Randy Jones, Village People cowboy on NYC's nightlife evolution
Randy Jones, 59, is the original cowboy in The Village People, who sang the disco anthems "In The Navy," "Macho Man, ' and 'YMCA. " Jones, who lives in the East Village with his partner of 28 years, hosts the new Sunday Night Fever disco party at Splash, 50 W. 17th St., 8:30 p.m. to midnight, that began last night.
By SHEILA ANNE FEENEY
Q What would you most like to see changed or accomplished in NYC?
A It should be very, very expensive for one person in a car to come into New York City. It should be really, really, really expensive for a single person coming in at night because they’re coming here to drink – and then drive home.
Q How has New York City nightlife changed since the disco era?
A We were the last generation able to truly live in the moment. We didn’t have voice mail and cell phones and were the last generation unburdened by the constant demands of technology. When we went out to dance, we were dancing. We weren’t taking a photo or a video of it – we were having the actual experience. (Young people today) are distracted from actually living the moments in their lives. I don’t know if people have less fun now, but everything they do is distracted. They don’t know what it’s like to not have information shoved at them from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. We were naive and innocent. In our day we had gonorrhea and syphilis: When we got an STD you just took an antibiotic and got rid of it.
Q AIDS changed everything, true. But why bother leaving the apartment, if all you’re going to do is stare at your phone all night and not talk to the people around you?
A Remember when people looked at each other walking down the street? Gay or straight, everybody checked each other out. It was called cruising! They don’t do that now! The reason night life is so huge in NYC is that most people’s apartments are so small and compact: They make people want to go out. And you have to leave your apartment if you’re looking for a date or a hookup or whatever. But now they can look in their phones.
Q What is it like for you – a symbol of crazy nightlife – to be hosting a party that ends at midnight? Is that the hours the older folks are now allotted?
A I don’t want to be in bed by midnight! (The Splash Party) is not just for people in their 50s and 60s, but all factions. It’s a wonderful opportunity for people who want classic 70’s disco, for anyone who has a job on Monday morning and wants to go out on Sunday night. I still dance! I dance on stage and I go out dancing at Splash and Industry. I haven’t gone to Exhale yet, but I will.
Q How does it feel to know that your songs are played at so many American wedding receptions, yet in most states you are forbidden to marry your own partner?
A: Funny you should ask that: I just got back from performing at a wedding in Tucson. I figure that I have the sharpest knife in the drawer. As cowboys, cops, construction workers, we were a wink, a wiggle and a wave – (The Village People) never crossed the line into offense – but we were in people’s homes (on television). With our scalpels, we made the incision and planted a question about their ideas of gay people in general – although we weren’t all gay. Progress is being made, absolutely, in challenging and changing misconceptions. You can do things radically, or you can do things like Martin Luther King did – subtly and with sophistication. I feel really great about our contribution because when someone sees me perform their first thought is never about who I’m sleeping with. I’m a divertissement. I’m Welsh and Irish, and I have that entertainer/story telling gene.
Q Are you married?
A: When the (gay) marriages first began to roll out in San Francisco and New Paltz, my partner released a CD – he’s a musician, too - and we had a party and he sat in the DJ booth and said, “Randy Jones, will you marry me?” He had the minister right there. Of course I said yes! It wasn’t legal then and it’s not legal now, as far as I’m concerned. The job is not done until the right to marry is a federal right. There’s no place for second class citizenship in a first class nation.
Q Who do you like for mayor?
A: I think Christine Quinn would make a good mayor. I’ve been in her presence a few times and she’s lovely. New York City may have had a gay mayor before, but it’s never had a woman.
Q What are some of your favorite New York City things to do?
A: Every summer I look for those three Saturdays in August when they close the streets from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and you can walk from Central Park all the way to Astor Place and then from Broadway to the Battery Tunnel. (This year “Summer Streets” will be on Aug. 6, 13 and 20.) It’s the most remarkable way to see that slice of New York and there’s nothing but pedestrians, bikes and skate boards.
Q What do you know about New York that no one else does?
A Julius’s in Greenwich Village, the oldest (continuous) gay bar in New York City, has an amazing history. In 1966, it was illegal to serve a homosexual a drink because homosexuals were considered by definition “disorderly.” “Disorderly” and “homosexual” was the same thing! Four or five guys from the Mattachine Society walked in to Julius’s after work in their suits and ties and ordered cocktails. When the bartender served them, each said “I’m a homosexual” and the bartender put his forearm over all the glasses so they couldn’t drink. They brought a photographer with them and called it a “Sip-In.” (The refusal of service) went to court and there was a ruling that just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re disorderly.
Q You’re originally from North Carolina. Does New York City have a special significance to you as a gay man?
A For anyone, New York City is a symbol. There’s no place like it anywhere in the world. Anyone can come here from anywhere and create an identity or embellish the one they already have. You have to learn to deal with people who may be incredibly different from you in a civil manner: It’s the way it should be.
Q What does being a New Yorker mean to you?
A Being the best person, and the best citizen, you can be. I really cherish this town. I love it. It’s incredibly beautiful, durable and strong. And that’s because of the people here.
Q When did you finally really feel like a New Yorker?
A I felt embraced from the moment I got here. I don’t see a new place as intimidating, but as a place to make new friends.