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New star turn for the Village People

Hollywood's Walk of Fame honors the popular '70s group.

September 13, 2008|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

Hollywood was overflowing with costumed characters Friday as disco music fans turned out to watch the Indian, the cowboy, the policeman, the construction worker, the biker and the soldier receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Hundreds experienced a 1970s flashback as the Village People were recognized for their catchy, kitschy tunes, including their signature hit, "YMCA." Fittingly, their star at 6529 Hollywood Blvd. is a block north of Hollywood's YMCA.

The group did not perform, but the crowd bobbed to recordings of "YMCA" and "Macho Man." Many waved Village People album covers. Among the fans were entertainer Charo, singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester and former Olympic diver Greg Louganis.

"This is lovely. It's really to the point and poignant," said fan Lisette St. Claire, 50, a casting director from Valley Village. Clad in a blouse bearing the words "Got Disco?" and toting an "American Bandstand" jacket, she held a miniature mirrored disco ball in the air.

"I invented the 'YMCA' hand movements when I was a dancer on 'American Bandstand,' " she said.

Next to her, Gus Calderon was wearing a leather vest, an old military officer's hat and a shirt that read "Disco Gus."

"I called in sick so I could come here today," said the 47-year-old postal worker from Monterey Park.

Bill Davis, 60, was in his favorite tie-dyed T-shirt. He was carrying three Village People albums and two loose Village People records for the group's members to sign.

"Their music is still danceable music. It's happy music," said the retired Hollywood department store worker.

The crowd included four visitors from Wooster, Ohio, in town for today's USC-Ohio State football game. "We were just driving by and saw the crowd," said Ryan Gochnauer, a 32-year-old electrician. Although he was too young to remember the Village People craze, "I know their songs."

For their part, the Village People seemed genuinely pleased to be receiving the Walk of Fame's 2,369th star.

The group's construction worker character, David Hodo, thanked by name the group's founders, ex-members, lyricists, choreographers, agents and record representatives.

"If this were the Academy Awards, the orchestra music would be welling up right now," said Hodo, one of the group's original members.

Cowboy character Jeff Olson, who replaced Randy Jones in the group in 1980, said no one would have imagined then that the Village People would still be performing in 2008. "We're at the L.A. County Fair tomorrow," he reminded Friday's crowd.

Soldier character Alexander Briley, another original member, read part of a congratulatory letter from comedian Phyllis Diller. She joked that she remembered meeting them on "The Merv Griffin Show" and "for once I wasn't overdressed."

Biker character Eric Anzalone, who took over the role after the death of original group member Glenn Hughes, explained that the other five performers "have become my brothers" since he joined the Village People in 1995. Turning to them, he added: "It's an honor to share the stage with you."

Indian Felipe Rose, an original member, read a note to the group from former TV host Dick Cavett, who wrote that "I can still see the kids on 'American Bandstand' gesticulating" to the song "YMCA."

"What is 'gesticulating?' " Rose asked with a grin.

Policeman character Ray Simpson thanked the Transportation Security Administration agents who allow him aboard airplanes with his cop costume, which includes a holstered pistol. "When you travel with a Glock that looks real, even when it's not," you attract attention, Simpson said.

Among those watching the sidewalk ceremony was Victor Willis. He was the Village People's original policeman. On Friday he was wearing a fake police uniform that included a gun. LAPD officers assigned to the ceremony took Willis aside and quietly examined it; it turned out to be a pellet gun.

"I'm happy they're getting a star," said Willis, who left the group in 1979 after writing "YMCA" and co-writing "Macho Man." "I guess everyone is surprised when something lasts 30 years."

--

bob.pool@latimes.com

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