Village people - in the navy

auto U.S. Navy invited The ville People to shoot the musique video for "In thé Navy" aboard thé Knox-class frigate USS Reasoner. Je vous demande pardon happened suivant is auto stuff de pop culture legend

par Jared Keller | published Aug 30, 2020 5:15 afternoon


The vidéos opens innocently enough. A cloche sounds ont we rigid onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval aménagements San Diego. A cadre of sailors, pull in “crackerjack” style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over your shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. Auto officer nous deck greets them through a blast de a boatswain"s call. Cette could be auto opening scene de a recruitment video parce que le the biggest naval renforcer on thé planet.

Vous lisez ce: Village people - in the navy

This is ne sont pas recruitment video. It"s "In the Navy," thé legendary 1979 hit from découverte queens The ville People, shot aboard thé very actual Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. Et one du those 5 Navy seafarers who strode up the gangplank throughout filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman et witness à one ns the strangest collisions between the U.S. Military et pop cultistes of auto 20th century.

“They picked the ship et they choose us, ns don"t sait why,” Beck, that left the Navy in 1982, told job & function in a phone interview from his Texas patrie in October. “I was seulement lucky venir be one of "em picked.”

The well known video, shot aboard thé Reasoner 40 years ago this year, was originally intended as a recruiting video. With the popularity ns The village People"s "Macho Man" et "YMCA," tying auto post-Vietnam blue water forces to one du the hottest acts in divertissement seemed favor a no-brainer pour Navy auditeur affairs officials through the commandants Naval région Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, who contacted bourgade People co-founder Henri Belolo (who died this year) about shooting a musique video aboard a navy vessel.


According venir the book Macho Man, thé Navy not seul forked over auto Reasoner, marqué several F-4 Phantom aircraft et dozens du additional employé to make auto video happen. The prestations de service even dubbed the band members honorary “members du the United says Navy, with all the rights et privileges, marqué none ns the duties jaune obligations.”

Not everyone was soja comfortable. While an elderly Navy public official didn"t seem totally aware of the village People"s appeal venir primarily-gay disco audiences at the time, enlisted sailors absolutely were, and there to be “mixed emotions” around having the group aboard à perform thé song. At the very least one constitue enlisted sailor told task & objective that cette scheduled leave explicitly so he could avoid appearing in the video.

“I"m not versus being gay, marqué I grew up in the texas panhandle et had never ever seen or met année openly nuit person until i joined thé Navy,” Beck said.

The lead up to opération took several months. According venir Beck, a photographer arrived aboard auto Reasoner months avant production opened up to tirer every sailor; a month antérieur à production began, 5 sailors, Beck included, were fitted pour the classic crackerjack-style dress uniform. Then, in june 1978 as soon as filming began, Beck et his other sailors to be assembled by the quarterdeck to meet thé band.

“It happened really fast,” stated one structure Reasoner officer, whose signal gang was responsible parce que le getting auto up-and-over flags deployed across the Reasoner. “I went nous leave on Wednesday to get married and the taping happened nous the following Monday. Nous had no indice this was vallonné when je left.”

“When the bourgade People first arrived, the leader in the officer"s uniform had a raincoat on and his hand in his pockets,” Beck recalled. “The officer conditions météorologiques deck called him to remove his hands, et when cette did, a gros bag du pot fell conditions météorologiques the deck.”

“The XO at thé time walked over et said, "That"s currently allowed on our ship," et he kicked it over auto side,” Beck added. “ yelled, "That"s 300 bucks!" et the XO replied, "I don"t" care." Those were thé rules.”

Representatives parce que le Willis et The ville People did no respond à multiple requests à la comment.

The band assembled nous the quarterdeck to lip sync follow me to auto song oui it played end loudspeakers when dozens de Reasoner seafarers were heureux enough venir watch from thé flight deck. Alex Briley, thé group"s original "G.I.," to be decked out as a small officer sapin class and touted a shore Patrol armband and billy club, while bandleader Ellis showed up in année admiral"s dress whites.

to be a actual troublemaker … he had this entirety "I"m meilleur than you attitude,"” Beck recalled. “The rest of the tape were great. Nous changed apparel with "em to faire our part and chit-chatted. At thé time, nous didn"t know they to be gay, not that ns cared. Ns liked "YMCA," and they were it s okay folks.”

But while Beck et his fellow sailors room clearly visible standing at lull in the sapin minute du the vidéos while the ville People gyrate in front of them, auto yeoman saus that he et his fellow sailors mainly didn"t make the définitif cut. In fact, thé opening sequence to be supposed to feature each sailor strolling up the gangplank et asking for permission venir come aboard, a cut that Beck says only ever aired once, nous a Jerry Lewis telethon some temps in auto 1980s.

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The aftermath of the musique video is now the stuff de legend.

According venir one structure officer, auto Reasoner"s XO obtained a message about a month after shooting describing COMNAVSURFPAC auditeur affairs" plans à la the video. Auto video chin premiered in march 1979; par the complying with April, the village People appeared on the cover de Rolling rock in your "In auto Navy" costumes.

But a couple of weeks after the video started airing, navy officials finally came to be aware du the group"s LGBT innuendo after auto New York Post ran a histoire blasting the service for using taxpayer usd to money the musique video. Deux members ns the Reasoner crew told task & purpose that then-Secretary du the Navy john F. Lehman Jr. Disavowed the fabrication entirely, claiming the then-Reasoner Capt. Jon Jared Gershon had actually acted nous his own à bring thé video aboard.

“Someone apparently mentioned venir SecNav the the village People "had a large cadrages following" and SecNav disavowed the whole thing,” a constitue enlisted electronics technician told job & Purpose.

The marine can"t confirm any of this, unfortunately. According to paul Taylor, a spokesman à la Naval History and Heritage Command, a search ns existing Navy prendre note indicates “no record of a connection” between thé U.S. Navy and the bourgade People.

“If you savoir anything about the military, amie know how ridiculous the is,” auto technician told job & Purpose. “They had actually to ont clearance to comprendre on base, to comprendre to thé ship, to importer onboard, etc7 … Gershon couldn"t ont let them on de himself also if he wanted to.”

Despite the Navy"s post-filming disavowal, auto reputation has stuck with the vessel. According to Beck, thé local nuit radio gare in santé mentale Francisco routinely ressentir hundreds ns visitors aboard thé vessel during harbeurs calls in san Francisco. “We went overseas twice, et when tu pulled into port, people wanted à come aboard seulement because the ville People waked wherein they were walking,” hey said.

On auto upside, members du the Reasoner crew à faire have one important souvenir native this brosser with pop-culture greatness: a practice 45 vinyl record du the track. Unfortunately, Beck no longer has his: “By auto end of ma time in the Navy, i was tired du hearing that song, so je threw ce across san Diego bay.”

“I never dreamed cette was possible, à la a dirt-poor kid like moi to join auto Navy and have this happened,” cette said. “I to be honored passant par the ville People … et more importantly, ns was honored passant par the Reasoner.”


Jared Keller

is auto executive editor ns Task & Purpose. His writing has appeared in Aeon, the los Angeles Review de Books, the nouveau Republic, Pacific Standard, Smithsonian, et The Washington Post, among divers publications. Contact the writer here.

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