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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

SIFF 2010 Dispatch: Grease Is the Word

grease.jpgYesterday I decided to take a break from seeing heavier films and have a little fun, so I took my daughter and her BFF (and her BFF’s dad, for good measure) to see the Grease Sing-along. Now, I am an unabashed fan of Grease; it’s one of the few films (besides Rocky Horror Picture Show) that I’ve seen at least 20 times. I had just turned 10 years old when Grease came out, and I promptly fell head-over-heels for John Travola.
In fact, you could say that Travolta in Grease was, in no small measure, responsible for me deciding to forego my then-ambition to become a nun. If boys like John Travolta were out there, how could you expect a good Catholic girl to stay that way? Like Sandy in the film, the Pink Ladies, the T-Birds, and Danny Zuko all woke up my inner bad girl, and that sweet “Sandra Dee” side of me took a backseat.
My BFF at the time was also hugely into Grease and for the summer of 1978, Grease was our sole obsession. We role played Grease endlessly, both as ourselves and with Barbie doll stand-ins. I colored a Ken doll’s hair with a black marker to turn him into Danny, and we made two Sandys — a “good” Sandy and a dolled-up “You’re the One That I Want” Sandy, and we would play and sing along with my Grease album for hours. So when I heard they were doing a Grease Sing-along, you can imagine my excitement. I’d already turned my teenager onto the awesomeness that is Grease a couple years ago, so she and her friend were all kinds of thrilled to get to go to the Sing-along with me.
As if being able to sing along at a Grease screening without anyone telling you to shut the hell up wasn’t great enough already, we happened to sit right in front of one of the festival guests, Dinah Manoff — one of THE Pink Ladies (she played Marty “Like the cherry” Maraschino), so not only did I get to sing along with Grease, but I had a Pink Lady right behind me singing along with her husband and their three young sons (for the record, she sang great).
The post-show Q&A with Manoff, who proved to be funny and charming and full of interesting tidbits about what it was like to be in Grease (Travolta was incredibly “hot” and at the first peak of his career, with Saturday Night Fever just in the can, and radiated energy; Jeff Conaway (Keneckie) was — not suprisngly — reportedly a bit of a ladies’ man during the shoot; producer Allan Carr was fun and flamboyant and was dollied onto the set every day to pep talk the cast about the previous day’s shoot; most of the cast was unsure about whether Olivia Newton-John was right for Sandy until they saw her dance rehearsal with Travola and the chemistry between then; and much of the cast still stays in regular contact, over 30 years later.
I really liked this Sing-along version of Grease. I’d been expecting just some karaoke-style lyrics along the bottom of the screen, but they played around and had fun with it and really integrated the addition of Sing-along features into the film itself in ways I wasn’t expecting. The packed house was completely into it — we even had folks show up cosplaying their favorite Grease characters and we all sang insanely loud and applauded ourselves voraciously when we felt we sounded particularly good. The energy was great, and the screening was a ton of fun. If it’s not already slated to come to your town, you can “Demand It!”
Then put on that Pink Ladies jacket, grab your own special T-Bird, pretend your politically correct Prius is Greased Lightning, and go have a blast.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon