With the coronavirus pandemic impacting lives around the world and social issues like LGBTQ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement, do we really need to ‘cancel’ a 42-year-old movie musical?
The mega-successful 1978 movie musical Grease was aired over the holidays on one of the BBC channels in the U.K. and some folks took to social media to decry the film as homophobic, racist, sexist, and even ‘rapey.’
In a recent interview, international pop-star Olivia Newton-John, who played ‘Sandy’ in the film, was asked about the kerfuffle.
“I think in this particular instance, it’s kind of silly because the movie was made in the ’70s about the ’50s,” the Aussie shared with the podcast ‘A Life of Greatness.’ ”It’s fun. It’s a fun movie musical and not to be taken so seriously.”
“I think everyone is taking everything so seriously,” added the 4-time Grammy Award winner. “We need to relax a little bit and just enjoy things for what they are.”
Newton-John has previously addressed criticism that the finale of the movie is sexist when ‘Sandy’ becomes a ‘bad girl’ to get her man played by John Travolta.
“Everyone forgets that, at the end, he changes for her, too,” notes the 72-year-old.
For her part, Newton-John prefers to take a more positive view of life.
In 2018, the “Physical” singer shared with the world she was battling stage four breast cancer for the third time.
But today Newton-John says she’s feeling strong thanks to treatments ranging from western medicine to ‘kinder, gentler’ plant-based medicine.
“I think every day is a blessing,” she told The Guardian in an interview. “You never know when your time is over. We all have a finite amount of time on this planet, and we just need to be grateful for that.”
That said, Newton-John isn’t ready to spend her time sitting still.
She recently released a new pop single, “Window in the Wall,” with her daughter Chloe Lattanzi that looks to connect folks, not cancel them.
The music video for the single quickly hit #1 on the iTunes Music Video chart and stayed at the top spot for over a week. Newton-John says the new track will be part of a soon-to-be released collection of duets.
Had an awesome time at the ‘Meet n Grease’ movie sing-a-long in West Palm Beach, Florida, last night as Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta reunited to host the event.
As Travolta noted during the Q&A segment after the movie, it was the first time the duo had been in costume as “Danny” and “Sandy” since the film wrapped 42 years ago.
The sing-a-long version of the mega-hit movie musical has been around for years and a staple of outdoor venues during the summer. What I didn’t know was the promoters hand out props for audience participation.
During the pep rally sequence, every time you see the cheerleaders you wave a set of pompoms; there are bubbles to blow for “Beauty School Dropout;” and a racing flag to wave at the start of the penultimate drag race.
The promoters had one of the real Greased Lightning cars to take pics with, and Olivia & John (who wore a wig to look like his Danny Zuko character) posed for photos in a malt shop setting.
The three film T-Birds (Michael Tucci, Barry Pearl, and Kelly Ward) were also there taking pics and entertaining the audience.
The event moves to Tampa, Florida, tonight and then to Jacksonville on Sunday.
I understand there are talks to do more in the future with ONJ and JT across the country since the initial run has been so successful 🙂
Here are a few photos from the event, and if you click over to TMZ you can watch Travolta and ONJ sing a bit of “Sandy” and “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and a little ‘Greased Lightning’ dance action with audience members (including a certain blogger you might know…)
Emmy Award-winning documentarian Jeffrey Schwarz has delivered his latest peek behind the scenes of Hollywood in exploring the life and career of producer Allan Carr, The Fabulous Allan Carr.
The documentary chronicles the enormous successes of Carr (Grease, La Cage Aux Folles) as well as his most infamous disasters (Grease 2, You Can’t Stop The Music, the 1989 Academy Awards Show).
Back in the day when “flamboyant” was as direct as you could be in terms of addressing someone’s homosexuality, Carr boldly lived his life out loud.
Born Allan Solomon (he changed his name to Carr because he rhymed with “star”), Carr moved from his hometown of Chicago to Los Angeles to become a part of the world he had only dreamed of.
Donned in caftans to hide his up-down-and-up again weight gains, the producer/manager threw lavish pool parties at his glamorous mansion entertaining Hollywood A-listers as well as the town’s hottest gays.
According to legend, it was when the stars departed that the party would devolve into an orgy to satisfy Carr’s voyeurism for observing hot LA boys.
His early career consisted of managing celebrities like Marlo Thomas, Ann-Margret, Tony Curtis, Peter Sellers, Rosalind Russell, and Dyan Cannon. Carr was instrumental in helping Ann-Margret shift from young sex kitten into a full-fledged star on the Las Vegas Strip as well as taking on roles in movies like Tommy and Carnal Knowledge, for which she would be nominated for an Oscar.
After working in a promotional capacity on films Tommy and Saturday Night Fever with producer Robert Stigwood, Carr moved into full-on producing with a pet project that would put him on the Hollywood map, the massively successful film adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease.
Starring up-and-coming John Travolta, who was known at the time for his turn on TV’s Welcome Back Kotter, and Grammy Award winning pop star Olivia Newton-John, the musical film became Carr’s ticket to the big time.
To this day the film – which is the highest grossing movie musical of all time – continues airing on some network somewhere at any given time of day, and is celebrating it’s 40 anniversary this year.
Unfortunately, he followed that enormous triumph with the late-to-the-disco-party musical film, You Can’t Stop The Music. Meant as a vehicle to introduce The Village People to the world, the 1980 film, which starred Steve Guttenberg, Valerie Perrine and Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner, was a major misfire that was ripped by critics and avoided by movie-goers.
Carr shifted back to more familiar terrain in 1982 with the Michelle Pfeiffer/Maxwell Caulfield tuner Grease 2, which also failed at the box office although it has carried on as a camp classic.
Then came redemption as Carr produced the smash Broadway musical La Cage Aux Folles in 1983. Not only did the show win six Tony Awards (including one for Carr as producer of the “Best Musical”) but it brought him some of the “respectability” he had always craved. And in true Carr style, the show gave Broadway its first-ever openly gay musical love story.
Carr’s last final big-time moment came when he was tapped to produce the 1989 Academy Awards which featured the now-infamous Rob Lowe/“Snow White” opening number.
While most remember the opening number, Schwarz makes a point to give credit to Carr for two lasting changes at the Oscars.
It was Carr who came up with the new announcement “and the Oscar goes to…” instead of “the winner is.”
And he is credited with creating the now-show-biz-standard release approach of opening a film the last month of the year in one theater in Los Angeles and one theater in New York City to create Oscar buzz.
But the Academy Awards debacle and criticism hurt Carr deeply, and he became something of a recluse after that. He did manage to have a last hurrah attending the 20th anniversary of Grease re-release in 1998 before succumbing to cancer in 1999 at the age of 62.
The documentary rightly makes a point to highlight Carr’s self-promotional skills as he was one of the first producers to make himself a celebrity of sorts. Rarely had a Hollywood producer appeared on so many of the top talk shows of the day before Carr.
Like his earlier documentaries I Am Divine and Tab Hunter: Confidential, this should be required viewing for the gay history alone. Based on the larger-than-life personality along with spectacular hits and notorious misses that touch on so many gay-centric projects (he gave us The Village People, folks), I recommend the film.
Carr himself is a compelling subject in light of his personal over-the-top Hollywood flair, but also his darker, injured moments.
In the past two years, soundtracks to musical films like The Greatest Showman, La La Land and Beauty and the Beast have scored big on the Billboard 200 chart. But even those success stories can’t compare to the blockbuster Grease soundtrack, which everyone was hopelessly devoted to after it was released 40 years ago on April 14, 1978.
The double-LP companion to the smash movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John—which didn’t hit theaters until two months later, on June 16—was certified 8-times platinum (and has sold more than 6 million copies since the start of the Nielsen Music era in 1991), notched four top five hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Grease,” No. 1; “You’re the One That I Want,” No. 1; “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” No. 3; “Summer Nights,” No. 5), and earned an album of the year Grammy nod. Whether you’ve ever seen the screen romance of ’50s high-school sweethearts Sandy and Danny, chances are you’ve heard some of the music from one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time.
“I think the songs are timeless,” Newton-John tells Billboard. “They’re fun and have great energy. The ’50s-feel music has always been popular, and it’s nostalgic for my generation, and then the young kids are rediscovering it every 10 years or so, it seems. People buying the album was a way for them to remember those feelings of watching the movie and feelings of that time period. I feel very grateful to be a part of this movie that’s still loved so much.”
The most successful movie musical of all time – Grease – turns 40 this year and it’s easy to imagine a huge reunion must be in the works.
The film helped propel Grammy Award-winning pop-star Olivia Newton-John into a new stratosphere, and John Travolta, fresh off of, became a bona fide movie star.
According to reports, the 1978 blockbuster has been fully restored and given an extra twirl of hair grease to ensure it’s still the groundbreaking, uplifting, tuneful, systematic/hydromatic throwback to 50’s fun we’ve all come to know and love.
Word is the flick will be released across 94 Cineworld cinemas across the U.S. in April just in time for more “Summer Lovin.'”
So, who’s still “Hopelessly Devoted” to the massive retro-musical that never tires of reminding us “we go together?”
Anticipation is growing as we get closer to the premiere of Fox’s Grease Live! on January 31.
The title song, “Grease”, written by Barry Gibb and sung for the film by Franki Valli, is going to be sung by Jessie J, and the producers are sharing this first listen to the new treatment.
Jessie J will begin the show singing the song live – but of course, there has to be a studio version 🙂
Said Jessie in a studio interview (check the interview clip below):
“There’s no pressure like being the first one on stage. I love that rush of the nerves I’m going to get, I just feel very honored and very lucky that I’ve been asked to experience something like this. It’s a massive moment for me and I’m very happy that I’m getting to share it with such amazing people. I’m keeping it as close to the melody as possible because the fans that love Grease that are going to see the show, I don’t want to make it too different. But I’ve definitely kind of thrown in what I kind of like to do, which is a lot of this and a lot of this. Just put a little bit of me in it.”
Grease Live! stars Julianne Hough as Sandy, Aaron Tveit as Danny Zuki. Also, Vanessa Hudgen as Rizzo, Keke Palmer as Pink Lady Marty Maraschino, Carlos PenaVega as Kenickie, Carly Rae Jepsen and Frenchy, Ana Gasteyer as Principal McGee, Eve Plumb (Jan Brady) as Mrs. Murdock, Boyz II Men as Teen Angel, and Didi Conn (the original Frenchy) as Vi.