BY Advocate Contributors
November 27 2009 5:00 AM ET
So, they flew out to LA to meet with Neil. As they walked into Neil’s
office, I saw that both Henri and Jacques were very cosmopolitan guys
with a flair for fashion. Morali was energetic, flamboyant, and a bit
prissy — definitely the salesman of the two. Belolo tended to hang
back, was more subdued, and was the business force behind the project.
After we exchanged some pleasantries, they got right to their pitch.
They played us a recording of the Village People. The album, which was
maybe twenty minutes long, was already a complete package, including
artwork. This was a strong selling point for us: Casablanca would only
need to manufacture and market the record; and with the cover done, we
were already halfway home as far as marketing went. If the material was
good, this would be an easy sell.
Neil immediately loved it,
but he decided to let me put it to the “Casablanca test” first. This
consisted of playing a song at such a high volume that everyone in the
entire two-story building would hear it. If people came running to find
out what it was, we knew we had something. I played the record at
ear-splitting volume, and the office quickly filled with people from
sales, promotion, and PR — everyone was attracted to the music. Neil’s
eyes were glowing, and we both sensed that this crazy idea had the
makings of a monster. The album cover was the cherry on top: we were
the label of KISS, Parliament, and Angel, so this group of guys dressed
as leather fetishists, Indians, and construction workers was right up
our alley. We got it!
Neil sat down with Allen Grubman and
signed the group on the strength of the finished album. We’d yet to
meet or speak to a single member of the band, and we wouldn’t for
several months. The guys were cast members more than musicians or
singers (though each could carry a tune), and the idea was for them to
be entertaining, not create great music. None of us paid attention to
the fact that the Village People and their vibe were blatantly gay.
Frankly, not only did we not pay attention to it, but we didn’t even
realize it. Their music was so energetic that it demanded your
attention. I don’t think it was possible not to like it. But anything
more than a five-second glance at the band revealed an array of obvious
references to the homosexual lifestyle, which was the foundation of so
much disco music.