16 while they last) at the Miller Outdoor Theatre box office the day of the performance between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. If any tickets remain at 1 p.m., the box office will reopen one hour before show time to distribute the remaining tickets. There is open seating on the hill, and the show goes on rain or shine.

The Village People perform July 3 at 8:30 p.m. at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, visit Free.

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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd