“Grease” Sing-A-Long at Venice High, June 24, 2011
Venice High School acknowledged its Centennial tonight with a screening of the 1978 film Grease, starring John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing and the late Jeff Conaway. The unmistakable significance of both the high school’s longevity and its place in Grease history was a special energy in the air that brought out Venice neighbors and alums and friends of friends with blankets to the football field. We waited for the sun to go down so we could all sing “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and wonder after the accomplishments of Travolta and Newton-John amid the peak of innocence of the salad days of 1978. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Jamba Juice had a presence at the back of the field, but the sheer idea behind a road stove notoriously entitled “The Greasy Wiener” went hand-in-hand with its parental advisory change to PG-13, mostly to the chagrin of those who blushed at Greased Lightning being called a Pussywagon and other things parents probably didn’t remember. But hey… Grease is the word. I had no idea the bleachers on the northwest end of the field are where Danny Zuko and the T-Birds sing “Summer Nights”, but thanks to the Class of ’11, a clearly-marked photo-op is what they were tonight. The establishing shot of “Rydell High” could not have been any more obvious to alums and students, and all gave a spirited round o’ applause for VHS upon first sight of the landmarks.
Everything in this film is iconic, even the small and scarcely noticed things, but to know some of those icons are a part of Venice High is a thought I can’t deplete of joy. On that oval grade of dirt surrounding the football field is where Danny tried out and eventually lettered in track while his ne’er-do-well friends stole hubcaps. Whoever you are, you have my gratitude for connecting the cultural significance of your Centennial to this most apropos sharing of VHS’s Hollywood moment.
Prior to the viewing of the film, a school official read an email from Grease director Randal Kleiser, who sent his regrets at not being able to attend but who veritably commended the school’s long-standing commitment to academic excellence; he recounted his fond memories of filming Grease on campus. Olivia Newton-John contributed a surprise ten second “Happy Centennial, Venice High School” video message. VHS School Principal Dr. Elsa Mendoza then proceeded the lead-up to showtime with a proud thank you message to the Class of ’11, and then cued the PlayStation 3, and perhaps made the brilliant last-minute call to toggle the DVD into the newly-added 2010 “Grease Sing-A-Long” Edition. Encircling the famous lyrics were pink and blue bubbles of malt shop jukebox neon, and the fields hummed to the karaoke of three generations while children performed the shadow cast.