ByJess O'Kane, writer at
Big in Japan
Jess O'Kane

You know those long summer nights when you stayed up until 10, and went strolling and splashed around flirtatiously? No, I'm sure you don't...unless you're one of the larger than life cast of Grease, which turns an unbelievable 36 this year.

Since blasting onto our screens in 1978, watching Grease has become a rite of passage for each new generation of teenagers. At some point, we all had that dream of starting our own high school gang with matching jackets and inexplicably little school work.

But if most of the cast weren't really teenagers then, they're definitely not now - and how some of them look might shock you.

Without further ado, press play on this classic and get reacquainted with the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies of 2014.

John Travolta (Danny Zuko)

Then: Travolta had shot to stardom in Saturday Night Fever, and Grease only cemented his sex symbol status. Zuko was the rebellious "teen" heartthrob with coiffed hair and a sweet jacket. He swept Sandy off her feet, natch.

Now: After a career dip and an unlikely revival thanks to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, Travolta has gone on to star in Face/Off, Get Shorty, Hairspray, and most recently In a Valley of Violence.

Olivia Newton-John (Sandy Olsson)

Then: British-born Newton-John was already a solo star in her native Australia and in the USA, but her role as the innocent Sandy in Grease made her world famous.

Now: Just like her alter-ego Sandy, Newton-John sexed up her image after Grease and released a slew of risque albums, including 1981's double platinum Physical. Motherhood and a breast cancer diagnosis slowed her career, but after fully recovering she still records and tours worldwide.

Stockard Channing (Betty Rizzo)

Then: Unrepentant badass to the end, Rizzo was the coolest of the The Pink Ladies, with a soft side hidden deep down. I don't think there's any teenage girl who can watch Grease without idolizing and sympathizing with her.

Now: Channing is now 70, and has had a pretty incredible career which has netted her three Emmys, a Tony, and an Oscar nomination. After Grease, she starred in Six Degrees of Separation and as First Lady Abby Bartlett on The West Wing.

Jeff Conaway (Kenickie)

Then: Kenickie was Danny's best friend and a member of the T-Birds, with a penchant for racing and upsetting his girlfriend Rizzo. He had a schoolboy charm nonetheless, and his reunion with her is the ending we all wanted.

Now: Sadly, Jeff Conoway's career never really hit the same heights. He was fired from the show Taxi after his drug abuse spiraled out of control. After stints on Celebrity Rehab, Conoway sadly died in 2011 of complications from Pneumonia.

Barry Pearl (Doody)

Then: Doody was the cheeky guy who goes out with Frenchy and provides comic relief to all that darned romance.

Now: Pearl is still acting to this day. During his career, he has played Professor Tinkerputt on Barney's Imagination Island in the nationwide tour and featured in shows such as Even Stevens and Happy Days, The Musical. His connection to the musical Grease came full-circle when he directed the 40th Anniversary stage production in Pennsylvania.

Michael Tucci (Sonny LaTierri)

Then: Tucci played Sonny, the clown of the T-Birds who "don't take no crap." That is, except when the crap comes from his scary head teacher.

Now: Tucci has since turned to teaching drama in a high school in California, though he's also featured on the broadway revival of Chicago, It's Garry Shandling's Show and most recently as Melissa McCarthy's father in The Heat.

Kelly Ward (Putzie)

Then: Putzie was another T-Bird with some of the best lines in the whole movie:

Coach Calhoun: [reading list of dance rules] All couples must be boy-girl.

Putzie: Too bad, Eugene!

Now: Ward has gravitated behind the camera and is now a writer and director for Disney. His credits include The Mickey Mouse Club House, The 7D and Jake and The Never Land Pirates.

Didi Conn (Frenchy)

Then: Frenchy was one of the most beloved characters from Grease, with bubblegum pink hair and a musical number with Frankie Avalon that still gets stuck in my head today (Beauty School dropout/Go back to high school...)

Now: The adorable Didi Conn still acts, having most recently appeared in Law & Order and in the play A Heap Of Livin'. She also spends much of her time as a spokesperson for charity the Autism Speaks, as her son Daniel is autistic.

Jamie Donnelly (Jan)

Then: Donnelly was 30 when she was cast as Jan, one of the Pink Ladies. Jan graced us with one of the funniest parts of the film; her impression of the "Brush Up" song. It's still gold.

Now: Donnelly is an acting coach and still continues to appear professionally, such as in Monk, the musical Tarzan, and Can't Hardly Wait.

Dinah Manoff (Marty Maraschino)

Then: Marty was one of the ditziest of the Pink Ladies, which is saying something. Still, she was lovable, if only for her truly impressive mountain of hair.

Now: Maraschino has been one of the most successful of the cast, having won a Tony for I Ought To Be In Pictures. She also had a long-running stint on Soap, and guest starred in Bart Got A Room.


Who was your favorite Grease character?


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