A few nights ago, I was watching Grease 2 with my youngest son. While I will admit that the movie pales in comparison to its predecessor, there are enough catchy tunes to keep me occupied for a couple of hours and successfully embarrass my son to no end. (“Reproduction” and “Let’s Do It For Our Country” among them.)
Still, I couldn’t help thinking about the original movie…you know the one starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John that came out in 1978 and created a worldwide phenomenon? Talk about a movie laden with innuendo and hidden messages! I’m still a little blown away by the fact that my rather uptight parents took me to see it at the tender age of six, let alone bought me the album and allowed me to play “Greased Lightening” at full tilt in my bedroom. I guess they were pragmatic about it: They knew I didn’t understand half of it. They knew I liked the tunes and they knew I had a gigantic crush on Travolta and was already familiar with his other bad boy images in Saturday Night Fever and Welcome Back Kotter. (Yes this is me at the time the movie came out…so excited to have the album that I insisted Dad take a picture of me holding it!)
Perhaps they assumed that if they made a big deal about the movie and all that it stood for, it would make me want to see it even more and by exposing me to it, it would diffuse the rabid curiosity. It would be years before I would fully get it, so in tribute to the ultimate movie musical, here are the Six Things I didn’t quite catch on to when I saw Grease for the first time.
2. That Rizzo was supposed to be pregnant. Yeah…OK, there were enough references that perhaps it should have been obvious, but I was pretty naive at the time. I kind of understood that she was marginalized and looked upon as a “bad girl” but I clearly missed a LOT when it came to her storyline.
3. Two people can have a very different summer vacation experience. I positively loved the song “Summer Nights” but it was years before I understood all of the lyrics enough to conclude that Danny and Sandy were telling two very different stories to their friends.
4. If you turn your hair pink, Frankie Avalon will appear to set you straight. Yet another tune with a lot of hidden meaning, or meaning that went over my head at such a young age. I knew from my mother’s reaction that Avalon was a big deal when he appeared on screen, but I now recognize that scene as one of the best in the movie. It’s played so sincerely. The lyrics of the song are sound and you can tell by Didi Conn’s reaction that she didn’t have to work too hard to stare wide-eyed at the king of the beach movies!
5. My parents were amazingly cool to let me enjoy the musical at the level that I understood it. They gamely bought me an album full of lyrics I know must have made them cringe, but they said nothing about them. My brother wasn’t as lucky when he brought home Steve Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy. My mother confiscated that one in a heartbeat and didn’t return it to him until he was 18! Here’s hoping I inherited their same tolerance with my kids to enjoy what you like, understand it as you are able and realize that some tuns may be offense to others and best played at home.
6. That Grease would still be the word 35 years later. I can’t help it…from the moment I hear the opening hook of that Barry Gibb classic sung by Frankie Valli, I am immediately transported to my childhood bedroom where “summer days are drifting away” and where Danny and Sandy “will always be together.” Who knew that it would stand the test of time and remain one of my favorites?