ByKristina Mercado, writer at
Horror film fan, self-proclaimed nerd, entertainer of the masses
Kristina Mercado

Everyone remembers the lovable and highest grossing musical of all time. Many can recite every lyric to most of the songs. But how well do you know Sandy and Danny? What about Rizzo and Kenickie? With the new Grease: Live being a hit, let's take a look back at the original Rydell High gang and learn 12 facts that you did not know about Grease.

1. Elvis Was Offered a Role in the Film

Elvis Presley (left); Frankie Avalon (right)
Elvis Presley (left); Frankie Avalon (right)

Elvis Presley was offered the role of the Teen Angel. However, Elvis did not accept and the role was subsequently given to Frankie Avalon. Can you imagine 'Elvis the Pelvis' serenading Frenchie with 'Beauty School Dropout'?

2. The Writers Changed a Reference and It Became a Crazy, Sad Coincidence

The song 'Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee' was a hit from the stage play. However, in the stage version, the song referenced Sal Mineo (Rebel Without a Cause); Mineo was stabbed to death in front of his home in 1976. So the writers changed the lyric to "Elvis! Elvis let me be! Keep that pelvis far from me!” in reference to the King of Rock 'n Roll. What makes this a tragic coincidence is the fact that they filmed this scene on August 16, 1977, the day Elvis Presley died of a heart attack.

3. A Hickey From Kenickie Is Like a Hallmark Card

Stockard Channing (Rizzo) stated in an interview that Jeff Conway (Kenickie) insisted on personally giving her the love bites she complains about in the film.

4. Speaking of Kenickie...

Jeff Conway & Candice Early on Stage Dec 2, 1979
Jeff Conway & Candice Early on Stage Dec 2, 1979

Many people filled the roll of Danny Zuko throughout the stage adaptations, including Barry Bostwick, Richard Gere, and Patrick Swayze. Jeff Conway was among this illustrious list. He was part of the cast when Grease became the longest running broadway play, beating Fiddler on the Roof. He took to the stage many times as Danny but it was his roll as Kenickie in the film that left his mark in musical history.

5. 'Greased Lightning' Was Not Always So PG

In the stage production, the famed song was performed by Kenickie, not Danny (it was about his car after all). Also, in the stage version, the cellophane used on the car was a clear reference to condoms, being that the whole song is about how many chicks the car would get them. The actors were given explicit instructions to not include anything overtly sexual to keep the true meaning of the song hidden. However, John Travolta blatantly disregarded this when he rubbed the plastic over his crotch. This tiny snippet managed to make it into the final cut and is part of one the most iconic musical numbers in history.

6. Stockard Channing Nearly Missed Out on Playing Rizzo

Stockard Channing ; Lucie Arnaz & Lucille Ball
Stockard Channing ; Lucie Arnaz & Lucille Ball

Stockard Channing was not the original choice to play Rizzo. The studios originally wanted Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz; however she was dropped from consideration after interference by her mother. The reason for Lucille Ball's interference is a little fuzzy: it has been said that she objected to her daughter playing such a racy character and forbid her daughter from pursuing the part. Another reason given was the studio wanted Lucie to do a screen test and Lucille Ball called the studio, enraged by that since she used to own the studio Grease was being filmed in. (She actually owned Desilu Productions, which was bought by Paramount.) It seems ironic that Lucille Ball played a meddlesome character on I Love Lucy and it was her meddling that cost her daughter the part in this iconic picture.

7. Olivia Newton-John Wore Really Tight Pants

Olivia Newton-John said in an interview for the anniversary of Grease that she found the outfit for 'Bad Sandy' in a thrift shop and did the hair and makeup herself. She also stated that the zipper broke because of how tight the pants were and she had to be sewn into her pants for the carnival scenes.

8. Speaking of Sandra Dee...

In the stage production Sandy's last name was Dumbrowski. However, Olivia Newton-John couldn't do a convincing American accent, so they changed her character to an Australian transfer student, as well as her last name to Olsson.

9. Olivia Newton-John Almost Wasn't Cast

The director, Randal Kleiser, went to college with George Lucas. When deciding who should play Sandy, Kleiser approached Lucas while he was filming Star Wars and asked if he thought Carrie Fisher would be a good fit. He was unable to test her singing and dancing abilities and decided to move on. It was when the producer, Allan Carr, was sitting opposite Olivia Newton-John at a dinner party that they found their girl. It still took some convincing, however, since Newton-John had just starred in sci-fi flop Toomorrow and was nervous about making another bad movie.

10. It Took a Week to Film the Dance Contest

The dance contest was filmed at a real high school in Los Angeles. It was supposed to focus on Danny and Cha Cha; Sandy's part was added later. The gym did not have windows and it was 116 degrees while filming. Many extras were hospitalized due to heat-related illnesses.

11. But It Only Took a Day to Film the Final Scene

The final number and ending scene were filmed with a traveling carnival that was only there for the day. The next day, the director wanted to film close-ups, but they had left, so the crew had to re-create the set.

12. 'Grease 2' Was Not Supposed to be the Sequel

The planned sequel of Grease was supposed to be 'Summer School.' This idea came from Coach Calhoun's line, "See you in summer school," which he said to a student before having a pie thrown at his face. The movie was supposed to focus on Rizzo and Kenickie planning for their wedding. But, Paramount decided to nix that idea and we got Grease 2 instead.

There you have it: A few tidbits about the most successful movie musical in history that provided us with countless sing-a-longs and karaoke nights.

What other fun facts are out there? Let us know in the comments!


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