Today let’s talk about polarity. You know how there are two kinds of people in this world? It seems someone’s always pigeonholing us. Do you use a Mac or a PC? Do you prefer Coke – or would you rather a Pepsi? Are you a salty or a savory person? (And did you, like me, only learn the correct usage of the word “savory” about a year ago?) Cubs or Sox? Mayo or Miracle Whip? Potato chips or corn chips? And so on. This happens of course in movies too – with actors, Ben or Matt? Redford or Newman? And even with characters…
We lost a really great one last week. For my money, it was always about Kenickie. I never cared for Danny Zuko at all. Did you have an instant and unwavering preference for either Grease character? I’m sure that one’s allegiance may reveal volumes about us.
Jeff Conaway’s character in Grease was – for me – every bit as iconic a leading man as existed onscreen in 1978. The actor’s very sad passing last week at age 60 was truly heartbreaking on many levels.
I was a huge fan, and after I’d seen Grease maybe six times in the theater I remember actually purchasing several of those “unauthorized, behind-the-scenes” paperbacks with titles like “Kenickie – The Ultimate Rebel” and “Life With The T-Birds: The Real Story”. These were of course the trashy books that came out pronto in the wake of Grease’s mammoth success but until such time as Taxi appeared (remember, there was no internet and the Tiger Beats and Teen Scenes were monthly) there was no other way to read about Jeff or – more importantly – to see pictures of him in all his Ultimate Sidekick glory. I cared not one whit for John Travolta – it was Danny’s wingman who captured my fourteen-year-old imagination. He was completely dreamy – so much so that I eagerly bought silly novellas “written” by the “other T-Birds”. Arguably, his character (the brooding also-ran) influenced far more people and subsequent fictitious characters than the film’s strutting beefcake. He was certainly more compelling.
Conaway’s sad demise – following some very public struggles with substance abuse and let’s face it: the downside of fame, also made me wonder about reality shows whose mission is to “rehabilitate” celebrities. While there may be plenty of good done, one cannot help but feel a little icked-out by the relatively brief amount of time between hearing these names resurge (or flicker, famewise) and then hearing about how far they invariably slip the next time out. Everyone loves to watch a struggle, and the more outlandish/painful, the better the ratings. Still it’s truly sad to see someone who was clearly so charismatic get dragged down into the mire. He made for a lot of great movie and TV-going. So RIP Jeff Conaway, you will be missed.
Continuing on in the “polarity” genre, we have NBC’s show The Voice, which has been milking the whole do you like X or Y thing like crazy. None so strenuously as with these kind of brutal battle rounds. Did you watch? Are you still liking the show? They’re finally done with the pitting together stuff which, while entertaining still leaves a little to be desired because several singers seemed ultra-nervous. Having never watched the early episodes of Idol, it’s entirely possible that this is standard issue at that stage of the game. The most fun remains the coaches, who continue to impress, especially Cee Lo. I’m still a big fan of the show, but only agreed with about half of last night’s selections. With this in mind, let’s have you all weigh in on the winners.