Franchise Fred has always approved Grease 2. My high school did Grease and while I always liked the music, I had a real problem with Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) just becoming the girl Danny (John Travolta) wanted. As soon as I saw Grease 2, I thought, “This is a way better message. Not only is it the guy coming up with a cool persona to impress the Pink Lady, but ultimately it deconstructs those myths of cool and popularity.” “Score Tonight, Reproduction, Back to School” and “Cool Rider” are great songs too.
So when the cast of Grease 2, save for Michelle Pfeiffer, reunited for a screening in Los Angeles, Franchise Fred pulled some strings to get into the sold-out evening. Host Brian Herzlinger (director of My Date with Drew and other films) assembled Grease 2 stars Maxwell Caulfield, Adrian Zmed, Leif Green, Christopher McDonald, Alison Price, Maureen Teefy, Jean Sagal, Liz Sagal and director Pat Birch for a Q&A. A transcript of the Q&A follows and you can also watch the full video of the Grease 2 event Herzlinger posted.
Q: In 1981 there were 118 movies released nationwide, not one directed by a woman. In 1982 about the same number of movies were released nationwide and only 3 directed by women. Pat did Grease 2, Amy Heckerling for Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Amy Holden Jones for Slumber Party Massacre. How did you feel stepping into the Grease legacy?
Pat Birch: I don’t know how I felt about it. A little nervous but hey, it was going to be a good gig. I didn’t have very strong feelings pro or con, I don’t think. I had very strange feelings about it. I knew it was a responsibility but there you go. I knew I was pretty good at what I did. I also knew from choreographing, having already done a bit of directing, not a big film like this, oh boy. The best way to handle it would be to let the people that are all around you and working for you and with you, let them know what you don’t know and what you need help with. And boy, did they come forward. I was surrounded by help and I knew that was the secret of getting it done.
Q: Do you have a favorite scene or musical number from Grease 2?
PB: I think the opening. I can’t remember, I don’t know if I storyboarded it. I don’t know what I did. I made a lot of notes and I knew what I wanted to do kind of when. If you have a great cast like I had, and they improv’ed a bit right in between the stuff I gave them so that their timing was terrific. I think the luau, I don’t know how we managed that. I don’t have a clue how we managed that. It was scary. I remember there were motorcycles all over the place and we were all scared to death. Other favorite numbers, bowling. I loved doing the bowling. Seeing it again, because I saw it about two months ago, they asked me of all people to check sound and the quality of the print which is not what I do best in life. It’s too technical for me. That’s my other secret. I don’t know that much about lenses and all that so I say, “Here’s what I would like it to look like” and then magically there are guys around to make it happen, sometimes girls. Anyhow, other than that, I think the talent show is a favorite. What I liked about it this time, aside from the musical numbers, was I found a bit of warmth and emotional appeal about high school angst in it, and high school anxiety and the relationships underneath it all. That I liked.
Christopher McDonald: It’s a very interesting thing. I had a really strange experience. I really wanted this guy’s part right here. So I came in five times for Johnny Nogarelli. You can’t wash the Irish off of my face, so Pat was smart and said no. And at home I cried. The call comes that night, “Would you come in tomorrow? We’re mixing and matching.” You probably don’t remember this but oh god, do I. It was an extraordinary thing. I came in, had nothing to lose. Any actors in the room? Show up. I could’ve been that guy, “I’m not going back. They don’t want me.” But I went back in and they mixed and matched. This was a life changer. I made lifelong friends with this movie. We ran into each other at a celebration of great directors at the Ithaca Rod Serling Awards and Brian made this happen. A lot of miracles came tonight. Maxwell Caulfield is on the stage in New York City right now. He came all the way from New York on his day off. He flies back tomorrow, hopefully there’s not snow, to do a show. It’s kind of a miracle and I’m so glad this came off as well as it did, and it doesn’t happen with you so God bless you all.
Q: Alison, what was it like working for your mom on Grease 2?
Alison Price: Maybe we’d better pass the mic. Actually, when we were on the set, she was not my mom except she made sure I didn’t eat too much. In fact, she put a weight clause in my contract but nobody else’s contract. On my birthday, which happened while we were filming, I was presented with a birthday cake which was half of a cabbage with candles in it. So that’s what working with your mom is like. No, we actually had a really, really good time. I don’t think she was that different with me than anybody else except I had to get the 40 pound headrest for a tree. Thanks, mom, and I did get put in the box. So when there were things like that that needed to happen, that was Rhonda’s job. We had a really good time. We didn’t live together during it so we came on set and it was good. And I had Goose there.
PB: I gave her a very rough time about getting the part. Everybody else was sure they wanted her and I wasn’t sure. She’s such a good looking girl. What they wanted was a very fun, not quite so pretty comedian. I thought well, yeah, I guess she can do it. I gotta tell you, we worked hard. It wasn’t all fun and games by any means. It was a lot of very hard work and work on comic timing. The takes that these guys all did, just amazing. Just the improv. It was hard work and they really came through.
Maureen Teefy: I think kinda like what everybody else said, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I think the script changed a lot. It kept changing as we were going long. It was being written so there was a lot of improv. I don’t really even remember studying for anything. I remember just showing up and doing it to be honest. I don’t know, being in high school, I had gone to high school. Not in the ‘50s.
Q: How does it feel to be a pink lady?
MT: Actually, I never saw the film in the theater when it came out. I saw a screening in New York and then I was on my honeymoon when it actually came out in the theaters. So this is the first time I’ve seen it. I have to say I’m so happy I did. I’m so happy that I’m getting to see everybody here. I thought the movie was just really wonderful. Sometimes for me, it’s better to see things a while out that I’m in. So seeing this now is just so warming. It was a lovely, lovely experience and I thank you for putting it together.
Jean Sagal: It was fabulous.
Liz Sagal: It was amazing.
JS: I got to work with my best friend.
LS: Actually, there were two auditions. There was one on the east coast and one on the west coast. Pat Birch was running the dance auditions on both coasts and she cast Jeanie and she cast me. Then said, “Hey, you’re related. We’re gonna play that up.” And she turned us into the bopsie twins.
JS: Liz had long hair and I had short hair.
LS: That’s right, we looked nothing alike. We did but we tried not to. Got the hair, died it black. Patty made it happen.
Q: Adrian, did you or did you not swallow the cigarette?
Adrian Zmed: It was a real cigarette that went into my mouth but I did not swallow it. That bit, the writer Ken Finkleman did that in high school all the time. He said that this bit has to be in this movie. He told me this on day one of shooting. He said, “You better start practicing.” Thank God we didn’t shoot that scene until about two months later or something like that, but I practiced absolutely every single day on it. Actually, you’re all probably in the business and everything. I did swallow it but when the camera came on my back, I didn’t have a cigarette in my mouth anymore. I just had smoke.
Let me just say something about Pat Birch and the whole Grease family and everything. Pat was the original choreographer of the show on Broadway along with Tom. There’s a magic that the two of them always had with that show and that is casting the right people in the role. She brought a lotta that magic to our version of Grease 2. She got the right people in the right place at the right time. That’s one of the things that is magical. The other thing that Grease 2 kind of captures is that what we had on Broadway was that sense of innocence that we all had. We were trying to be cool. We weren’t really cool. There was a vulnerability about everything that we were all doing and Pat brought that element to our production. I just have to say after all these years, I would not have done Johnny Nogarelli had it not been for her. Alan Carr and Robert Stigwood wanted a rock star in my role.
AZ: She kept on bringing me back right after a rock star would audition and Robert and Alan said, “All right, it’s still his. It’s still his.” Because of her, I ended up doing that. She was awesome. She gave me free reign. Boy, did she give me free reign on this whole thing. When you say we had a family, it truly was. We were like in high school. We were in high school and we had the best time of our lives. It really was. To this day, I’ve never had more fun doing a project than doing Grease 2.
Q: Maxwell, how much of the motorcycle riding did you do?
MC: You would lead off with that. I did all my own kissing. It was very painful. It’s hard not to fall in love with Michelle Pfeiffer all over again watching that screening just now. She was absolutely incandescent, wasn’t she? When the film premiered on the west coast here in the Cinerama Dome, and also an amazing cinema in New York called the Ziegfeld. I remember being absolutely stunned watching that sequence, Gary Davis the brilliant stunt guy who obviously did the cool rider stunts. I had no idea that they had gone out to Griffith Park and shot this extra footage where Michelle, it was clearly Michelle, had wrpaped herself around Gary and then he had done a wheelie. I must say, I gnashed my teeth over that one. And there were fun things like there was an amazing group called Stunts Unlimited who played all the bad guys, Balmudo and his henchmen.
Pat was the genius of casting, putting so many fresh faces and giving so many of us such a great break. A lot of us were wholly unqualified, I was too. You say they wanted a rock star. They wanted a genuine teen idol. We both were very fortunate, beat out some really serious competition.
Back to the stunts, the scene for example when I pick her up in the garage and she’s being surrounded by other drivers wanting service, that was the head of the Stunts Unlimited Group, him and his wife who were screaming for street lamps. When I went into the junkyard to assemble the bike, that was the camera operator. That lighting/cameraman team, they were old school. They’d been trained from the heyday of Hollywood. They’d apprenticed in the ‘40s so they knew fantastic techniques to light people.
The guy who did my hair had done Elvis Pressly’s hair all through his killer movies in the ‘60s. It was top drawer talent. Louis St. Louis put that amazing score together. The numbers just kept coming in this film. It was incredible. It really was a full blown musical and we were having the time of our lives. Obviously, it was a fantasy for an English guy to come over here and suddenly go to a rock n’ roll high school with the coolest cats, and they’re still my very best friends.
Q: How long has it been since you’ve all seen each other?
MC: We run into each other a lot.
AZ: Leif I saw about three years ago. Leif saw almost everybody here except Muffy wasn’t there. Excuse me, we called her Muffy.
AP: I grew up Muffy. What can I say? I grew up Muffy and my name was Alison. Muffy was my nickname given to me by my grandmother. It was very cute but you can’t be an actress named Muffy. It’s really not a good idea to go to casting calls, “Hi, I’m Muffy.” So anyway, I became Alison Price. But, you know, things come around and all of a sudden I’m Muffy again. Thanks, guys.
AZ: Leif kept us entertained. He played this character of a director. Do some of it.
Leif Green: They were saying it was all hard work. That’s not my memory at all. It was fun all the time. We were actually in high school. It was an abandoned high school down in Norwalk, CA so we had to drive every day.
CM: Every morning with Leif Green.
LG: I was very timid back then. Chris had this sportscar that never could run so he would beg me to drive him down. It was a long drive. Five o’clock in the morning, we’d get there very quickly but we got stipends for our mileage and he collected his stipend even though I drove.
CM: You’re gonna tell that story in front of all these lovely people. I owe him 40 bucks apparently.
LG: $340. No, that happened in the bowling alley. I used to take Louis St. Louis’s mink lined coat, turn it inside out and take your microphone. I was 20. Where did I get the balls to do something like this? I remember saying, “Ciao movie people. You do the scene. Pat, sit down, shut up.” The thing that I remember and gave Brian a picture of it, what I wanted to say about the school was we utilized everything. The cafeteria was the commissary. The classrooms were turned into wardrobe rooms. They viewed the dailies in the theater that you see in the movie that’s the auditorium every day, but we were not allowed as actors to see the dailies. This was a point of contention for all of us because we really wanted to see the dailies. None of us had actually seen dailies but we weren’t allowed. One day we were sitting around, because everything stopped when all the head honchos and bigwigs went in to watch the dailies. And Maxwell and I were sitting around talking. We were teasing saying, “How is Davey a T-Bird? He’s so fey. Where’s the wrist bone? It’s not even there.” So Maxwell said, “You kind of look like Stockard Channing, so maybe Davey Jaworski is somehow related to Rizzo from the first movie. We should actually see if we can get that together.” So he drags me over to wardrobe and hair and makeup. They put me in the wig they have. Rizzo’s jacket from the first movie so they put that on. I have on an old pointy brassiere and a skirt and heels and everything. They were like, “Go into where they’re showing the dailies.” Again, I had no fear and so they pushed me onto the stage from the side door, off to the side. I’m right at stage level and I come out. The screen is projecting the movie. I have the sunglasses just like the first one. I lowered them and I say, “This movie is shit. The first one is much better.” They laughed and they let us sit and watch the dailies that day so we were very happy about that.
MC: Actually, I told her a nursery rhyme. If I remember rightly, it was: Old MacDonald sitting on a fence, beating his meat with a monkey wrench. Missed his meat and hit his balls. Now he pisses in his overalls. In the editing room, needless to say, you just got that little bit and little Pamela goes, “Them’s the breaks.” That’s her ad lib. I was just amazed at the kid’s chutzpah to come back at me right away.
LG: Pam was the only minor. Pam was actually in ninth grade and she cussed like a sailor.
Q: And Leif did her voice in Score Tonight, right?
LG: Oh yeah, because Pam couldn’t do the hours that we did. We would record after we shot. So all day down in Norwalk, then we’d get in busses and they’d take us up to Burbank somewhere to record the soundtrack. And Pam couldn’t do those kinds of hours because she was a minor. So in the movie when she has a line, that’s me. I’m doing a weird falsetto type voice.
Q: Did you hit that high note in bowling?
AZ: Oh yeah. I had to do that knee slide about 50 times because I had to hit a mark. I kept going one inch over, a little bit before it, stuff like that. That is a painful day. You know, bowling alleys were not meant to be danced upon. We had more injuries in doing that shoot, to all the dancers than I have ever seen in my entire life, doing broadway or anything else. It was quite a great number. It really was. All the broken ankles, twisted ankles, we hid it from you, okay? She’s wearing sunglasses because she had a black eye. But then halfway through the number, because that’s how long it took us to shoot it, about two or three weeks.
AZ: It seemed like two weeks.
PB: They never gave us that kind of time. I would have loved it but I think that was maybe four days.
AZ: How about how we shot Prowling? Prowling we shot literally in a 24 hour period.
PB: You’re absolutely right. We were not luxurious with time at all. When we were doing my biker’s heaven, which I thought was so absolutely lovely. It’s almost lovely. I think there are things I could’ve done better, but it’s right there and Max looked gorgeous in it. That was because they didn’t really want it, was like three days. Three days to get the whole thing, with the fog, with the everything.
AZ: One of the stories about Prowling was that we recorded it and we were running so late in production, we weren’t quite sure that we were going to really shoot it other than use the end of it at the talent show. And when they heard it, they said, “We gotta shoot this.” So Pat literally that day figured out a way to shoot an entire number in 24 hours.
LG: We were originally going to be in a grocery store. We were originally supposed to go to a grocery store and they said, “No, we can’t create a period grocery store interiors and all that.” That’s when you came up with [that].
AZ: And thank you again, Brian, for acknowledging Pat. Not only has she paved the way for women directors but on Broadway too. Yes, you did.
PB: Let me say one thing about this. I think yes, it’s wonderful that women are all being empowered but there’s another thing and I think I sort of said it before. Whether you be whatever gender you decide or are, you gotta know what you’re doing. You gotta be good at what you do. Maybe there are problems in the office. I did not have one problem with any guy on the set at all. Never was put down for being a woman. Was asked to wear tighter jeans now and then and that was fine. I kind of enjoyed that. Every girl loves to be told they look good, right? And you begin to lose that. You’re working very hard making everybody else look good. It was important to me to stay looking kind of cute and the guys liked that too, but the first day we had that great big meeting, I’d never been to one of those. You’re the director and there are 100 people there, every department. I walked in there and I thought, “Oh my lord.” Nobody doubted me because I was clear about what I knew and as I said before, what I didn’t know. I think as far as women directors go, we mustn’t make too much of it. We just have to be good. Don’t spend too much time screaming me too, me too, me too. Better get our craft so good and then will you say, “Yes, you need me.” More time on that and less time on “be nice to me” or “empower me.” We need that too but we need to be very good at what we do before we scream and yell.
Q: How involved was Alan Carr with Grease 2?
AZ: He was quite involved. He was there every day .He was wonderful. We loved Alan and Robert [Stigwood] also. They were wonderful to us. They gave us everything we possibly asked for all the time.
PB: Support. Enormous support. Enormous support.
AZ: Bill Oakes too.
Q: When will Grease 2 be on Blu-ray?
Brian Herzlinger: It’s happening next month. It’s part of the 40th anniversary of the original Grease. They package Grease 2 with the original Grease. I think it’s April 24. I’m a little bit of a Blu-ray.com geek.
PB: I think they just wanted a sequel. Grease 1 had been very, very successful. It was like three or four years later. There were no stipulations. The only thing they told me was they wanted to reverse it where somebody came to school, the John/Olivia thing. It didn’t need to be from England or from anywhere. It just needed that kind of getting together, and the original show had that as well. Somebody from somewhere else coming to the school. But there were no real stipulations and I was doing Saturday Night Live which I did for a long time, choreographing musical numbers. I told Lorne Michaels that I’d been asked to do this and we needed a writer. He came up with Ken and that was that. They wanted to call it Son of Grease for a while. I went, “Oh my God, I can’t do that movie.” Anyway, there were no real stipulations.
Q: Wasn’t there an alternate ending for Grease 2?
PB: Here’s what happened. The reason I was coming up with something else was that I knew, and to this day I think it would’ve been a hit faster, but they wanted the characters from Grease to be in it. That’s what a sequel does usually. That wasn’t happening. Stockard refused and then John and Olivia didn’t really want to do it. I suggested they do just a little cameo. My idea was a good one. Yes, when they took off on the motorcycle, they would’ve run out of gas. They would’ve stopped in a gas station and that would’ve been John and Olivia’s gas station. Then they couldn’t make [it work], political things and no deal was made. I knew the minute Eddie Deezen got out of the bus on Grease 2 and the only other person we really had was Didi Conn. They really wanted to see some of the characters. They wanted you guys. They wanted to see you again but you’d graduated. That was the idea.
AZ: Before we disperse I just want to say one thing. Lorna’s not doing well. She’s a dear, dear love of ours. I talked to her husband, Colin, she sends her love, wishes she could be here. She’s in good hands. She’s flying back from England and hopefully everything will be good for her. Please, send her your prayers.
PB: No, I think part of it was the casting. The stuff was rewritten to these guys. I mean, the story’s not all that different really but these guys, I think, in some ways there’s a little bit more warmth there and I’m not sure why. The regular Grease from the time it came from, the Kingston Mines and the bad part of Chicago, it was much tougher. I think we retained a little more confidence this time than we had in Grease 1. You can’t top Grease. Randall did an enormously good job. Tom and Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey doing the original show, it was pretty amazing, the history we don’t have time to go into. It was a much tougher, gritty, they were horrendous people in the show in Chicago. Came to New York, it got cleaner. The only thing I didn’t like about doing the first Grease, which I loved doing, but every time I saw palm trees I thought, “Oh my God. How do greasers live in the palm trees?” They do, God knows they do. No, we weren’t trying to make it funny. We simply were telling a story. These guys made it funny.
AZ: Because she let us make it funny.