A hickie from Kenickie is like a Hallmark card…

In Actors, FIlms, In memorium, Men on May 30, 2011 at 8:22 pm

We interrupt normal service (I normally post a Rule on Wednesdays) to celebrate the life of Jeff Conaway, the actor who played the part of bad boy love god Kenickie in Grease.

He died on Friday from pneumonia – not a drug overdose as initially report. Although the official cause states that years of drug abuse had led to him not taking the condition seriously enough. You can read the whole sordid thing on Wikipedia if you really want to.

Such a sad stupid way to go, but strangely in keeping with his image in the film. There was a reason he played the bad boy so well – he actually was one.

Which is exactly why he always made the film for me. From the first time I saw him shaking it up in the ‘Summer Nights’ routine, I was smitten. The bit with the comb – remember?

John Travolta was utterly loveable in Grease. And while I find his religious beliefs beyond creepy, I still adore him as an actor – and a dancer.

The very particular way he says ‘I’m trying to iron here…’ and ‘How am I supposed to negotiate pleats?’ in the movie of the Hairspray musical, are two popular catch phrases in my house.

So, as slightly soppy Danny, John Travolta was perfect. But it was proper greaser Kenickie who stole the film for me – along with his gal, Rizzo, who has the best ballad in the film: ‘There are worst things I could do, than go with a boy – or two…’.

We’re gonna rooool the school. I could go on, as you can probably tell.

So I was very sad to hear about Mr Conaway, but it was interesting that it coincided with my just-add-hot-water instant mini crush on Rob Lowe – another bad boy.

I didn’t fancy Rob Lowe much when he first emerged. Too clean, too gay looking. When The Outsiders came out (adapted from the favourite book of my teenage years, by S E Hinton) like any other hot blooded woman, it was Matt Dillon who iced my cake.

I didn’t even start to get the point of Rob Lowe until he’d been disgraced a couple of times and it’s only now in maturity, when his face is looking, as my friend Barbie says, ‘slept in’ that I have realised he is a god of hot.

I wonder why bad boys have this appeal? I’m not sure I’m proud of it, but I think it might be quite healthy for us all to get our attraction to men who live on the edge out of systems in celebrities crushes, because in real life they’re no fun to be around at all.

So vale, Jeff Conaway. Farewell, Kenickie. You will always live on in our collective hearts – and in my much-viewed video copy of Grease.

  1. Yet another Maggie post that I love – it happens so often. It may have something to do with the fact that we’re similar ages & have the same taste in men? Rob is indeed god of hot. The Outsiders was read and read again in my teenage years (then watched over and over). Thank you for always putting a smile on my face!

  2. I have lost count of the number of times I have watched Grease. I love it. How sad to hear of Kenickie’s death. It just doesn’t seem right. The ultimate bad boy for me will always be Marlon Brando. I would have crawled over cut glass to get to him in that scene in On the Waterfront when he flicks his head at Eva Marie Saint. And then he ruined it by getting old and fat – unlike Paul Newman – the most handsome man who has ever lived. Oh dear! I think I am ranting.

  3. Stockard Channing has aged really beautifully, don’t you think? In the West Wing I always thought of her as Rizzo in the White House.

  4. So sad. There are not enough bad boy love gods to go round in this world for us to lose one. I will watch Grease again in Jeff Conaway’s memory I and will love every second of it (Rizzo and Kenicke’s pash when they are doing “we go together”). Maggie you are that funny! Bumpyroadtobubba has hit the nail on the head.

  5. Did you know that Jeff Conaway played Danny in the original stage play of Grease? Hard to imagine, as he was perfect as Kenicke. Sigh.

  6. From personal experience I know that bad boys are much better enjoyed on film than in real life … but I still love them on film! Clive Owen is a current favourite of mine.

    It is always sad to see talented people lose their lives to drugs. Without Kenicke and Rizzo Grease would have just been fluffy. They gave it a grounding in reality that made all the fluff so much better. I’ve always thought I would rather be Rizzo, however I fear I’m a Sandy, how disappointing.

  7. Hey Maggie. Love your posts, just wanted to say you seem to often preface your columns with “oh, I’m breaking the rules cause it’s not Friday” or “here is Saturday’s column a few days early” etc. Obviously you’re still getting your head around not having a print deadline, but you don’t need to apologise or explain yourself on these things on the internet. It’s a blog. You update it when you write something. There is no deadline and I think most of your readers read your stuff just because they find it interesting, not because they are waiting for Wednesday’s Rule or something. Anyway, my two cents. Keep up the great work.

    • Very good point! I suppose I am an old print dinosaur, but also with the saturday thing, I did want to give readers a sense of continuity that they could always get something from me on a Saturday – as they used to in Good Weekend. So I will try and keep to that, but I’m going to think hard about what you say. Also, though, one of the points of difference I wanted to make with my blog, is that I am a professional – I’ve been doing this for 30 years – and it will be regular. Whereas a a lot of blogs are very sporadic and it’s annoying when they’re good. Really appreciate your thoughts. xxx

  8. One of my great pleasures as a mother was watching Grease with my daughter, she giggled at Hickie from Kenickie long before she knew what that entailed, swooned with Sandy, swiveled her hips with that John Travolta (those hips!) and thought that those bad kids were just the coolest around.

    He will live on forever through this wonderful movie

  9. Dear Maggie,
    Any news for me? Waiting patiently, but eager and hoping to hear from you very soon re quote we discussed.
    Thanks and regards,
    and new email after hacked on weekend (what fun, address book gone)

  10. I agree completely on Rob Lowe, although I think I always saw the point of him. He was one of the key reasons I watched The West Wing (as well as the hot dialogue)and why I suffered through seasons of Brothers and Sisters … can’t wait for him to pop up next.

  11. Paul Newman- yes, George Clooney- yes, Sean Connery- yes, Daniel Day Lewis- Yes, Javier Bardem- yes, Colin Firth- yes, Obama -yes, Jeff Bridges – yes, Guy pearce – yes…a few of my favourites …can we list all the great men and compare notes?

  12. Same thing happened to me with 90210. As a kid i adored Brandon Walsh, seriously LOVED him. Then when i re-watched the DVD boxset in my mid twenties i was drooling over Dylan Mckay. I totally got why brenda was sooo in love with him, and while yes, Brandon was cute (and i loved how he rolled his cuffs up on his tees), he was almost a bit boring.

    In real life my bad boy crush is Simon Cowell…

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