News that Olivia Newton-John’s former boyfriend has been reportedly found alive and well, more than a decade after he disappeared during a fishing trip, is just the latest chapter in the rollercoaster lives of the big cast of actors who became overnight worldwide stars with the release of ‘Grease’.
Olivia, who married her current husband in 2008, will no doubt be dreading seeing the headlines this week, as Womans Day magazine reports that previous beau Patrick McDermott, whom she dated for nine years before his disappearance, is alive and well and living in Mexico, with his German girlfriend.
McDermott disappeared in 2005, aged 48. While investigators into the incident claimed two months later that he was still alive, a private investigator later closed his case, after reportedly receiving a fax sent on McDermott’s behalf, saying that he was fine, but had committed no crime, and wished to be left alone.
However, Olivia’s story isn’t the only one of the ‘Grease’ stars to take some strange turns.
‘Grease’ burst onto cinema screens in 1978, with its bubblegum-popping story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gyrates until girl can no longer resist. This age-old tale was given a pink, leather and denim spin with its talented cast, witty asides and thumping tunes, and ‘Grease’ became one of the year’s biggest films, with a soundtrack that remains one of the best-selling ever.
We catch up with the biggest stars of the 1978 phenomenon and ask - where are they now?
Bad girl Rizzo
The much-loved actress has been nominated for 13 Emmy Awards and seven Tony Awards. She found a whole new audience playing Abby Bartlet in ‘The West Wing’. She returned to stage in 2010 in Dublin for ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and, most recently, she has had a recurring role in TV hit ‘The Good Wife’.
One of the T-Birds in ‘Grease’, Michael went on to play Garry Shandling’s pal Pete Schumaker on his eponymous show, and also played Dick Van Dyke’s friend in ‘Diagnosis: Murder’. He recently played Melissa McCarthy’s father in ‘Heat’. He is also an acting teacher in California.
Pink Lady Marty was Dinah’s debut film role, but she went on to further roles on screen, as well as stage, where she won a Tony Award for Neil Simon’s ‘I Ought To Be In Pictures’. In 1988, she was the first character to be killed by Chucky in ‘Child’s Play’ and has worked consistently since. Most recently, she has starred in cable TV series ‘State of Grace’.
Another T-Bird, Barry Pearl has eschewed any further film roles, concentrating instead on being a children’s theatre and TV actor. He did make a cameo appearance in ‘Grease: Live’ on FOX this year, when he appeared as Mr Weaver.
Didi, the most aspirational of the Pink Ladies, reprised her role for ‘Grease 2’, and went on to appear in hit US sitcom ‘Benson’, as well as other TV shows. Besides appearing in the ‘Grease: Live’ television special this year, Didi has concentrated on being a spokesperson for Autism Speaks, following her son’s diagnosis.
American actor, singer and former teen idol, Frankie Avalon found a worldwide audience in ‘Grease’, where he strangely materialised to inspire Frenchy to “go back to high school”. As well as promoting his health and cosmetic products on the Home Shopping Network, Frankie has produced a Italian cookbook, and been happy to reprise his ‘Grease’ role, including help recruit Sandy for NBC’s ‘Grease: You’re the One That I Want’. He performed on American Idol in 2009.
Following ‘Grease’, Jeff found TV fame in hit US sitcom ‘Taxi’, however his drug use contributed to his eventual firing. Although he made frequent appearances on other TV shows and some films, it was his role in ‘Babylon 5’ that brought him a whole new fanbase. Although he underwent treatment for drug abuse in the 1980s, and later appeared in two series of ‘Celebrity Rehab’, his health problems ultimately overwhelmed him, and he eventually died from pneumonia in 2011.
Olivia had already represented the UK at Eurovision and kick-started her pop career, when she got the role of Sandy in ‘Grease’, a film whose popularity helped boost her profile worldwide. She went on to become one of the world’s most popular music artists, with 100million record sales to her name, but later preferred to concentrate on health issues advocacy as well as animal rights. Following her own recovery from breast cancer in the 1990s, Olivia raised money for a clinic in Melbourne in her name. She continues to tour now, and last year appeared as a guest judge in RuPaul’s Drag Race.
‘Grease’ made John Travolta one of the biggest film stars in the world, but his career took a dip in the 1980s. Quentin Tarantino bought him back to the A-list with ‘Pulp Fiction’ in 1994, and he won a Golden Globe for ‘Get Shorty’. Following the death of his girlfriend in 1977, he suffered the loss of his son Jett in 2009. John Travolta has been a longtime Scientologist, and is most often in the headlines these days, when he’s speaking out in defence of the controversial religion.