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Grease is Still the Word
by Grace Gagne, Schuylkill Plus!

As thousands of hot rods take to the streets of Pottsville this month, the Great Pottsville Cruise takes many back to a day in time that only memories allow them a brief visit. Complete with dice on rear-view mirrors, brilliant paint and shiny chrome, this successful event is uniting car and nostalgia lovers throughout Schuylkill County and beyond. The Great Pottsville Cruise proves that cars are still hot and fast tickets to freedom and excitement for former teeny boppers young at heart.
With the car cruise comes rock-n-roll music, sideburns and bobby socks. Men and women sport their best girl or guy in a smokin’ classic cars that take us all back to a time when hair was greased and teased; letterman sweaters were paraded at football games; and sock hops were everything.
Many of us can only imagine what it was like to partake in that time in history. What allows us to return to those simple days is the movie Grease. Grease debuted in 1978 and grossed more than $340 million at box-offices around the world. Who hasn’t seen this movie, own the album (now CD) or video tape (now DVD)?
While channel surfing recently, I came upon what seemed to be an uncut version of the movie. Of course, I became engrossed in the film immediately. There are just some movies that when you find them on TV, you swear that you’re not going to get involved, but you do! You tune-in no matter that you may have missed most of it. A lot of times I see things that I didn’t see during the first ten times I’ve seen the movie!
Anyone romantic who has seen Grease probably could recite various dialogues between the characters, site different scenes and most definitely sing along with the infectious lyrics.
What a lot of people don’t know are some of the following sizzling Grease trivia (courtesy of such as:
• Henry Winkler, who was playing Fonzie on Happy Days (1974), was originally supposed to play Danny but didn’t for fear of being typecast.
• Susan Dey and Deborah Raffin were the first choices for the role of Sandy (Dey declined the role after her manager advised against it). Marie Osmond later claimed on the Larry King Show that she had been also been offered the role but declined “on moral grounds” though she later admitted this to be untrue.
• Lucie Arnaz was first choice for the role of Rizzo but was rejected after her actress mother Lucille Ball to allow her to screen test at Paramount Studios (she wrongly claimed that she used to own it).
• Due to a zipper breaking, Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into the trousers she wears in the last sequence (the carnival at Rydell).
• Jeff Conaway had to walk slightly stooped so that John Travolta would appear taller.
• Set in high school, most of the principal cast were way past their teenage years at the time of filming. John Travolta was 24; was Olivia Newton-John was 29; and Stockard Channing was the eldest at 34.
• Randal Kleiser, the director, hated the song “You’re The One That I Want” saying it “sounded awful”.
• The scene “You’re the One That I Want” took just an afternoon to film.
• When Olivia Newton-John was cast as Sandy, her character’s background had to be changed to accommodate Newton-John’s own background. In the original Broadway musical Sandy was an all-American girl and her last name was Dumbrowski. In the movie version, she became Sandy Olsson, foreign-exchange student from Australia. Also, because of Newton-John’s casting, John Farrar (Newton-John’s frequent songwriter) had to write two new songs for the film while other songs from the Broadway musical were dropped.
• Although cut from the movie, The Alma Mater/Parody instrumental from the stage version can be heard in the office on the last day and during the carnival scenes.
• Several musical numbers were not used in the film. They appear, however, as jukebox tunes, or band numbers at the high school dance. Among them “Freddy, My Love,” “Those Magic Changes,” and “It’s Raining on Prom Night” all of which were performed by characters in the stage musical.
• Carrie Fisher was considered for the role of Rizzo.
• Grease was released again in theaters in 1998 for a couple of reasons: to mark the 20th anniversary of the original and because the year before, a dance mix of songs from the soundtrack became a big hit on radio.
• The film was released in Spain as Brilliantina (Brilliantine) - because its English title translated as “fat” in Spanish.
• “Greased Lightning” was supposed to be sung by Jeff Conaway’s character, Kenickie, as it is in the stage version. John Travolta used his clout to have his character sing it. The director felt it was only right to ask Conaway if it was okay. At first he refused, but he eventually gave in.
• Danny’s blue windbreaker at the beginning of the film was intended as a nod to Rebel Without a Cause (1955).
• The scene in Frenchy’s bedroom while Rizzo is singing the line about Elvis was actually filmed the same day that Elvis Presley died.
• The final musical scene, “You’re the One That I Want” was filmed with the help of a traveling carnival. However, director Randal Kleiser decided the next day that additional scenes were needed for close-ups. Unfortunately the carnival had left town so set decorators were called in to build replica backgrounds, that matched the carnival ride’s construction for the close-ups.
• Randal Kleiser hated the opening title song, “Grease” (he thought that the cynical lyrics and disco beat were inappropriate for a film set in the 1950s).
• The dance contest scene was filmed during the summer, when the school was closed. The gym had no air conditioning and the doors had to be kept closed to control lighting, so the building became stifling hot. On more than one occasion, an extra had to be taken out due to heat related illness.
• In the song “Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee”, it originally references Sal Mineo in the stage version. However, due to Mineo’s murder the year before shooting began the reference was given to Troy Donahue.
• In the scene where the cast are near the bridge after the car race, the water on the ground was stagnant and dangerous. Some cast members became ill from filming as the setting was a derelict place full of dirt and rubbish.
• “Hopelessly Devoted To You” was written and recorded after the movie had wrapped. The producers felt they needed a strong ballad and had Olivia Newton-John come back to film her singing this song.
• The official premiere after-party was at Studio 54.
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As car lovers far and wide gather in Pottsville, many will rekindle the flame of past summer loves and come of age once again. Best wishes to those “hopelessly devoted” to their rides. Grease is still the word.
Article reprinted from a previous Schuylkill Plus