The group was formed in the late 1970s after producers saw Felipe Rose dancing in Native American attire in Greenwich Village. Other members were added — the biker, the cop, the construction worker, the cowboy and the soldier. Their hits “Y.M.C.A.” and “Macho Man” still bring crowds to their feet almost 40 years later, and Rose is still a member of the group.
The Village People recently returned to the United States after performing in Spain, and Rose took a few minutes to talk with Cityview before the group left for Florida for another show.
CV: Anyone who was a fan of music back in the ’70s knew of the scene and that it entailed much more than just the music at times, if you get where I’m going with this. It was a time before we knew of AIDS, people were more free in their attitudes toward things, seemingly. Did you find this to be the case?
Felipe: It was wilder than it is today. Because anyone can be famous today. It was a lot of decadence and debauchery, but every decade in music has that.
The difference is people used to dress up a lot to go out then. There was fashion to view and all that.
CV: Your stage attire was pretty minimal. Have there ever been any wardrobe malfunctions?
Felipe: It’s not a costume; it’s from my Native American roots. I was representing me as I was. The other members were given characters — “You’re a cop, you’re a biker.” I wore beads, I wore necklaces — it was part of my upbringing.
CV: Some of the new members of The Village People came into the group as recently as two years ago. Is that like bringing a son into the family business?
Felipe: Not exactly. Two people left simultaneously. Members have understudies; we replace people. If you are sick, if you have to go to a funeral, someone steps in. They are employees; they are doing their job.
CV: You just finished two shows in Spain, and you’ll be coming to the Iowa State Fair soon. Is there any difference between performing overseas and in the U.S. these days?
Felipe: Every show is different. We play in arenas, for festivals… last night we had 1,000 people near the Mediterranean. In Finland we have huge crowds. In Australia we had 100,000 people. Each show is different — we do private events, corporate events. Overall it’s a pretty nice career. Travel is annoying, with schedules changing, the weather changing. In summer in Chicago with the rainstorms and thunderstorms, you can end up staying a day or a night in an airport. But overall, everything is wonderful. We are looking forward to being at the (Iowa State) Fair. This is the first fair we have done this year. They’re fun, the people are friendly. I will likely get a corn dog on the side and a funnel cake or something.
CV: The Village People have been going strong for quite awhile.
Felipe: I still can’t believe we’re doing it this long. But who would have believed Madonna would still be singing at 50? Never say never. The day we say we’re retiring, we’ll mean it. CV