December 05, 2010

The Village People's Indian

A conversation with Felipe Rose

American Indian of the Village People

By Vincent Schilling
Felipe Rose, Lakota Sioux, is a famous 70s disco era icon and musician that has transgressed several decades along with his legendary group, The Village People. Since being part of the group and releasing hugely popular hits such as “Macho Man” and “Y.M.C.A.” Rose has continued to please audiences worldwide to the tune of selling 100 million albums in his career.

In addition to receiving a star on the Hollywood walk of fame in 2008, several nods from the Nammy’s and a number of roles on television and on the main stage in New York, Rose took a break from his busy schedule, which included a concert in Virginia Beach and a month-long tour in Australia to let his fans know about several upcoming projects to the benefit of the world, and more specifically Indian country.
And:Indian Country Today:  You recently performed in Virginia Beach at the American Music Festival. Now you are heading off to Australia on a month-long tour–that is quite a schedule.

Felipe Rose:  It’s not easy being me. The older you get the harder it is to maintain yourself. Being on stage, that is the true test, you really can’t let yourself go.

I am trying to stay in the mix and stay relevant. When the group broke up in ’87, I began hitting the scene in New York. I did an episode of ‘Fame.’ I was on a soap opera, and made some appearances on TV shows. I got to play the other half of my heritage, Puerto Rican, in ‘West Side Story’ as the character Bernardo. I want to dabble back into acting again.

ICT:  You have an album coming out, which includes ‘We’re still here.’ You let me listen to a preview and it is amazing.

FR:  I am putting the finishing touches on my new full-length album, ‘Soul of a Man.’ I hope to release it on my birthday, Jan. 12, 2011. It will include ‘We’re still here’ a nine minute Native American contemporary remix dance song which won a Nammy in 2005. This is our remix.
And:ICT:  What is the status of your cooking show?

FR:  We started two pilots of ‘No Feathers in the Kitchen,’ but I wasn’t happy. Robert Risko, a top illustrator in New York suggested, ‘Why don’t I do another pilot?’

My sponsor, Valley Sun, Sun Dried Tomatoes, suggested Lou Petrozza their spokesperson (and Hell’s Kitchen runner-up) become the chef. Lou and I hit it off. Risko created a logo that said ‘Rose and Petrozza, the Art of Food and Music’ and we shot an episode at Gloria Gaynor’s home that we are now editing.

I look at this concept of the fusion of food and music; I want to bring Native artists to my show to share some of the cooking dishes that have been handed down through the generations. My attorney is going to take it to the cooking networks. Wish me luck.

ICT:  You are also soon to be a superhero in a comic book.
FR:  My spirit name is Swift Arrow and the comic book is ‘The Adventures of Swift Arrow, A True Native American Hero.’ The first comic book addresses the Gulf Spill in Native wetlands. In this venue I will be able to address such topics as uranium mining in South Dakota, the slaying of dolphins, and other situations. Swift Arrow is a shape shifter.

The artwork is done by Morgan Lawson, who is the daughter of my producer Frosty Lawson. She is a junior in college right now.
Comment:  It doesn't matter if the Village People's Indian was a real Indian. Dressing up as a chief was still stereotypical.

For more on dressing up as Indian chiefs, see Most Racist Musical Group Ever? and "Next Dance" Is Educational?!

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