Spinning Gold, the new biopic about Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart, covers the seminal label’s impressive roster of ‘70s superstars, including KISS, Donna Summer, and George Clinton. But aside from a passing mention in the film’s final 10 minutes and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dance sequence, one of Casablanca’s biggest success stories is bafflingly overlooked.
Now a founding member of that group has blasted the project, in a social media post titled “Spinning Gold Is SPINNING LIES About Village People’s Involvement in the Movie.”
Victor Willis — best known as Village People’s policeman, and the co-writer of the group’s biggest hits including “YMCA,” “Macho Man,” “In the Navy,” and “Go West” — took to Facebook Wednesday morning to vent about the costumed disco group’s surprising omission. Noting that he had been approached by many media outlets to do interviews about Spinning Gold, he said press releases and promotion for the film have misled the public “to believe that Village People would be featured in the movie when in fact, they are not.”
Willis directed most of his ire towards the late Neil Bogart’s son, Timothy Scott Bogart, who wrote and directed the biopic — or, in Willis’s words, “eventually stitched together” the film, which had been in the works since 2011 and at one time was attached to big names like Justin Timberlake, Spike Lee, and Richard Dreyfuss.
“Village People are not featured in that movie because Tim Bogart could not afford to pay the required licensing fees associated with use of Village People music and image,” Willis wrote. “So, he somewhat went around it by inserting an unauthorized scene with people dressed as Village People doing the ‘YMCA’ dance. And we are not cool with that at all. I did license use of a portion of ‘YMCA’ for the motion picture soundtrack only.”
Willis went on to criticize what he called the “shameful and outright horrendous casting” of both Gladys Knight, who is played by Grammy-winning soul/jazz artist Ledisi, and Donna Summer, who is portrayed by Grammy-nominated Ariana Grande/Justin Bieber/Panic! at the Disco songwriter and R&B singer Tayla Parx. While Willis didn’t lambaste Neil Bogart’s other son involved in the film (hit pop songsmith Evan “Kidd” Bogart, who served as executive producer), or other notable cast members like Wiz Khalifa, Jason Derulo, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jay Pharoah, Chris Redd, Pink Sweats, and Michael Ian Black, he did argue that “this iteration of the movie (for which there have been numerous) should never have seen the light of day.”
During the course of their career, Village People sold more than 100 million albums and singles globally and charted five Billboard Hot 100 hits, including the top five disco classics “YMCA” and “In the Navy.” They received a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame in 2008, and “YMCA” was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry, which preserves audio recordings considered to be “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant,” in 2020.
Press representatives for Spinning Gold, which hits theaters Friday via Hero Partners and Howling Wolf Films, declined to comment for this report.
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