When I heard the theme for my first post to this blog was Summer Lovin’, I instantly thought of the movie GREASE and how it inspired my work in progress, DANCING QUEEN.
A few years ago I went to see GREASE, playing as part of the local indie movie theater’s summer classics series. The place was packed, and I was surprised to see it wasn’t just nostalgic gray-heads like me filling the seats. There were a lot of people under 30, and the two rows in front of me were stuffed with girls 15-16 years old.
As soon as the lights went down and the movie came up, the girls began singing along. Now, this wasn’t one of those Sing-Along shows with the lyrics on the screen, it was pretty clear they knew all the words to every song, except “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” the opening song. They were mostly humming that one, but to be fair, does anyone know the lyrics to that song?
I write time travel, had been thinking about setting a YA story in the 70s disco scene, and watching those girls chair dance and belting out “Summer lovin’, had me a blast… Summer lovin’, happened so fast…” a scene popped—a modern day girl stuck in the summer of ’78, watching the brand new movie GREASE at the drive in, singing along to “Summer Nights,” a song she’s presumably never heard before (and getting strange looks from her companions).
The rest of the story fell into place. High school senior Samantha Brierly wants nothing more than to be a dancer. That dream is crushed when, at the end of a Very Bad Day, she gets the cherry on the sundae of suck, a rejection from her dream college, the top dance school in New England. An argument with her parents, a misguided wish and one inept fairy-godmother-in-training later, Sam finds herself in 1978, desperate to fix her mistake. If she can’t help her parents win the big disco dance contest, they’ll never get together—and she’ll never be born.
Sam’s biggest challenge? A boy named Harry. He’s cute and funny and an awesome dancer, but he’s her mom’s dance partner. As the family story goes, when Harry broke his leg, Sam’s father waltzed in to take his place. Things get all timey-wimey, and Sam realizes with horror SHE has to do the leg-breaking. That’s the worst thing she can do to anyone, but Harry? She likes him, and not just ‘like’ like, she’s falling for him. What’s a time traveler to do?
The drive-in scene is pivotal. That’s where Sam and Harry kiss. Their summer lovin’ happened so fast, but Sam’s not having a blast—she’s got to not only injure Harry to set the future right, she’s got to leave him forever and go back to the future. Sam and Harry’s summer dreams are destined to be ripped at the seams, and there’s no happy ending for them. Or is there?
Sam learns some surprising things on her summer lovin’ journey. She finds out her parents faced the same fears and uncertainties she’s facing when they left high school. She learns disco doesn’t suck as much as her dad had claimed it did. She realizes her dreams don’t have to die, but they might need to take a detour. And she also discovers teens in 1978 wanted what teens from today or from any era want, to hang out with their friends, to have fun, and to fall in love—no matter what season of the year.
The only thing Sam doesn’t learn is why the ‘G’ gets left off the end of Lovin’. Perhaps some things should remain a mystery.