Guilty Favorite Muscial Scene Theater: Grease (1978)

Ah, the Summer O’ 1978. Running school free through suburban fields and streams, the hot sultry smell of tar and wildflowers, washing down chilled Reeses Peanut Butter Cups with a cup of crushed ice Coke, the cultural effects of STAR WARS still permeating my consciousness, life was good, like a bottle of Dandelion Wine…and then came GREASE.

Maybe you had to be there, and there were times I wish I wasn’t. Like the previous year’s SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and its disco assault, it seemed like my sister and all her friends were under John Travolta’s spell. Suddenly the radios and turntables were filled with the double-record sounds of Olivia Newton singing “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and the duet of “You’re The One That I Want.” I realized that GREASE was STAR WARS for chicks and I would have to endure the songs and sights of this musical monstrosity All Summer Long.

madI never cared for the movie, thought it ridiculous Stockard Channing (who I adore) was being passed off as a high school gal, and the best parody of the film was in the pages of my satirical bible, Mad Magazine. I thought brilliant the panels with goody-goody Olivia Newton John saying, “I love him, and I’m going to change for him! That’s the moral in this movie! In order to get the guy you love…” then cut to the next panel of her in black tomcat gear: “You have to be a SLUT! What a wonderful message for the youth of America!” A lesson I was more grateful for later in High School…

Of course, at a certain point, I found myself sneaking my sister’s LP and listening to the songs. Devoid of their totemic images, I enjoyed the tuneful melodies and kitsch lyrics, creating my own mindscape version of GREASE. So to dip back into that cultural hothouse from ’78, here’s my favorite tune and scene from…you know the word.

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11 Responses to “Guilty Favorite Muscial Scene Theater: Grease (1978)”

  1. Ha, you are guilty as charged. I have a hard time sitting through this movie (and an even harder time hearing these songs at karaoke or weddings, etc.).

    But as you describe your experience with it I’m positive I might look back on it in the same way if I were you.

  2. i have what is probably a boring, personal GREASE-related story of heartbreak and disappointment i may as well share since i haven’t talked about it in like 20 years and no-one is obliged to read it:

    in my last year of high-school our drama dept. staged a production of GREASE (tho it was the broadway play version, which i actually far prefer to the bastardised travolta/newton-john film version) and i went hard-out for the role of ‘rizzo’, a part i wanted to play SO BADLY i could taste it. i knew the director preferred a blonde ‘sandy’ so i even went so far as to dye my blonde hair brown (which was surreal, because i’d be talking to someone and it would take them a couple minutes to realise it was actually ME). it paid off and i got the part, i don’t think i’d ever been so stoked in all my life.

    anyway, ff a few weeks into rehearsals and the girl who was playing sandy got hit by a car on her bicycle and ended up with a cast on her arm (or leg? i can’t remember), thus having to forfeit the role. i was called in to see the director, and she told me i was going to be playing sandy from now on and the girl with whom i had competed for the role of rizzo would move into that part, the justification being that there was no-one else who tried out for sandy that was suitable but the other girl in contention for rizzo could easily step in and do the job.

    i was absolutely gutted, so stunned i could hardly speak. i still wonder to this day what would have happened had i said flat-out ‘NO’. but i was young and silly and didn’t want to let anyone down or make a scene, and so i learned a harsh lesson about life not being fair and how dreams are easily dashed and how to deal with disappointment, as i went thru the motions of acting a part i had no interest in while watching someone else play my dream role, and boy did it suck royally.

  3. Daniel: Thanks for understanding;]

    Leah: That is a sad story indeed. There’s not much you coulda done in the face of drama politics. But for what it’s worth, at least you got to be the STAR!

  4. yeah, i sound a bit of a prat there reading that again today, boo hoo, poor me, yikes!

    i guess the point for me personally was, when we are young we seem to have this idea that there is some kind of ‘order’ to the universe, that life is essentially fair and if we work hard enough and try our very best, we can get what we want and realise our dreams.

    and even tho it was a trivial thing, i think my GREASE experience was one of those little events that opened my mind to the truth about life: that it’s often random and not fair, that the rug can be pulled out from under you at any time and dreams can be dashed in both big and small ways, and it’s how you react, how you deal with disappointment and carry one, never giving up, to keep on truckin one day at a time, that really defines life. who knows, if i had dropped out of that production disillusioned with ‘the theatre’ my life might be very different today, so maybe i owe sandy a little tip of my hat

  5. I completely understand the trauma of drama. Fortunately I made a wise early decision to keep off the stage except for the obligatory cameo (egomaniac…) but i know what you mean about expecting that order to fulfill your dreams and desires because that’s how powerful they are. But the truth is, if you don’t experience that rejection, you ain’t playing. I like Soderbergh’s equation for success: talent + perseverance = luck. So you didn’t give up and the experience emboldened you. Rizzo rules, and Sandy is a drag, but she does get a lot of great songs…and at least you got to bust out at the end, right?

  6. totally, and sandy certainly has a good repertoire of songs — but all the musical numbers in the world couldn’t make up for not getting to belt out, ‘there are worse things i could do’! oh well, maybe one day, in the old geezer’s home, we’ll stage a production of ‘GERIATRIC GREASE’ in the cafeteria and i’ll get another shot at ‘rizzo’…(it was all a blast at the end of the day, though, and i’m glad to have had the experience working in live theatre, it was a good place to start)

  7. Great story, Leah. Sure, it’s just high school stuff — but these things do shape us. That first big letdown stays with you forever.

    (I’ll never forget when I was forbidden to help dad with the embalming. One lousy mistake, one closed-casket funeral, and you’re blackballed for life.)

    I mostly managed to tune Grease out. A neighbor girl had the record, so I know the songs. But I’ve somehow managed to never see the movie. Should I bother, or is it one of those had-to-be-there things?

    Nice to see you here. I’ve had enough the the Twisted Personality blog, and you’re one the few people there worth talking to. Good to know we might occasionally converse in less sick venue. (No offense, C. You’re plenty sick in your own way. But it’s a GOOD way.)

  8. PS

    Let me know if you ever stage that Geriatric Grease. I’ll find a way to attend, even if it’s in Enzed. Maybe it could be Zombie Grease, or Roller-Derby Grease or something, just for variety’s sake.

    Come to think of it, I read that Zombie Pride and Prejudice is a best-selling novel. I was just joking at first, but…

    Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show!

    (I guess it would help if were all in the same place. Or even the same continent. Okay, never mind.)

  9. frank b!

    yeah, you just can’t fuck up the embalming, strictly one strike and you’re OUT (perhaps there’s more leeway doing the post-mortem make-up? maybe not, the dead mustn’t look garish for the big sleep and we all know how frankbooth applies lippy…)

    christian’s house is good fun, he tells stories and has trippy music and psychedelic interior design (with a bit of cutting political commentary to keep things lively). and i do know what you mean about the other house, it’s TIRESOME

    (oh, and the ‘geriatric grease’ revival is definitely on: shadyhills retirement home, 2050. canes and walkers can easily be worked into all the musical numbers. anyone who thinks she’s gonna take the part of rizzo from me again better watch her droopy ass)

  10. I couldn’t think of a better description of my blog than that Leah…and there’s even an octo-bong in the corner to boot.

    I have to stay away from certain websites because I’m starting to believe that too much sniping and snarking on the web is not good for your soul. I love a good debate, just not the personal attacks. It’s too easy.

    Now frank, what exactly do you mean I’m SICK? Sick like a clown?

  11. Like a candy-colored clown they call the Sandman.

    And you hit it right on the noggin with that soul business. I’m slow on the uptake, but when I get it, I get it. I’m gonna try real hard to be the shepherd…

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