1959 came to the Mid-Florida Amphitheater in Tampa on Saturday night at the Meet ‘n’ Grease event! It was a celebration of the movie ‘Grease’ and its 40-year anniversary!
They were unable to schedule the events last year so they moved it up to 2019! The event encouraged people to dress up in costume for the occasion and the crowd did not disappoint. There were Pink Ladies, Beauty School Dropouts and Danny & Sandy everywhere. Families of several generations attended with kids in 50’s fashion.
The red & white 1948 Ford DeLuxe convertible car was there to take a selfie with along with various classic cars of the time. Lifesize cutouts could make you into Danny & Sandy. There were Grease t-shirts for sale along with the director Randal Kleiser’s book titled “Grease: The Director’s Notebook” that he signed for fans. Upon arrival, bags were given to every audience member with items to be used during the viewing of the movie ala Rocky Horror Picture Show. A comb, pom-poms, bubbles, a ‘Grease is the Word’ card and a checkered racing flag. The doors opened at 7:00 pm as stated on the ticket, some people thought that was when the movie started but, door time and event time are two different things, just to clarify. The movie started around 8:15 pm. Temps had dropped and those leather jackets came in handy along with blankets some people brought!
Introducing the movie was the director Randal Kleiser and the original T-Birds, Michael Tucci, Barry Pearl and Kelly Ward. They gave us instructions on when to use the various items in our bags during the movie. Some of the crowd were obviously huge fans of ‘Grease’ and had experienced the sing-along version of the movie before which has been around the country, including the Hollywood Bowl. Florida is the first time John and Olivia have attended the event. People were having a great time shaking their Pom-poms, blowing bubbles and waving their flags. The sing-along could probably be heard over at the Hard Rock Hotel! This writer hadn’t seen the movie in many years so it was fun to rediscover the charm of it.
Of course, everyone was waiting for the big moment for the two stars, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, to make their appearance! They came to the stage as soon as the movie ended along with director Randal and the T-Birds. They took pre-selected questions from audience members, Tampa was represented as well as California, Michigan and other states around the country by people who had traveled for this event. They were asked a variety of questions including when Travolta got his pilot license to were there any deleted scenes from the movie. Answers to those were that Travolta got his pilot’s license at age 19, he flies five times a week and is an ambassador & pilot for Qantas Airlines. There was one deleted scene from the milkshake throw that didn’t make it in the film. Olivia paid tribute to her late sister Rona Newton-John and co-star Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) who met on the movie set, fell in love and married. Both Rona & Jeff have since passed on.
Both stars looked great! Olivia continues her war against cancer with her Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Australia as well as being on the board of advisors of the Moffitt Cancer Center. Travolta gave her a standing ovation for her battle with cancer, a moving tribute between these two old friends. Travolta acknowledged his daughter Ella in the audience who is an actress as well. They took turns singing to each other, John singing a bit of “Sandy” and Olivia with “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, telling the audience she had not sung in quite a while. Everyone sang along and it was a sweet moment. Travolta took a turn with the T-Birds for a snippet of “Greased Lightning”!
It was a fun, nostalgic evening and if you haven’t seen it or watched Grease lately, maybe you should ask Santa for the DVD for your collection!
Photos from Vicky Sullivan / The Sarasota Post