Grease remains one of the most popular films to have come out during the 1970s, propelling its stars to a whole new level of fame.
However, in the years after the film’s 1978 release, whispers of a curse began circulating after so many of the cast, crew and production team were struck down by tragedy.
The latest sad news to emerge is the death of actor Edd Byrnes, who played Vince Fontaine in the hit movie musical, who has died unexpectedly aged 87.
His death is the latest in a long line of tragedies that have struck those who worked on Grease since its blockbuster box office days.
It’s not only affected the movie – the curse is said to have struck the threatre show too with the most notable incident coming in 2007 with a freak onstage accident.
During a Dutch production of Grease, actors Jim Bakkum and Bettina Holwerda were hurled from their contervible car during a scene at a driving.
The stars plunged into the orchestra pit, with Jim sustaining a concussion and Bettina breaking her arm.
Playing Kenickie made Jeff a household name. But it was also the start of a downward spiral which ended in tragedy when he died in 2011 aged just 60.
His marriage to Olivia Newton-John’s sister Rona ended after five years as he struggled with drug addiction.
In 2008, on US reality show Celebrity Fit Club, Jeff revealed he was addicted to cocaine, alcohol and painkillers.
He claimed to have suffered abuse as a young child and had long battled mental health problems that left him mired in substance abuse.
In 2010, Jeff suffered a brain haemorrhage, a broken hip and a fractured neck in a freak fall at his home, and less than a year later, in May 2011, he was found unconscious at his home after collapsing.
Jeff was suffering from pneumonia and sepsis , and doctors placed him in an induced coma. His family took him off life support two weeks later after doctors confirmed there was nothing more they could do for him.
His death was later put down to the star’s drug use, amid claims his addiction prevented him from seeking help for the pneumonia until it was too late.
Olivia Newton John
Landing the part of sweet Sandy transformed Olivia Newton John’s career overnight. It also put her on top of the charts with songs from the film’s soundtrack, including her duet with John Travolta, You’re The One That I Want.
But her good fortune didn’t last long.. There followed a string of film and record flops, a company that went bust, a marital break-up and a devastating battle against breast cancer.
In 1992, two weeks after her father died of cancer, Olivia was diagnosed with the killer disease and needed to have a partial mastectomy.
Her 11-year marriage to Matt Lattanzi ended in divorce. Then, in June 2005, her long-term partner Patrick McDermott mysteriously vanished on an overnight fishing trip out of San Pedro, California.
Friends say Olivia cried every day for almost two years.
Then in April 2009, investigators reported Patrick was alive and well and living in Mexico, where he had fled to avoid debts, including $8,000 in child support.
She battled breast cancer again privately in 2013, and in 2017, Olivia confirmed her cancer had returned had had spread to her bones.
She has continued to fight the disease and recently told the Mirror that she’s full of energy and credits her use of cannabis oil with helping her manage her symptoms.
Olivia was also made a dame in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List.
Grease turned John into one of the planet’s biggest stars, coming on the back of his Oscar-nominated performance in the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever.
But within months of landing the role of heartthrob Danny, John’s girlfriend Diana Hyland died of breast cancer, aged 41.
Sadly, that wasn’t the only personal tragedy to rock his life.
In 2009, John and wife Kelly Preston’s 16-year-old son Jett was found dead in a bathtub at the family’s holiday home in the Bahamas. Jett is believed to have suffered a seizure and hit his head.
Paying tribute to his son following the tragic accident John, 55, said: “We are heartbroken that our time with him was so brief.
“We will cherish the time we had with him for the rest of our lives.”
Actress Annette, who played Cha Cha DiGregorio in the film, was best known for her role in Grease and later gave up acting so become a university professor.
She was struck by tragedy when she was diagnosed with lung cancer, which later spread to her brain. She died of complications in 2011 aged 63 – just three months after her co-star Jeff Conaway.
Joan Blondell (Vi)
Joan had already starred in more than 100 films in the 30s and 40s – including The Public Enemy with James Cagney – when she was cast in the role of warmhearted waitress Vi in Grease.
But the former beauty queen turned actress, who was best known for playing brassy blondes, died of leukaemia at the age of 73 on Christmas Day 1979 – just a year after the film was released.
Dennis Stewart (Craterface)
Dennis’ career looked to be on the up when, after playing a dancer in the 1978 Beatles-inspired film Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, he landed the role of Leo, aka ‘Craterface’, leader of rival gang The Scorpions in Grease.
But 15 years later the gay actor and dancer contracted HIV. Dennis eventually died of complications from Aids in April 1994.
Allan Carr (Producer)
Grease was producer Allan’s greatest triumph. It became the highest-grossing film of all time.
But the magic had gone by the time he tried to repeat the success in 1982 with Grease 2, the widely-panned sequel starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield.
Allan was struck down by liver cancer and died in June 1999 at the age of 62.
Warren Casey (Creator)
In the mid 60s, Warren Casey met Jim Jacobs at the Chicago Stage Guild. They began collaborating on a play about high school life during the golden age of rock ’n’ roll in the 50s. Grease premiered in 1971 at the Kingston Mines Theater in Chicago, then went on to become a West End hit.
But the brains behind the story that became a worldwide sensation only enjoyed his success for 10 years. He died of Aids-related complications in 1988, aged 53.
Bronte Woodard (Writer
The man who penned the screenplay was the first to be hit by the curse. Two years after Grease was released, he died aged 39, halfway through the filming of Can’t Stop The Music – it won Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay in the first ever Golden Raspberrys.
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