Convicted Village People's cop on the run from real police

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The Independent US

The singer who played the macho, helmeted policeman in the 1970s disco group the Village People is is on the run from police. Victor Willis, 54, failed to appear in court last week to face sentencing on drugs and gun charges.

Prosecutors in California said he was arrested last July carrying cocaine and a loaded pistol. His last address was a mobile home in a trailer park in Daly City.

Willis, who left the band at the height of its popularity in the late 1970s, was to appear in a court in San Mateo county, north of Los Angeles, on Tuesday. He had failed to appear for a sentencing hearing in October, but was given a second chance by the court. His lawyer, Dean Johnson, had promised his client would show up.

The flamboyant group became a worldwide disco phenomenon, most notably with their hits "YMCA" and "In the Navy", which became anthems for gays and lesbians at a time when the gay-rights movement was barely born. Other characters among the group's members included a leather-garbed biker, a hard-hat construction worker and an American Indian wearing a feather headdress.

Willis entered a guilty plea after being charged and under the plea deal was facing 15 months in prison. Prosecutors said he was now formally considered to be on the run. His case was featured late last year on the popular television show, America's Most Wanted. Its producers said the segment would be repeated.

If the songwriter and performer is captured or if he turns himself in, he is likely now to face a tougher sentence of more than three years behind bars, prosecutors said. He was freed by the court after he was charged last summer on bail of $100,000 (£54,000).

Willis was arrested after being stopped for a driving violation. The officers found the semi-automatic and more than three grams of cocaine. Willis first gave the officers a false name - his brother's - and a fake driving licence.

The Village People were formed in 1977 by two French singers, Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo, and named after the Greenwich Village district in Manhattan, which was a favourite gathering place for gays. But several singers have come and gone. Most recently, they opened a concert tour by Cher which ended in April last year.

Where are they now?

* VICTOR WILLIS: (policeman) Willis left in 1980 and was replaced by Ray Simpson. He co-authored some songs, including "In the Navy".

* RANDY JONES (cowboy) Jones still works as a singer and promoter and maintains an international jet-set image. He sang a solo at an inaugural ball for President George Bush in January last year.

* GLENN HUGHES (biker) Hughes died of lung cancer in March 2001. Hughes was a highway toll collector when he answered an add for "gay singers and dancers, very good-looking and with moustaches".

* FELIPE ROSE (the Native American) Rose, 51, who is part Lakota Sioux, is still there as the flamboyant American Indian.

* DAVID 'SCAR' HODO (construction worker) Called Scar because of an accident in the mid-seventies as a roller-skating fire-eater, Hodo now sits on the board of Sixovus Ltd, the corporation that keeps the Village People alive.

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