When I was in the eighth grade, my school put on a production of Grease. I played Frenchy.
Our uber-conservative music teacher, whose husband was the pastor at one of the local congregations, made us change the lyrics to Greased Lightning. Effective immediately, pussy-wagon became dragon-wagon (and WTF is a dragon-wagon anyway?), and the chicks’ll cream became the chicks’ll dream. Oh, and Rizzo’s pregnancy debacle became a terribly scandalous mononucleosis scare. Because we all know what kind of scarlet letter "the kissing disease" can brand upon an otherwise virginal young lady, especially when contracted at the high school level.
The part of Danny Zuko was played by a well-meaning but excrutiatingly tone-deaf black kid, who beat out an equally tone-deaf but far geekier Jewish kid with glasses, who had fancied himself a shoe-in for the part. The Jewish kid was devastated to learn that he had, instead, been cast as Kenickie. He was undoubtedly counting on the lead to catapult him into stardom, as nothing says “a star is born” like an awkward yeshiva boy singing sanitized show tunes in tight pants and a leather jacket. Tell me more. Tell. Me. More.
Of course, what Yeshiva Boy didn’t realize was that, unlike in the film, in the stage production of Grease, the much-beloved song Greased Lightning is performed by Kenickie, not Danny Zuko. In retrospect, I believe we can directly credit this technicality with Yeshiva Boy’s future success as a performer. You see, just few years ago, I turned on Comedy Central and saw ol' YB hammin' it up (get it? ham? yeshiva?) on Premium Blend. While I really was happy for his success and prided myself in having once shared the stage with a “real network performer” (not to mention that I also once went on a date with the now-sort-of-not-really-famous Yeshiva Boy to see Top Gun-- don't be jealous), I was also reminded of the accuracy of the statistics reflected in this graph:
Anyhow, it was today’s terribly sad news of the passing of Jeff Conaway, the original celluloid Kenickie, that made me hearken back to those happy days of puberty and pancake makeup. I’m not gonna lie; I had a huge crush on the Conaway, starting with Grease, and continuing on through his Taxi years.
Rest in peace, Jeff Conaway.