Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Back to Cool

Wednesday is the traditional first day of school for most kids across the nation.  In the farm belt states, it’s usually earlier, other places it’s later.  As students from pre-school to college head back to class, there are two kinds of education they’re going to get:  the traditional 3 Rs, and the “other kind”.  For the last 40 years or so, it’s been getting harder to tell the difference.  If the Socialists have their way – indeed, if they haven’t already inserted it into the curriculum – your kindergarten pupil will be learning about the birds and the bees instead of from you.

Some friends just sent their 18 year-old daughter J (A note my friend, JD:  it’s not your “J”, but another couple with a daughter with the same name.  She’s just as sweet as your “J” though.) off to college for her first semester at a local university.  She’s their only child, and they’re naturally anxious.  The daughter, for her part, is happy to get away from her overprotective parents for a while.  She’s close enough to home for them to come to the rescue but not so close that they become a nuisance.  I’m even closer.  I gave her my cellphone number and told her to call me if she gets homesick but doesn’t want to admit it to her parents.  I don’t plan to become a nuisance, either, although I’d be willing to hop in my car to give her advice on how to start a campus tea party next year, when she’s more acclimated to the school.

Her parents don’t have too much to worry about; she’s a music major and a phenomenal pianist.  Before she’s taken even one class, she’s already been advanced to the Level 5 piano class.  It’s possible that she may try drugs, but it’s not likely she’ll turn into a junkie; she’s already addicted to music.  She’s in the music major dorm, which is good because music majors are in their own world with their own language – music.

They’re also worried about boys.  However, this young lady has a sensible head on her shoulders.  Her response (unless she’s high) to any unwashed Occupier would be, “Eww!  Get away from me!”  The parents are right about being alarmed.  I went to this school, although my mother insisted I commute, and I was only too happy to comply.  The campus isn’t too bad, although it’s more radicalized than it was and the dorms are very far off.  Fortunately, the school now offers shuttle bus service.  But her parents noted that the bus ends at midnight; the curfew does not.  The school’s curfew is 2 a.m.  At that late hour, why bother?

My father didn’t want me to go to this school because it was too near a major city with a major, low-income population.  It didn’t matter; my parents couldn’t afford the tuition there, anyway.  I went to a community college, instead, although it was out-of-county, which made it more expensive than our county’s community college.  Going to my county’s school would take me into the same city and not only didn’t my father want me to go there, I didn’t want to go there, either.

The county finally built an extension of that school in Wanaque, right down the road from my childhood home.  Far too late for me, of course.  But just in time for Agenda 21’s plan of warehousing everyone near mass transit lines – and institutes of higher learning, with plenty of adult education courses.  The occupiers of Bloomingdale’s Avalon Bay project will eventually be its best customers.  J. could have gone there (saving her parents money), but with no dorms, for her, it was just a little too close to home in Bloomingdale.

The children going back to school will be taught that this is a good thing.  That trading your freedom for convenience isn’t such a heavy price to pay.  In fact, there won’t be a price to pay for anything.  Not your medical care, contraception, housing, transportation, or food.  One thing you can be certain won’t be Agenda 21’s development is a church.

My friends’ daughter is very concerned about one thing – the corruption, political and otherwise, within the student body.  She wants to grow up and become an adult.  What she fears is becoming politically trapped within their adolescent, dependent culture.  Her parents are, or were, Liberal, not Conservative.  But there’s no one who knows better than J. what a bad idea it is to live in perpetual childhood, having a nanny state hovering over you every moment.

J. also doesn’t want to become “Sandy” from Grease.  When she crosses that bridge, while she doesn’t want to appear in a crinoline skirt, she also doesn’t want to emerge wearing leggings so tight that actress Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into them and a top that would have gotten her arrested in the real 1958, when the movie – and the Broadway play were set.   Incidentally, the 1971 play was set in Chicago.

We moved to Long Beach, an L.A. suburb, in 1959.  There were really kids like that.  Actually, they were more like the thugs that the T-Birds go up against.  The play was a lot tougher than the movie, and Long Beach was a lot tougher than the play.  My parents wouldn’t have paid those kids anything to babysit me and my older brother.

Bad as these kids were, “Sandy’s” appearance at the end of the 1978 film was over the top even for the gritty streets of Chicago or Long Beach in 1958.  Even hookers in 1958 didn’t dress that way, according to my mother.  She was supposed to appear in a tight skirt and blouse, with shortened hair.  That’s what the producers told the cast, anyway.  That’s the way the “Sandy” on Broadway appeared.  But to a 1978 teen audience aimed right at the 20 year olds born that year, that kind of fashion was itself “square.”  So they surprised the cast.  They sure did.

The way the film’s producers tell it, the cast went wild.  Their own film tells another story.

My family always criticizes me for watching movies over and over.  That’s because I like to analyze the films.  Perhaps overanalyze.  In the case of Grease, every time I watch this movie, I become a little more dissatisfied with it, putting another finger on why it’s not at at all what it seems.

Grease is one of the most popular films among the school-age set.  But what they’re in love with is its sanitized version and its music, which is admittedly quite good.  The tunes are quite good and the lyrics are suitable enough for kids.  Except for one – “Greased Lightnin’”.  The lyrics are so bad (not to mention much of the dialogue in the film, which also had to be excised) that some of them had to be edited out for public consumption.  The rating on the DVD package says “PG”.  The producers must have pulled a lot of strings to get that rating, especially way back in 1978.

The first thing Olivia says to John Travolta upon her “debut” at the end of the movie is decidedly not what she said in the original release, and definitely not PG.  The producers must have had several shots of this particular encounter.  The moviehouse erupted with riotous laughter when she uttered the original line.  I didn’t have a chance to decipher what she said before the laughter from the front rows drowned it out.  I had to ask the friend next to me to repeat it.  So there’s no doubt about what she said.

Don’t bother going to the DVD to hear it; the producers replaced it with the other shot.  Nor will you be able to read the line on lascivious Olivia’s pumped out lips.  But what you can see is the cast’s real reaction to her outfit.  The cast is more than surprised; they’re aghast, and interestingly enough, the guys.  They’re not looking at Olivia with lust; they’re looking at her with disgust (everyone except Travolta).

I’m a holiday movie-buff.  I arrange my vast collection according to holidays.  Grease, despite its first-act number, “Summer Nights,” is a back-to-school movie.  Having gotten well-used to Olivia’s outfit, as I was watching the film last night, I happened to notice one of the other cast members as she and Travolta are dancing backwards towards the Fun House (the Shake Shack).  It was something I had noticed before.

As the couple is dancing backward, you can see Actor Kelly Ward, the blond T-Bird character Putzie, stopped dead in the field, off to the right of the screen, his mouth hanging open in what looks like horror.  He should be moving backwards with the rest of the cast.  Suddenly, you see his head turn to the right, off-screen.  He does a double-take, clearly dropping out of character (as they say in the business).  Someone out of shot seems to be speaking to him.  Finally, it almost looks like he says, “All right” before stepping back, rather than dancing back, and joining the rest of the cast.  The cameraman and director must have caught his reaction at that point because the camera swings to take him out of the shot.

Veteran actress Eve Arden had a similar reaction to the school dance scene.  But since it was supposed to be in character for her, anyway, you almost can’t tell the difference.  Almost.  In one angled close-up, the camera is on her, but she looks away uncomfortably.  Is it the character who’s uncomfortable or the actress?  Arden was what they used to call a “trouper”, game for anything.  In the chorus scene, you can see she’s happy to be a part of the show, until one of the “kid”-actors (they were in their late 20s and 30s) does something rude, probably on the director’s instructions.  No mending the Generation Gap in this film.  “Crude-and-lewd is here to stay; it will never die.  It has always been that way; though I don’t know why.”

I won’t digress any further down memory lane about “Grease”:  I already reviewed this movie in another blog called “Bleep is the Word.”  You can’t be blamed if you didn’t notice “Putzie’s” reaction the first fifty times you saw this movie.  Olivia’s tights are a formidable obstacle.  We need to look past the obvious, however, especially where the words “sex” or “free” (or “free sex”) are blazing out at us, tempting us not to look beyond the obvious.

“Free” is not as “free” as you think it is.  Someone is going to pay the price, and it’s probably your gullible children who cross the bridge into eternal adolescence as “Sandy” does instead of responsible adulthood as the just-as-innocent but “more-than-what-they-see” J.  They need to make sure they get the "background" on whatever cause or politician they're supporting.







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