Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Oh Those Hot Summer Nights! Grease Tribute

Famous Lovers Sandy & Danny from GREASE, 1978

Well, it's officially summer.  The kids are out of school and looking for adventure. 

Remember those wild high school days?  Well, even if you don't, you probably remember the musical GREASE! It's a summer annual for cable movies.   I recently watched it again and fell in love with the goofy characters again.  Never mind that it's a bunch of twenty and thirty something actors playing teenagers in high school, it's still magic, with the storyline, the music, and the 70's tribute to the 50's in this kitchsky musical.   

Travolta sporting a 'Fonze' Look

 John Travolta was young, and stud worthy in the roll of Danny, the greaser bad boy who meet a girl during the summer that was sort of a goody two shoes. He left his cool Fonzie act behind when he went on vacation with his family that summer, and just spent time romancing Sweet little Sandy away from his buddies and his overwhelming and notorious image back at school. He was just 'Danny' to her, and as she put it, he was very sweet. Aw, can't you just see how this would ruin our bad boy's rep at school if word got out?  

Well, it gets worse, when good old Sandy shows up at his high school the first day back. Seems her family moved to California, and she's going to Danny's school. Not Cool. Not for Danny, because his reputation is at stake.  

Sandy, well, I had mixed feelings about her all along. At first, when the movie came out and was taking up prime real estate on my TV screen via re-run movies, I didn't like her. I thought she was such a sissy. Really, what did Danny see in her. Boring. Then, I was sort of mad that she went and changed her image, became the hot sexy mama type just to get his attention. That seemed like a sell out to me. Ah, yes, this is a blog about timeless lovers, and it's also about me, my thoughts and reflections. So, my feelings for Sandy have changed quite a bit over the past few decades. I went from yuck in her pristine form, to resentment in her change to biker chick form, to actually liking her and admiring her for her chops in trying to emerge from her pink fluffy cocoon.  Yes, I did dislike her, for many years. Now I think she's a heroine worthy of praise. With age comes wisdom, as they say---my age--not hers.  Sandy is still just a high school teen in the movie.  

Why is GREASE so perennially popular to the masses? What is the appeal.  

Sandy, pristine, fresh, naive, but sort of adorable in her innocence

I'll tell you this, back in 1978, I was just 18 years old. I was a high school graduate. And I thought GREASE and the characters were dumb, at that age. Mostly because it was sort of cheesy in 1978, the movie, that is. I was a die-hard heavy metal chick, obsessed with KISS and Alice Cooper, so the whole 50's musicale and high school sweetheart drama was lost on me. But, give it a few years . . .. ahem. ...... decades.  

When my kids were young teens, like about 13-14, I didn't like Sandy any better. I liked Danny, and the boys. But, as a mother, I worried what kind of message this movie was sending young girls-----"You need to change who you are to catch the guy you like." 


Now, like most moms, I didn't want my 13 year old daughter to start strutting about in stilettos and a skin tight black outfit just to get her 1990's version of Danny to notice her. I didn't need to fear, because as it turns out my daughter is extremely self confident and opinionated. She despised Sandy for changing, too. Not because we thought Sandy the pristine virgin was anything special, but simply because we, as women (girls if you count my daughter then) held the strong belief that you should not have to change who you are for anyone. You should celebrate your uniquenss, nerdy or not. What a relief. So, now that I've addressed the mommy worry, let's toss it aside and move on.  

What's the big deal about GREASE?  Why do these characters resonate with us as adults? 

For one thing, many adults idolize their high school years; the feeling of cameraderie with chums, being part of the gang. It is a time of innocence for most of us as we dont' have to live in the real world yet with all the cares of job hunting and unemployment. We have to pass Biology and we have to find a date to the prom or we are screwed. Simplier problems, or so we like to think now when we look back on what life was like then. Its not so easy being a high school kid, not today. But I digress. The appeal of GREASE, for one thing, is the 50's lifestyle, the cars, the music, the malt shoppe, parking and necking, that kind of freedom from cares that adults crave.  And it's also usually the time we experience our first true love, if not our first crush. 

Ah......now we're on to something....... that romance in our heart over the one that got away?  Or the perfect someone we thought if we could catch their eye our lives would be complete. Isnt' that what true love is all about? The myth of true love making your life complete is a perennial one. And young love, high school love, is idealized in American society. High School Sweethearts? 

Alas, not all high school romances are as successful. Most give us nightmares, or bitter memories. 

Summer Dream, ripped at the seams! But oh that Hot Summer Nights!

Yes, you got it right----those hot summer nights, when we were free to play with the boys . . . . or girls!  I recall being in high school and going out with friends, someone with a car would pick everyone up. We'd go to a movie, or just hang out somewhere and B.S. all night, just like the characters in GREASE.  We all wanted to be part of group at 17, and we wanted to be loved.  


Rizzo wanted love, beneath all her tough girl act as the leader of the Pink Ladies. She just wanted her guy Kinichie to notice her.  Sure, she like to play queen bitch of the high school and mess with people, because she could. Rizzo could be the wild child she is or she could be the prom queen type, she's still the popular girl that everyone wants to be. And, she reluctantly lets Sandy into her exclusive group. And didn't we all want to be part of certain social group in high school. Lucky for Sandy, she had Frenchie in her corner, Frenchie wanted Rizzo to let Sandy in the group, so she sort of sponsored her, socially. Sandy's inclusion into the group of Pink Ladies signifies our own need to belong to the group, our high school self that we still carry along with us. Memories of belonging, or wishing we belonged to the group, memories of our first love.

 Okay, again with the LOVE.  Yes, it's a romance movie, a sort of goofy romance with plenty of over the top acting, but it's fun. Rizzo and Kenickie get together in the end, and so do Sandy and Danny.  On my most recent viewing of this movie, just this month, I was touched by the oft ignored part in the movie where Danny Zuiko tries to change for Sandy. We are so inudated with the last scene where she changes into a sexy mama for him, we overlook and forget that Danny tried to become an athlete for Sandy, so she'd like him. He goes out for different sports, trying to find his groove so he can get a letter sweater. After many false starts, he finally finds his groove in running track. He does that to try to straighten up for Sandy, and she of course, tries to loosen up for him.  That's what love is about, really, trying to make the other person happy. That's the timeless message in this story, and I choose Sandy and Danny as this week's timeless lovers for that reason. Love changes us, whether it's for the best or worst, we do change as Love takes hold. 

And aside from the love story in GREASE, it's a classic because of the great music!  Yes, I said it. I now love the music from the Movie. It's sort of hard not to, you know, when you hear it all the time . . . . .It's a classic.  




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