The sad news of the demise of Olivia Newton-John last week sent many to re-watch “Grease” — one of staff had never even seen it before (what’s up with that?), so he watched it for the first time.
In my past life of interviewing celebrities, I never had the chance to confab and gab with Ms. Newton-John, but watch how I connect the dots to her.
One of my personal favorite scenes in that film is when Stockard Channing as Rizzo (no relation to the late, great Frank Rizzo of Philadelphia, sadly) makes fun of Newton-John as Sandy in the song “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee.” I can report that, for better or worse, I still know all the words to that ditty.
Nope, I never did interview Stockard Channing, either, but note that she has local connections as she graduated from the Madeira School on her way to Harvard (yes, that Harvard) in the 1960s. (She was in her mid-30s and on her third marriage when she played the high-schooler in “Grease” 🙂 )
But I DID once interview Sandra Dee, the subject of that song and, for young ladies of the late 1950s, the epitome of cuteness (and for young men of the 1950s, the epitome of somebody who was untouchable, at least until Bobby Darin showed up and did a lot of touching — they did get married first, however.)
The interview was at, wait for it, the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee in the 1990s, when Dolly herself had invited Ms. Dee to visit. She shared the bill with Parton (interviewed her later), Dom DeLuise (interviewed him in advance) and Phyllis Diller (she, alas, proved unavailable).
What I remember from the interview with Ms. Dee, was that she came along with what appeared to be an early use of an emotional-support dog, a little guy she carried in what looked like a large purse.
Not only had Ms. Parton been a fan of Sandra Dee back in the day, but so had the editor of the Myrtle Beach Sun-News, Sue Deans, where I was working at the time. Didn’t ever get much praise from her, but she did remark that she enjoyed that interview.
(Another Sue Deans moment: After I gave management plenty of advance notice that I was going to be leaving to move back up to D.C., she dropped by my work area to say “you’re welcome to stay as long as you like … until we find a replacement.” In other words: Don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya…..)
Ah well, time marches on: Sandra Dee, Dom DeLuise and Phyllis Diller are all up there in Hollywood Heaven, but Dolly Parton and Stockard Channing remain among us. Sue Deans, too, presumably, although I admit I haven’t kept up.
Has this all merely been a set-up to link to a clip of “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”? As Rizzo (either the “Grease” character or the Philly mayor) might have said: You bet your *** it is.
- Scott McCaffrey