'Grease' co-creator: No one got the ending
We're sorry, Sandy.
All this time, we were completely wrong about you and the ending of your musical movie "Grease."
We thought that when you doffed your sweet Sandra Dee persona, donned that black leather number and sucked down a cigarette, you transformed into a sweet tart for John Travolta.
"That isn't what it is at all!" says the man who should know.
Born-and-bred Chicagoan Jim Jacobs wrote the original stage production of "Grease" with his partner, the late Warren Casey. I sat down with Jacobs on Tuesday morning for some coffee near his North-side condo.
"The point of the show is always missed by 99 percent of the critics all over the world, and by a lot of the actors as well," Jacobs said.
So, what did it mean when Sandy went to the dark side of fashion?
"It was a poke!" Jacobs said. "A good old-fashioned razz against those ... Hollywood movies that turned the main guy into a fine, upstanding citizen."
Jacobs and Casey wrote the "Grease" ending to mock the fake finales to popular exploitation rock 'n' roll movies where the moody leather-jacketed rebel inexplicably becomes wholesome and virtuous.
"At the very end of the movie, he's going to run for Congress and become an upstanding citizen, and old ladies and teachers will love him," Jacobs said, squelching a laugh. "So many people miss the point.
"None of the hoodlums in the neighborhood or delinquents who loved Elvis or Gene Vincent or Buddy Holly or Little Richard or any of those ... rockers wanted to see that. We wanted to see the chick turn into a member of the gang and get hot and sexy."
Speaking of hot and sexy, the new Broadway touring company of "Grease" onstage is a lot more adult than the PG-rated movie.
Jacobs is fine with that, because his original "Grease" back in 1971 at Chicago's Kingston Mines Theater was a lot rougher than the popular silver screen version. He based the incidents and characters on real people he knew at Taft High School.
The real Pink Ladies?
"They were tough chicks, man," Jacobs said. "They had the razor blades and the beehive hairdos. Plus, they carried the guys' weapons in their purses, because the cops could not frisk girls. They could only pat down guys.
"So if you were at a big dance, they were the ones with the switchblades, the brass knuckles and the church keys. But they were definitely a part of the scene, although not nearly as openly sexual as some of the productions have made it seem, particularly in London and various European capitals."
Jacobs almost winced when I mentioned "Grease 2," the ill-fated 1982 sequel starring Michelle Pfeiffer, who survived one of the most lackluster and spiritless musicals every committed to celluloid.
"It's awful," Jacobs said. "And we get blamed for it sometimes."
Blamed for it?
"Yeah, because people think that we wrote it, Warren and I. I remember reading a biography of Andy Warhol. Someone was talking about how weird he was, and someone asked how weird was he?
"And Joe Dallesandro, I think, said 'He's the only person in America who thinks 'Grease 2' is better than 'Grease 1'!"
The current Broadway tour of "Grease" plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, at the Genesee Theater in Waukegan, then at the Rialto Square Theater in Joliet at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, plus other Illinois venues next week. (As a disclaimer, I should come clean and report that my daughter Lauren Elaine Taylor plays the role of Rizzo.)
If this production isn't rough enough for you, Chicago's American Theater Company next spring will launch the Windy City's original "Grease" that captures what the anti-PC students at Taft High School were really like.
"It's like the Energizer Bunny," Jacobs said of "Grease." "It just keeps on going and going."
The sound of musicals
Join me and film historian Raymond Benson as Dann & Raymond's Movie Club presents "The Sound of Musicals," a discussion of the greatest Hollywood musicals ever made, with clips from such films as "Cabaret," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Moulin Rouge," "Victor/Victoria" and "Singin' in the Rain." Free admission! It starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave., Arlington Heights. Go to ahml.info or call (847) 392-0100.
007 girl's 'Last Wish'
Actress Lana Wood (true 007 fans will remember her as Plenty O'Toole from "Diamonds Are Forever") will attend the premiere of her new short film "Last Wish" at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Waybridge Center on the Trinity International University campus, 2065 Half Day Road, Bannockburn. Free admission!
"Last Wish" took two days to shoot at a cost of $12,000. It comes from TIU professors Chris Firestone (executive producer) and Nathan Jacobs (director) who turned the project into a learning experience for many students, including screenwriter James Tillman, a Winnetka resident receiving his master's degree in counseling. The cast includes Libertyville resident and actor David Brian Stuart.
The story concerns an aging woman (Wood) in a convalescent home who now regrets abandoning her young son to pursue her own interests. "When we are lying on our death beds, the things that are important to us are our relationships," Tillman said in a news release, "not the successful jobs we've held or the lavish homes we've lived in."
"Last Wish" runs 14 minutes after a doc "The Making of 'Last Wish'" clocking in at 33 minutes. Call (847) 858-6294 for details.
This 'Boy' is nowhere
The After Hours Film Society presents the unvarnished early story of head Beatle John Lennon in "Nowhere Boy," showing at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Tivoli Theater, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. Rated R. 98 minutes. General admission costs $9. Call (630) 534-4528 or to afterhoursfilmsociety.com.
No pulling the shorts
The Chicago Northshore Short Film Fest will present a program of what else? film shorts as a fundraiser to support the endangered Skokie Theatre, at 6 p.m. Monday. Where else can you see "Taco Mary," about an athiest who sees the Virgin Mary in his taco? Tickets cost $10 (but you can donate more) for the shorts and a party. Call (847) 677-7761 or go to skokietheatre.com.