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Grease's Iconic Elvis Reference Had Eerie Timing

Upon its premiere in 1978, "Grease" quickly cemented itself as one of the most iconic films in cinematic history. In the decades since, the Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta-starring film has lived well beyond its initial release date. It's an exaggerated telling of '50s-era high school life, and a classic story of forbidden love between bad boy Danny (Travolta) and the new good girl at school, Sandy (Newton-John).

"Grease" essentially provides a visualization for modern-day audiences when it comes to fantasizing about the idyllic parts of the 20th century's sixth decade, including the Pink Ladies skirts, the T-Birds leather jackets, and the implied innocence of young people. Because the film was made two decades after the year it is set in, there are many details that reinforce the time period to the audience. One major and undeniable influence would be that of Elvis Presley, whose rockabilly sound and look are essentially a blueprint for much of "Grease." The King of Rock 'n' Roll is only mentioned by name once in the film, but it turns out the moment is even more eerie when considered in the greater context of Presley's tumultuous life.

The Elvis Presley name-drop was filmed on the day he died

Elvis Presley is only name-dropped once in "Grease," by Rizzo (Stockard Channing), during the "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" number. In the song, Rizzo shouts, "Elvis, Elvis let me be. Keep that pelvis far from me," next to a photo of Presley that is pinned to the bedroom wall. It sounds like no big deal. As previously mentioned, Presley's sound and aesthetics were the blueprint for "Grease" — just look at Danny Zuko and his hair. However, the seemingly inconsequential moment actually has a hair-raising backstory.

According to the New York Post, the memorable "Grease" scene that name-dropped Presley was filmed on the same day that Presley died — August 16, 1977. Presley's death was unexpected, and it turns out that the reference to the King was added to the "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" lyrics on a whim. Originally, the song shouted out "Rebel Without A Cause" actor Sal Mineo. Just a year prior to filming, Mineo was murdered and filmmakers decided to remove the reference to him as a sign of respect (via Express UK).

Instead, Presley was the second pick, and he happened to die the day the scene was shot. "It was very eerie," "Grease" director Randall Kleiser said of the coincidence. "It was all over the news, so everyone knew."