In 1971, friends dragged me to check out Grease, a musical that was gaining its premiere operation at Kingston Mines Theatre, on what was then the new Off-Loop theater strip along Lincoln Avenue near Fullerton. The story that a bunch the hoody teenagers from a college the authors called “Rydell High,” the present featured Chicago-specific recommendations to Foster Beach and also Melrose Park. Likewise a girl gang, the Pink Ladies.

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“There were Pink females at Taft High once my sister went there,” ns whispered come my friend Sue.

“This is fiction, silly,” she replied. “There room no Pink Ladies.”

She to be so wrong.


I to be a preschooler in 1957 once my sisters Sharon came house from Taft, in Norwood Park, bearing tales about the scary group of girls known as the Pink Ladies. She stated they hung out in former of the school and stood difficult as castle puffed cigarettes, wearing stern-faced wha’-chu-lookin’-at expressions. Their black flats, nylons, and also pencil-slim skirts were topped with varsity jackets emblazoned with a champagne glass bubbling end in pink embroidery. Your eyes were smoky v makeup and also their billowy hair was haloed in scarves tied straff at the chin, choose the strap on a combat helmet.

Jim Jacobs, who wrote Grease v Warren Casey, graduated from Taft the same year my sister did. He based the display on his experience there, which consisted of bleacher monitorings of the Pink Ladies. Casey, who passed away in 1988, attracted on storage of to teach high institution in new York state.

“The Pink women were the toughest broads I’ve ever seen, before or since,” claims Jacobs, currently 68. The remembers castle stowing razor knives in their teased hair, in instance girls from another gang assaulted them, and also carrying church key can openers, not simply to popular music a Hamm’s but to usage for protection.

The original Grease was accordingly raw. In his rave evaluation for the Chicago Tribune, william Leonard referred to as the personalities “a bunch of foul-mouthed, lazy, brawling, useless, cheating, disrespectful no-goods” and also warned the show was “for those that don’t mental dirty four-letter words and also lots that them.”


But once it left Chicago for Broadway, Jacobs says, he and also Casey were pressured to clean increase the racy lyrics and also write new ones for general audiences. In the car-sex anthem “Greased Lightning,” for example, a lyric that originally read “the chicks will cream” ended up being “the chicks will certainly scream,” and also the heat “You really room a clown if girlfriend think the I’ll go down in greased lightning” got reduced altogether. Jacobs and also Casey dumped the Chicago references, too. By the time the sun-soaked California film version came follow me in 1978, Grease to be squeaky clean sufficient for Olivia Newton-John come star.

In a 2009 blog article addressed to “Mr. And also Ms. Chicago Producers,” existing Tribune movie critic Chris Jones pleaded because that a renewal of the nasty old Grease. American Theater firm artistic director PJ Paparelli liked the idea and also called Jacobs. They decided to regain some old product from the Kingston Mines days and add brand-new DJ patter. The results deserve to be seen currently in an ATC manufacturing that began previews April 21 and opens a to plan eight-week operation on might 2. “It no a museum piece or a gloss production,” claims Paparelli. “It’s no the Grease we know. We’re taking what we’ve learned from the top Grease of the past 40 years and crafting it come an edgy level come really permit Chicago to check out itself in the characters.” even the good-girl lead character, Sandy, is slated to song a suggestive number that didn’t do it right into the Broadway version. Called “Kiss It,” the song’s acquired her crooning, “Kiss it ideal where i’m tender.”

The Pink Ladies gained started somewhere between 1953 and 1955, depending upon whom girlfriend ask, and also lasted right into the early on 60s , with almost everywhere from a grasp to virtually 50 members at any given time. Countless of them were the children of inner-city roman inn Catholics who’d come to Norwood Park looking for a very first home after people War II.

The club’s name resulted native a stunt part friends pulled on Sunday afternoons ~ church as soon as they were 16 year old. Dressing up in sophisticated hats, heels, and also gloves, they hit the downtown clubs, anxious come dance. “Before long,” recalls Zipper, a member who didn’t want her real name used, “we were sitting pretty and sipping pink ladies”—a frothy gin-and-grenadine cocktail that, follow to another club member, increased Marie Doladee Marinelli, was offered to them there is no the alcohol.


“There to be no Rizzo or Frenchy,” claims Pink Lady Sandra Pavlik Brigante, introduce to a pair that Grease creations—the previous a hard-shelled bad girl, the last an airhead who dreams of being a beautician. Brigante paints a picture at odds with Jacobs’s vision that razor-toting JDs. “We preferred to beat volleyball, setup which parties and dances we wanted to attend, climate hung out at Canale’s Pizza top top Higgins,” she says. “We retained it official. Paid society dues and raised money for children’s charities.” and they were chartered as a social athletic club. Otherwise, the Pink women might’ve been considered a gang and harassed by the cops. The key thing, claims Zipper, was the dancing.

But Marinelli remembers things differently. Grease‘s depiction is “true to us,” she says. “You had to act tough in a windy high school overcame by civilization who never went to a Catholic elementary school school, together we had. You essential friends. It was survival.”

To qualify for membership in a parallel all-male club known as the Goombas— among several v a case to gift the model for Grease‘s Burger palace Boys—a kid had actually to success a fistfight with someone indigenous a different neighborhood. The Goombas would certainly drag race and also occasionally scuffle v a rival gang from Park Ridge referred to as the Vanguards. Zipper states they likewise rumbled under by the rocks at Montrose Beach.

“We didn’t usage guns, but some males from Steinmetz High school came around one night, grounding a shotgun the end a car window, and fired,” recalls Goomba Leo Golda. “They placed a hole in one guy’s car radiator, but that to be the level of it.”


Marinelli and also Brigante each case to have actually originated the Pink Lady varsity jacket, which came with a detachable hood. Marinelli claims she go it together a method to assert it s her at a institution where she had actually no boyfriend and felt choose an outsider. “We said, ‘We don’t require boys to provide us jackets. We’ve gained our own."” Brigante asserts that it to be she who had the inspiration and got the jackets made, including that when she picked them up she was surprised to find that the champagne-glass insignas had actually been embellished v bright red cherries. “I told the shop owner that Pink women don’t have cherries,” she says— return they typically do—then laughs. “Well, us were all virgins anyhow.”

That’s another suggest on which people differ.


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“There was a good portion the sex going on,” states Golda. “In automobiles, in garages, in ~ the drive-in movies.”

“Our motto to be ‘be tough, act tough, it is in a lover boy,"” notes Goomba well-off Bollman, that dropped out of high institution to marry his 15-year-old Pink Lady girlfriend.


“Among the girls,” claims Pink Lady Phyllis Stratton, “I think i was the just virgin.”

The original Grease

Opens Mon 5/2, 7 PM. Through 6/5: Thu-Fri 8 PM, satellite 3 and also 8 PM, sun 3 PM, American theater Company, 1909 W. Byron, 773-404-4125, atcweb.org, $35-$40, opened night $50.

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Tagged: American theatre Company, Grease, Jim Jacobs, Kingston Mines, Pink Ladies, Taft High School, Vol. 40 No. 32, Warren Casey

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