Meet Randy Jones

by Michael Vaccaro
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Randy Jones, an actor, author, and Multi-Platinum Award Winning Hit Billboard Recording Artist,  is the original Cowboy of Village People. In his career spanning five decades before, with and since Village People, he has sold more than 135 million units and garnered in excess of one-half billion views on YouTube. Perhaps best known for his hits with the group, like "Macho Man", "In the Navy", "Go West" and "Y.M.C.A," he has earned 75 Gold and Platinum record certificates, toured worldwide, starred in the camp classic film, "Can't Stop the Music", made the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine and in 2008, was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

MICHAEL: Randy, you're originally from North Carolina, yes? When did you come to New York? What's your most fond memory of growing up in North Carolina? Is your family still there? Do you go back often? You and I have a mutual friend, the lovely and talented Gina Hecht, who starred in "Mork and Mindy" back in the day, and I believe you met her there, in North Carolina. Tell me about that. 

RANDY: Yep, from Nawth Cackilacky....born, bred, raised and educated there. Attended University of NC in Chapel Hill and UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. Most of my family is right there enjoying the beauty of the state from the majestic Smoky Mountains to the gorgeous beaches on the coast. Yep, Gina and I were students together at UNC School of the Arts. Ain't she simply fabulous and gorgeous?  What a gal!  Fantastic times growing up and becoming adults and learning the craft of the profession in the early days of the school when it was still wild and woolly. UNCSA has become a rather prestigious institution today. And it provides a student with an outstanding preparation for a career in film, tv, production design, dance, music, and acting. I don't think one can find better.  We share our Alma Mater with a ton of other successful kids like Tom Hulce, Mary Louise Parker, Jada Pinkett Smith, Diedrich Bader, Terrence Mann, Danny McBride, Joe Mantello, not to mention all the other folks in this business that hail from NC like Beth Grant, Michael C. Hall, Sharon Lawrence, Emily Proctor, Kathryn Grayson, Randolph Scott, Ava Gardner and of course Andy Griffith. 

MICHAEL: Tell us all about "Tales of Poe." That just came out, right? 

RANDY:  "Tales of Poe" has been out for a bit. Got a wider release last year with extensive DVD and VOD on all the platforms like Amazon, etc. It's a terrific horror piece produced and directed by Alan Rowe Kelly and Bart Mastronardi, two extremely talented folks that I absolutely love working with. and will again at the drop of a hat...as long as that's not the ONLY thing I'm wearing at the time. LOL.  

MICHAEL: Ha! Do you have a favorite film or a performance that you saw as a child that made you want to get into acting? 

RANDY:   I can't recall any single performance, but I was definitely fascinated with the early programming I watched on television as a child,  and of course the films I saw in theaters. The Warner Bros western tv show with Clint Walker. Steve McQueen, Nick Adams, Clint Eastwood, Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger were my heroes. And I was extremely honored to be named alongside John Wayne, Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger as one of the  All-Time Great Cowboys of Pop Culture by Entertainment Magazine a couple years ago for National Cowboy Day. 

MICHAEL: Wow! That's amazing! Who now would you like to work with? 

RANDY: Anyone with a budget. LOL. 

MICHAEL: I get it! 

RANDY: Seriously, there are so many incredibly creative people out there working today, I'm open to collaboration with just about anyone. I love the ingeniousness that comes with independent filmmaking. It reminds me so much of what I studied in film school about the early days of film when techniques were being created and new ways of achieving a goal were being explored. Lower budgets tend to lead creative people to be even more creative. And I'm an admirer of that. I do like a comfortable place to rest in between takes, however. And air conditioning. I do like air conditioning. 

MICHAEL: I'm going to name a few people... will you give us some of your thoughts about them? Michael Musto.

RANDY: Michael Musto:  one of my earliest pals in NYC. From back before recorded history. He's the best. Love MM. 

MICHAEL: Liz Smith. 

RANDY:  I met fellow Southerner Liz upon my arrival in NYC. She was delightful in every way. She was a true doyenne of gossip when it was done correctly with taste and style. Not done with that kind of skilled dexterity any longer. Pity. Liz was a true friend and a class act. She was the very first person that wrote of me and supported me after my first departure from Village People and subsequent first solo release, "Pretty Woman," in 1982. Liz Smith is sorely missed in today's world of entertainment journalism. 

MICHAEL: The Former Bruce Jenner.

RANDY: Quick story. Loved working with and becoming long time friends with Bruce Jenner on the set of the cult fave film, "Can't Stop the Music". When all the life changes began to surface, I have to admit, it was something I had to do work on to wrap my head around it. But two years ago at the GLAAD Media Awards in NYC after having know "Bruce" for nearly 40 years, I got the opportunity to meet Caitlyn. I was seated at our table watching the stage, when I felt a hand on my shoulder and a whisper in my ear say, "Hey, this is B. Remember me?" I recognized the voice. I turned around and saw a hand and looking into the eyes of my friend for nearly forty years and met Caitlyn. In that moment I realized that it is impossible to know what the experience of living in another human being's skin is like. And that everyone's journey, path and burdens are completely unique to them. That friendship has helped me to evolve with understanding and deeper compassion for all of my brothers and sisters on this planet, who, like me, must live our individual lives and walk our completely unique paths, whether bumpy or smooth, trying to avoid the cracks and pitfalls when possible in whatever footwear we choose, be it boots, sneakers, high-heels or simply barefoot. I have always desired to walk a path in the light with honesty and compassion. 

MICHAEL: One of my favorite actresses EVER, Valerie Perrine.

RANDY: The forever beautiful Val is my good time gal always and forever.

MICHAEL: Alan Cumming.

RANDY: Love and respect Alan to the high heavens. Not only is he a helluva actor that keeps re-inventing himself and his world, but he is dedicated to his community, and his efforts with his new nightspot, Club Cumming in NYC, simply proves the point by providing a completely unique space and environment where all manner of artists feel comfortable and safe to practice and work out in front of an audience. Club Cumming is the essence of what our neighborhood, The East Village, is all about. We both live here. 

MICHAEL: Ida Morgenstern, aka Nancy Walker.

RANDY: Nancy Walker was an inspiration and a fabulous mentor in show business. I never tired of hearing her tales of career and life. She was the best.

MICHAEL: Madonna. 

RANDY: What's not been said? She opened for us back in the early '80s. Knew her in the neighborhood here. She's one of the first that made me understand the axiom, "Never think you know the potential of another human being". She knew MORE than anyone where she was going. Trust me. She KNEW.

MICHAEL: My old pal, Bruce Vilanch.

RANDY: Of course Bruce is the ultimo best. I love and treasure every single opportunity I get to stand in the presence of Bruce Vilanch. Brilliant and hysterical mind. Little known fact: He wrote the first screenplay to the Village People film, "Can't Stop the Music".

MICHAEL:  And my new pal, Joey Arias. 

RANDY: We ALL go back to  pre-recorded history it seems. Been loving Joey forever. One of the most uniquely talented performers I've ever known. If I'm in town, I will fly to see a performance, along with everyone else with taste. Always delivers and is alway delightful. Love Joey.

MICHAEL: I love Joey, too. You have a brand new CD out! I own it and I LOVE it. Tell us a bit about it.

RANDY: I do. My most recent release is "HARD TIMES". You can catch the videos for it on YouTube. And just before it, you can find "MISTER RIGHT".  "HARD TIMES" is primarily dance-oriented, while "MISTER RIGHT" has a variety of styles, everything from Dance-Pop to Broadway vocals. I'm at a point in my life and career that I only record songs that speak to me with a story and vibe that inspire me to want to communicate that to others. Of course the songs I write have that already built in. Previous to those two albums, it's easy to find releases from me like "Your Disco Needs You",  "If I Can't Have You"  and "Ticket to the World". ALL of my work, including my work with The Village People, can be found on Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, YouTube, and all the major download and streaming platforms. So go grab yourself a couple of handfulls and make Daddy feel real good.

MICHAEL: OK, Daddy... So, as hopefully everybody knows, you play a major character in the hit Dekkoo comedy series, "Child of the '70s." You play "Travis Floyd," the love interest of the amazing Ann Walker, who was the star of the Comedy Central TV series, "Sordid Lives.". We just wrapped our 5th and final season, which was very sad for me. What's it been like working on the show? 

RANDY: The incredible cast of characters that you've written and cast to populate your vision is remarkable. I have loved every moment that I've been privileged to spend around such entertaining folks. And I treasure the new friendships we have made and I thank you prodigiously for helping to revive some of the long time friendships that have been reactivated while working with you and the "Child of the 70s" company.

MICHAEL: Aw, thank you so much for being a part of it. A little bit about your love affair with New York. I was born and raised in New York City, and I will always be a New Yorker, my heart will always be there, but I live in Los Angeles now, which I love. Would you ever move to LA?

RANDY: I've loved New York City since my arrival in 1974. Through the years, I've had places out in LA...but I've never given up my apartment in NYC.  I'm not as automobile-oriented as most Americans are, so Manhattan is a better fit for me. I love LA... the weather, the beauty...I love it all. But I have found that one can accomplish more in Manhattan. Maybe it's the compactness or the density...or maybe just you have to move faster so that you don't get pushed outta the way by the folks coming up behind ya'. In NY, I feel invigorated, motivated and inspired. My fave saying about LA came from Dusty Springfield back in the '70s when we were at a cocktail party. She said  "I simply adore Los Angeles. Its weather is perfect and the people are so lovely, but it's just tooooooooo damn easy to lie by the pool and eat Quaalude sandwiches all day long!"

MICHAEL: That is literally what I did yesterday! You were just recently at Disney World in Florida. I feel like you have a love affair with that place, as well.

RANDY: Well yes, that would be true.  I've had a relationship with Disney since 1978, the very first time I performed there with VP and it has continued thru the years. My husband and I are Disney Stockholders. I think Disney has quite a respectable track record in its corporate policies relating to diversity and inclusion.   And of course, there's always that "Woody" thing.  (See "Toy Story")

MICHAEL: What's coming up next for you?

RANDY: Working on a new comedy series for Amazon, a new CD with the single out for my birthday in Sept. Several films lining up for release, "Alexander Jamieson", "The Rack Pack".   Just finished shooting "Prepper's Grove" and of course we all can't wait to see the final season of  "Child of the 70s," to see how we all wind up.  Thanks, Michael, love working with you, bud,  and can't wait to dance with y'all again. 

Michael Vaccaro