Tag Archives: The Ramrod

Gay Disco Music History: Henri Belolo, Co-Founder of the Village People, Dies at 82

Gay Disco Music History: Henri Belolo, Co-Founder of the Village People, Dies at 82

Henri Belolo — he’s the one without a costume — with the Village People in an undated photograph. Mr. Belolo and the composer Jacques Morali, a business partner, created the group in 1977 after, he recalled, they “started to fantasize on what were the characters of America.”

Henri Belolo, one of the creative minds behind the Village People, died on Aug. 3 of pancreatic cancer at his home in Paris. He was 82.

Via the New York Times:

Mr. Belolo had been a music producer and executive in Morocco and France in 1977 when one night he and the composer Jacques Morali, his business partner, were at the Anvil, an after-hours gay nightclub in the West Village of Manhattan. They noticed a bartender who doubled as a dancer wearing a headdress and loincloth.

As they watched, the man, Felipe Rose — who was wearing that outfit to honor his Native American father — attracted the attention of a man dressed as a cowboy.

“Jacques and I suddenly had the same idea,” Mr. Belolo told the website Disco-Disco in 2000. “We said, ‘My God, look at those characters.’ So we started to fantasize on what were the characters of America. The mix, you know, of the American man.”

Mr. Belolo, who was straight, and Mr. Morali, who was gay, initially focused on gay listeners as the group’s core audience. They had regularly frequented gay clubs in Manhattan like the Anvil and the Ramrod. Later after the group became popular they packaged the Village People as a “straight group” but everybody.

Jacques Morali, died from complications of AIDS in 1991, believed that he and Mr. Belolo could build hits in gay discos — “Y.M.C.A.” rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979; “In the Navy” reached No. 3 that same year; “Macho Man” peaked at No. 25 in 1978.

Learn Your LGBT History! – An Abridged Timeline of Greenwich Village Gay History, 1971-2000

The Ramrod NYC – Circa 1978

1971    The first act of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy is set during this year at Village gay bar The International Stud  (733 Greenwich St. at Perry St.).

1972    The Gay Switchboard is launched at the newly opened Liberation House  (247   11th St., between 4th St. and Waverly Pl.) and begins logging 400 calls a week.  It is still operational today and is known as the Gay & Lesbian Switchboard of New York .

1973    Ex-nun and future LGBT leader Jean O’Leary makes her public debut on the Washington Square Park stage of the annual Gay Pride rally and declares transvestite entertainment insulting to women; the bedlam that ensues between girl homos and boy homos can only be placated by Bette Midler‘s rousing rendition of “Friends.” Later in life O’Leary co-founded National Coming Out Day with Rob Eichberg in 1987.  Jean O’Leary passed away in 2005 of lung cancer/

1980    Popular late ’70s/early ’80s infamous lesbian hangout Duchess (101 Seventh Ave. South at Grove St.) begins coming under attack from state liquor license inspectors, reportedly refused service after they charmed the bartender with refrains of “Come on girlie, give us a drink.”  The Duchess is now closed

1980    Former city transit cop Ronald Crumpley goes on a shooting rampage with an Uzi in the Village, killing two and wounding six in front of popular Ramrod leather bar. (394 West St., between 10th and Christopher Sts.). “I want to kill them all,” he explains afterward. “They’re no good. They ruin everything.” He is found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity and institutionalized where he remains today.  The Ramrod never recovers from the incident and closes shortly afterwards.

1981    Eighty men meet at writer Larry Kramer’s Washington   Square North apartment to address the “rare cancer seen in 41 homosexuals” (as reported by the New York Times) and to raise research funds; the gathering would lay the foundation for the Gay Men’s Health CrisisThe GMHC today is the world’s leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy

1983    The Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center is founded, and purchases the building (208 W. 13th St., between Seventh and Greenwich Aves.) that’s still its home (now as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, or as most just know it, The Center).

1985    The Harvey Milk School opens with 20 gay teenage students at the Washington Square  United Methodist  Church (135 W. 4th St., between MacDougal St. and Sixth Ave.).

1992    George Segal’s controversial statue “Gay Liberation” is installed in Christopher Street Park across from the Stonewall Inn.

George Segal’s “Gay Liberation”