The other day I joked, “If Jeff Conaway and Zsa Zsa Gabor are both in comas, can they see each other?” Everyone deals with grief and loss differently. My first line of defense always seems to be humor however inappropriate. These are two actors I feel I’ve known all my life though I only met them both once.
And now one is gone and one is sure to go soon.
As we age and our icons pass away we are forced to face our mortality in the most tangible of ways. Movie stars are planted in our minds as forever young and immortal. Then we turn on the news (or our computers) and suddenly Kenickie is 60. And dead. It was just the other day my kids were asking where our copy of “Grease” was so they could watch if for the umpteenth time. I commented on how many cast members I had known or met.
But it wasn’t until today that I found out that Dennis Stewart (Pock-Man in the car race) had also died, a decade ago from AIDS. I knew him back in the day and wish we had been better friends. But such is life: we meet people, some famous, some not. We drift in and out of each other’s lives, judging, envying, sometimes loving and then, poof! Someone’s on the news, there’s a posting on Facebook or an out of the blue email that puts everything into a whole new perspective.
We have no idea what lurks in the minds and heart of others ultimately. We take people’s word for their condition, gather insight from “tells,” but in the end we are in darkness believing for the best (or worst) in others. I remember seeing “Grease” for the first of what would be hundreds of times, looking in awe at Kenickie. He made out with Stockard Channing and got to pretend to be best friends with John Travolta. It was a dream job to a soon-to-be struggling actor/musician in Hollywood.
But it was a dream in darkness. Starting at an early age Jeff Conaway was exposed to the ills of substance abuse and sadly, for far too many, it will be his legacy. Not for me. I choose to remember the joy and enthusiasm he brought to “Summer Lovin,” “We Go Together,” and my favorite, “Greased Lightnin”.
Go Greased Lightnin‘.. Gone.