Grease is Still the Word (Though Slightly Censored)

Who knew a censored moment thirty-one years ago would so quickly come full circle?


But my dad will be happy to hear he has finally been removed from my Old Fuddy-Duddy category I’d enlisted him in more than three decades ago.


I needed room for a new name on the list.



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The ABC Family Channel has been playing repeats of the 1978 movie, Grease, billing it as “the original High School Musical.”


And just like all those years ago with myself, my son and daughter (upon seeing commercials for it) became entranced by its contagious musical offerings and the fate of Sandy Olsen and Danny Zuko at Rydell High. They excitedly wanted to know if they could see it.


Remembering my own love affair with the Grease movie soundtrack (and much later, the movie – but I’ll get to that in a moment), I told them we would make it a Family Movie Night and all watch it together.


The kids whooped with joy and seemed duly impressed when I informed them, “Did you know Mommy can sing every single word of every single song from the movie?”


What I didn’t tell them was that my love affair with Grease had been a forbidden love affair.


I still can detect a lingering after-taste of devastation and bitterness when my dad deemed Grease too racy for a seven year-old.


Oh, the injustice! Everyone was talking about how totally groovy the movie was. I wanted to see it soooooo bad! But I was banned. It seemed like everyone had seen it except me – even my six year-old cousin, further marking my dad as an old fuddy-duddy and making it official.


My cousin also had the soundtrack and I was mesmerized by the album cover with Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. I thought “Sandy” was the most beautiful girl I had seen and “Danny” the most dreamy boy. They looked so cool, beckoning me to join in the high school musical fun. I studied each and every picture on the album jacket, desperately trying to figure out what happened in the movie.


I also could not get enough of its infectious music, so much so that my aunt bought me my own cassette tape for my birthday. I was so relieved when my dad grudgingly let me keep it, but not enough to move him off the fuddy-duddy list.


And just as my own daughter has nearly driven me out of house and home with her incessant playing of her own High School Musical tracks, I played that thing to death on my tape recorder.


I loved each song from the radio hits, “You’re The One That I Want” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” to the achy “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” and the fizzy fun of “We Go Together.” I quickly and easily memorized all the lyrics out of pure love, but also because it made me feel included in all the hype.


Then one day, when my mom was walking by my room as I shimmied, shaked and belted out the words to the song “Greased Lightning” my mom froze dead in her tracks.


She immediately had me turn off my tape recorder and said, “Sing that last part again.”


Proud of my memorization I confidently sang, “You know that ain’t braggin’, she’s real pussy wagon – greased lightnin’.”


Much to my confusion, my mom gasped then hit rewind on the recorder. As she played it back, she heard the lyrics that I had been mispronouncing in my eight year-old ignorance, but she fully understood: You know that ain’t shit when we’ll be getting’ lots of tit in greased lightnin’…You are supreme, the chicks’ll cream for greased lightnin’.


Mom popped the tape and confiscated it saying, “You can’t listen to this anymore. I’m taking it.”


I burst into tears and wailed like she had just ripped my heart out of my chest, “Noooo! But why?”


“I don’t want you listening to what’s on this tape.”


“But Mom,” I pleaded my case, “I already know all the words.”


After hearing the warbled music coming from my $10 tape recorder incessantly since my birthday and mind numbing chants of …tell me more…tell me more…from “Summer Nights,” she knew I spoke the truth. She shrugged, tossing the tape back to me.


“Alright. But don’t let Daddy hear you sing that song.”


Now, here we are thirty years later, my kids and I snuggled in bed with a big bowl of popcorn watching Grease. It’s a moment I never could have imagined as an obsessed eight year old – that my kids and I would one day be bonding over a campy musical having given birth to another round of Grease groupies.


But I tell you what. I had that remote armed and ready to fast-forward over “Greased Lightning” and other parts, that as a parent,  I deemed too racy for my seven and eight year-olds. I ended up giving a respectful nod of thanks to my fellow fuddy-duddy, Disney (ABC Family Channel’s parent company), when I realized they had cut out the most offending parts, including a greatly shortened version of “Greased Lightning.”


Although, I did have to tell my son that “knocked up” meant broken up with your boyfriend and “hooker” meant someone who knits.  


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For those of you who are still wondering, yes, I finally did see the movie Grease as a pre-teen on Showtime at my aunt’s house. I never told my dad because that’s also where I got my sex education – surreptitiously watching Showtime After Hours porn.


That’s also why we don’t have Showtime at our house. Just call me Old Fuddy-Duddy.

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