Wednesday, March 08, 2006
The fugitive cop
In one of those sad ironies, the former cop in the Village People, Victor Willis is now officially a fugitive. Recently he was profiled on America's Most Wanted (February 25th episode) for skipping a recent court appearance, which was scheduled as a "surrender" from a prior missed appearance. Apparently this was in relation to a drug arrest this past July 2005, where cops in Daly City, California had stopped him at a traffic light and caught him with crack cocaine and a loaded gun.. If that wasn't bad enough, at the time of his arrest he was on probation for a prior drug conviction in 2003.
What makes it even more sad, is that this was only the latest in a very long history of drug problems. Apparently, among other things, he was ousted from the Village People in 1980 because of his escalating cocaine problem. He was said to have "indulged in a generous hit of freebase prior to each performance" (source) during the VP's heyday. Originally a broadway singer/actor, Willis was, in a way, the original member of the Village People. Originally, like many disco groups they had started as a producers studio project. In this case, the Village People were the product of the production team of Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo who also had success with The Ritchie Family and Patrick Juvet among others. Like many studio groups, the first Village People recordings were done with anonymous studio singers; it was only after the success of their first singles that a genuine group of regular members was assembled. Willis was one of the original studio singers who sang on their first album and was the only one of those studio singers to become part of the assembled group. He would later assume a fairly dominant role in the group not only as the primary lead vocalist but apparently in the creative process as well. Willis was credited as a co-writer for many of their releases including some of their biggest hits like "Y.M.C.A.," "In The Navy, " "Macho Man" and "Go West" among others. VP member Felipe Rose in a 2002 interview recalled that Willis had even wanted the group to be billed as "Victor Willis and The Village People." In the late '70s Willis had also married actress/singer Phylicia Allen (later known as Phylicia Rashad), best known for her role as Mrs. Huxtable on the Cosby Show. During (and perhaps as a result of) their union, Allen would release a disco album of her own; the camptastic "Josephine Superstar" (1978, Casablanca), also produced the VP's producers. Willis was later ousted from the group "by mutual agreement" in 1979 just prior to the filming of the group's celluloid disaster "Can't Stop The Music." Shortly after, his marriage would end in divorce.
Since then Victor Willis' credits have read more like a rap sheet than a discography. Aside from the drug charges, there have been charges of rape, false imprisonment and robbery (though to be fair, he had been acquitted of the rape charge, and the other two were later dropped). Reportedly in the late '90s, at what was probably his lowest point, Willis was discovered living in San Francisco as a homeless squatter. While he seems to have moved up from that (his last known address was a trailer park in Daly City, CA), it's hard to believe someone could nurse a drug addiction for so long, fall so far and still be alive...
AMERICA'S MOST WANTED: FUGITIVE DATA FILE - VICTOR EDWARD WILLIS
BBC NEWS - VILLAGE PEOPLE 'COP' FACES PRISON (January 26, 2006)
USA TODAY - VILLAGE PEOPLE 'POLICEMAN' TWICE FAILS TO SHOW UP FOR DRUG SENTENCING (January 25, 2006)
BBC NEWS - VILLAGE PEOPLE 'COP' FACES ARREST (October 21, 2005)
GOOGLE GROUPS - VILLAGE PEOPLE COP IS SQUATTER (FROM SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE January 11, 1999) alt.gossip.celebrities
GOOGLE GROUPS - VILLAGE PEOPLE 'COP' ARRESTED (FROM NEW YORK POST February 16, 1997) alt.showbiz.gossip
CLASSIC BANDS - THE VILLAGE PEOPLE
ROTTEN.COM - THE VILLAGE PEOPLE
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