The John Marshall High School football field as it appeared at my graduation June 1981. I am somewhere down there. The carnival scene from Grease was filmed right where the graduates are sitting. Photo courtesy of my Dad and his legendary Olympus 35mm camera.
Eve Arden circa 1955, signing an autograph for someone named Margie as she vacationed in Hollywood that year. Photo courtesy of Margie's lost but now found photo album
Photo courtesy of www.now-you-are-here.com
“If you can’t be an athlete, then be an athletic supporter”. This is how Eve Arden addressed the Rydell High School student body over the intercom in the 1978 film Grease, where she portrayed the quirky Principal at the fictional school. Despite her starring role in the 1950’s television series Our Miss Brooks, her cameo appearance in a famous I Love Lucy episode or her stellar roles in Mildred Pierce and Anatomy for a Murder, somehow I have chosen to remember Eve Arden for her performance in the campy cult musical from that summer.
The final scene of Grease was filmed on location on the football field of my alma mater, John Marshall High School in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. That upbeat 1950’s carnival scene where Olivia Newton John and John Travolta perform a singing and dancing duet to the songs, “You’re The One That I Want” and "We Go Together", and then shortly there afterwards are propelled off into the blue sky in a flying 1956 Hot Rod automobile while looking back at the school from high up in the sky, seemed like a very strange ending to me. I just assumed they were on their way to battle the Millennium Falcon Starship from The Star Wars movie that premiered the previous summer.
I was not yet a student at John Marshall High in 1978 when that scene was filmed, but when I heard that Vinnie Barbarino (Travolta) from the 1970s sitcom, Welcome Back Kotter was in the ‘hood, I walked the short distance from my home over to the intersection of St. George Street and Griffith Park Blvd for a couple of days to see if I could spot the famous disco dancer. Sporting a black Led Zeppelin T-shirt, I don’t know what I would have done if I actually saw him, maybe yell out “disco sucks” or something to showcase my rebellious prose. As with most location filming that the public happens to stumble across, there never seems to be much action happening, just massive studio trucks parked along the street, mounds of electrical cable swimming over the sidewalks, scores of production staff standing around with clipboards in their hands while any recognizable stars are locked away in a trailer getting a pedicure. After a couple of days of this, I lost interest and did not bother to return. When I finally saw the film a few years later on network television I immediately recognized the carnival scene and my only thoughts were, “When could they have gotten all of that done ?" It must have been when I stepped away to visit The Burrito King a block away on Hyperion Ave to pacify my hunger with a burrito deluxe. I thought I saw a flying car in the sky about that time, but I figured it was just the hot sauce playing tricks on me.
A few years later during my senior year in 1981 at John Marshall, a film called Zapped was being filmed on campus during the final days of the school year. For several days, Willie Aames, Scott Baio, Heather Thomas and Scatman Crothers walked around campus, used the school toilets, sipped water from the communal water fountains and signed yearbooks for those that were aggressive enough to ask for them. Scatman even poked his head into a classroom for a few seconds and said something but I can’t recall what it was as I seemed to be asleep at the wheel during those last few weeks of school. When I finally saw Zapped a few years later on this new contraption called a VCR, the only thing I did was continually scan and pause the video tape for any incidental footage of myself in the background lingering in front of the famous gothic facade of the school while clutching a well scribbled peechee folder, but I never made it to celluloid that year. My quest continues.
Rest in Peace, Eve Arden and Scatman Crothers.
The "We Go Together" Carnival Scene at John Marshall High on You Tube:
The Opening sequence in Zapped with a strange lead into Scientology:
Disclaimer: I am not a Scientologist in any way, shape or form but it was the only you tube video available.