It was on a hot day in June in the very warm summer of 1977 when we started filming Grease at Venice High School on the Westside of Los Angeles. Venice High was to be the school that doubled for the fictional high school, Rydell High and most of the film was to be done there since much of the school was closed down for summer vacation. Other locations included the riverbed in East Los Angeles, Huntington Park High School, John Marshall High School, Burbank Drive In Theater, and several sound stages at Paramount Studios. From the first day of shooting until the final day of filming, 12 weeks later, we did nothing but laugh and enjoy our work. Every day was a fun, new adventure and we couldn’t wait to get to work to find out what we were doing next.
On the second day of filming, the entire cast was called to our location to do a special cast photo that was to be our poster shot. The only one missing was Frankie Avalon who was on tour in Europe. Once the finished photo was seen, Paramount got very excited and they decided to use the image immediately for pre-release publicity and have me do the final poster art at a later date.
Our trouble began at Venice High School when we started filming, and rehearsing, “ Summer Nights “ in the bleachers of the football field and the outside eating area of the school cafeteria. Summer school was in session and once the music started, students and teachers left class to watch what was going on and to start dancing. The school principle had no sense of humor and felt he was losing control of the school. When Randal Kleiser, our director, told him that he was conducting a music appreciation class, that was the last straw and we were told to leave the location immediately.
We had a wonderful day of shooting at Leo Carrillo Beach in Malibu, California where we shot the opening of the film with John and Olivia enjoying the last days of summer before returning to school for their senior year. We lucked out that day and had a beautiful sunset for our two lovers running along the beach at sunset.
The televised dance off scene was based on the hugely popular “ Dick Clark’s American Bandstand “ and was filmed in the very hot, non-air conditioned gym of Huntington Park High School that was located next to a very smelly meat packing plant. In spite of these obvious distractions, we had a lot of fun and we all still have our photo badges of the three T-Bird guys mooning the TV Camera.
While working on the “ Beauty School Dropout “ number on Paramount sound stage, The three T-Bird guys were supposed to fly through the number dressed as angels. Well, as luck would have it, the ropes on their flying harnesses got stuck and it took some time to get them back down. We all had a big laugh while the effect crew worked to get them down. Also it is interesting to note that this song became Frankie Avalon’s biggest hit of all of his many Top 10 records.
When we filmed the final sequence, the graduation carnival at John Marshall High School in Glendale, California, it was extremely hot and we all had to watch out for each other because of the excessive heat. Because the carnival was such an high energy and busy scene, there was a lot going on with the cast, crew, dancers and extras. Many funny things happened off camera during this time, Randal getting hit in the face with a banana cream pie by the T-Birds, Olivia splitting her extremely tight black pants several times during the “ You Better Shape Up” number, and a cast and crew pie fight.
We had so many great people working on that film. The cast, crew and dancers were among the best. John and Olivia were an absolute joy to work with and Olivia threw a wonderful wrap party at her ranch in Malibu for the cast and crew of the film. This pissed off many of the studio executives because they were not invited. If your name did not appear on the official cast and crew list, the security guards immediately turned you away regardless of who you were.
The only negative thing that happened to me on that film took place in the week following the completion of the shoot. If you will notice I am the only crew-member whose name has been omitted from the final film credits. This happened because I was called into the office of the PR and Marketing Director at Paramount Pictures and asked to make a choice that I was not about to make. Sometimes one has to make a choice in life and I made mine. It’s a credit that I obviously would have loved to have but everyone in Hollywood already knew that I had done the picture and my name credit appeared on every photo that appeared in print worldwide and still does 33 years later. That was enough satisfaction for me.