Chart Week: May 12, 1979
Song: “In the Navy” – The Village People
Chart Position: #5, 9th week on the chart. Peaked at #3 for two weeks.
I wasn’t old enough to “get” the Village People when they were at the height of their powers. I was 6–7 years old during their brief moment at the top of the pop culture pyramid. All I knew was that they were goofy and funny and sang catchy disco songs.
I had no clue about all the subtext that was a part of the band, though. I didn’t know about the coding in songs like “Y.M.C.A.” and “Macho Man.” I didn’t get the meaning behind their name. I had no idea that their costumes and personas were all carefully selected to present a certain perspective of gay male fantasy.
All that makes me laugh because, when you look back on The Village People and their music, how more obvious could it have been what they were all about? Again, I was six and seven. What could I have known?
This countdown had one of my favorite AT40 trivia tidbits, a little note about how The Village People came to be.
The producers who assembled the group had a very specific concept for how they wanted the band to appear. They placed an ad in a trade paper looking for performers who fit this look. According to Casey, the ad sought “Singers and dancers, very good looking, with mustaches.” Wikipedia says the ad read, “Macho Types Wanted: Must Dance And Have A Mustache.”
The mustache line makes me laugh every time I hear it. Was that code in the late ‘70s for gay, particularly in the theater community the producers were searching in? I mean, a lot of dudes had mustaches in the ‘70s. Was the ability to dance while also having a mustache something that clearly identified a man as gay at the time?
That does not explain Victor Willis, the main vocalist and lyricist for the band. While he was leading The Village People, he was married to actress Phylicia Ayers-Allen, who a few years later became famous for playing Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Willis has been married at least one more time, also to a woman. Doing some research, it seems that Willis was the only straight member in the classic lineup of the Village People.
Over the years so many gay entertainers had to present themselves to the public as straight, married, family men. But Willis, perhaps the most famous “gay” man in the world in the late ’70s, was actually straight. Pop culture doesn’t always make sense.
For some reason I can’t embed the video, so go here to watch it.