I'd like to give a public retro shout-out to Frank "Skip" Berger (of the infamous Murphy Flats Racing Association), now semi-respectable dad to our choreographing dynamo Robin. Skip graduated high school in 1959 and was every bit the drag-racing, Steak'n'Shake-cruising, cop-eluding greaser back in the day (and damn proud of it!). So I sat down with him a couple weeks back so I could get a real feel for the culture of Grease. What I love most about Skip is he's not one of those weenie-ass adults who's embarrassed by his youthful adventures -- he embraces them...!
(If you ever run into him, ask him to tell you about the mud fight... And that chick they called Joystick... I wonder why she was called that... )
Skip has been the best research source in the world for me, to hear his stories (which are Really Fucking Funny), to ask him about the clothes, the cars, the girls, the cops, the all-round juvenile delinquency that Grease chronicles so lovingly. And not only are his stories Really Fucking Funny, but they also speak volumes about that time. Skip gave me such insights into the times and the minds of these kids like none of my books and documentaries ever could (luckily he's just as smart and insightful and self-knowing as he is funny).
It was a real revelation for me that the motivation behind almost all the mischief they perpetrated was really very simple -- it was all about doing anything, anything, to Drive Adults Crazy. But that's not just some over-simplifying joke -- that really was the sole motivation for many of those kids. That's something I don't think most of us who didn't live through that time really understand. There was an innocence about it all that we just don't get anymore. They weren't trying to kill anyone, hurt anyone, do any major damage (although some kids did get hurt and even killed while drag racing). Gangs then weren't like gangs now. Most of them were just in search of Adventure, Anarchy, and maybe a little Ass, and the cops knew this, and they all had a kind of understanding...
Anyway, so Skip and the Murphy Flats Boys are coming to see Grease -- I hope they don't totally hate musicals... but who could hate Grease, at least, when it's done right...? Believe it or don't, but I'm finding that a lot of people do hate Grease, although I think they hate bad, stupid productions, not the show itself. Hopefully, Skip and the Boys will appreciate our sincere attempt at Greaser Authenticity -- we often find that New Line tends to produce Musicals for People Who Hate Musicals, so maybe our Grease will win them over. Skip says he can't be held responsible for his guys when they come to the theatre -- I told him it's a rowdy show, so a rowdy audience now and then might be fun... Famous last words...
Big Thanks, Skip. You fuckin' rock, man.
Long Live the Musical!