A Conversation with Jeff Olson
HULICK: This is completely unbelievable to me. I read that you joined the group in 1980, which was 30 years ago. I graduated in 1980. Itís been 30 years since I graduated. It canít have been that long ago.
OLSON: Youíre telling me! Oh, man, yes, 30 years Iíve been with the group. Letís not talk about our age (laughs).
HULICK: (Laughs). OK, weíll move on. Youíve toured all over the world. Which country have you enjoyed the most?
OLSON: That would be Australia and I think the group would be in total agreement with that. Weíve been there about 25 times, and weíll be going our 26th time this fall. Itís an amazing country and itís so much fun to go there.
HULICK: When you were touring back in the í70s was disco as big in other countries as it was here?
OLSON: Yes, pretty much so. Now itís been transformed into what we call ďdance musicĒ today. But it hit the world at different times after it hit here in the í70s. It went to Europe then various other locations after that; it didnít hit the entire world at the same time, which was good for us because the Village People had a following around the world, so when things got slow in one part of the world weíd take on work in another area. We were very, very fortunate that we kept busy.
HULICK: You have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?
OLSON: We do! Have you seen it?
HULICK: No, I have not, sorry to say.
OLSON: Whenever you do go see it, donít step on it, Melanie (laughs). Bring a rag with you so you can clean it up like I do whenever I go (laughs). My nephew just went out there and called me up and said, ďWhere is it Uncle Jeff? Where is the star?Ē He found it and says, unimpressed, ďOh, yeah. Thatís nice.Ē
HULICK: Iím sure he really knew Betty Grable and Liberace, whose stars are on either side of yours.
OLSON: (Laughs) Yeah right!
HULICK: Whatís the single one event that made you guys feel like you made it?
OLSON: Well, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is certainly one of them. That is something we got as a result of being around for so long and having made a mark, a cultural dent, if you will, in history. That really was an acknowledgement that the group meant something.
HULICK: Whatís been your biggest surprise?
OLSON: I guess waking up 30 years later and finding out I still have a paying job! (Laughs) You know, Iím a Virgo, so I really donít like surprises.
HULICK: What is your favorite memory? Do you have one that just pops in your mind?
OLSON: Well, I have many. But one year we went to Australia, not to tour but to specifically film a documentary entitled ďVillage People Go North Down Under.Ē If you know anything about the geography of Australia, we went up to what they call the ďtop land,Ē the northern territory, which is close to Bali, Indonesia. We filmed a documentary that had the premise of music transcending all cultures and we worked with the Aborigines up there. We had to get special permission from the government of Australia and the elders of the Aboriginal tribes in order to even go onto their homeland. So we went to a community center there and spent some time, had some very pleasant exchanges and gave them a short concert and they danced for us their cultural dances, and it was just spectacular. Everything was spectacular: the scenery we saw, the stuff we filmed, the experiences that we had. I remember there was a typhoon that went on several days before we arrived and we were supposed to go by car, which pleased me to no end because I canít stand flying, but all the roads were flooded and under water so we had to fly. I am so glad that it was filmed because now I have it to remember. That was one of two most memorable trips that Iíve done with the group.
HULICK: Thatís a great story. Tell me about the second most memorable trip.
OLSON: We went on a photographic safari in South Africa. And as there was a flood in Northern Australia when we went, there was a drought in South Africa this particular year (laughs).
HULICK: (Laughs). And these are your favorite memories?
OLSON: (Laughs). What luck, eh? So when we got there they warned us that because of the drought they had a couple of lions from the reserve eat a couple of the workers.
HULICK: Did you have to sign anything before you got to the reserve that this was going to be a trip of great risk to you?
OLSON: No. But that was a spectacular trip as well. We saw everything you could see from a jeep. It was kind of frightening at times, I have to admit.
HULICK: Can you tell me your most embarrassing moment?
OLSON: Well, Iíve had so many! (Laughs). One time we had a very, very early morning show; it was a corporate show for Toyota. I was drinking coffee and getting hyped up to do the show, because early morning shows are tough to do. So there were all these employees and corporate executives sitting there waiting for us to come on and I was the first one to go on stage and I ran out there like I normally do and I fell! (Laughs). I almost fell right off the stage! I nearly took somebody out in the front row too! (Laughs). It was almost tragic. I just got right back up and acted like nothing happened.
HULICK: Like you meant to do that all along (laughs).
OLSON: Yeah. What else do you do? I couldnít even blame it on bad lighting or anything. It was all me.
HULICK: How did the other guys in the group respond?
OLSON: Theyíve all fallen before, so they couldnít say much.
HULICK: Is there anything you would have changed as far as the Village People are concerned?
OLSON: You know, itís just been such a successful formula the way it is. If it ainít broke donít fix it, right? Itís been a mighty good run. I think we all feel the same.