Celebrity News

EXCLUSIVE: Grease star Barry Pearl talks on-set secrets and working with Olivia Newton-John

Woman's Day sat down with the T-Bird to chat all things Grease for the film's 45th anniversary.
Loading the player...

It’s been 45 years since the gang at Rydell High made their big screen outing – 45 years since a young Olivia Newton-John was catapulted to fame as the bubbly blonde good girl Sandy, alongside a young John Travolta as her love interest Danny Zuko, and 45 years since Summer Nights and Greased Lightnin’ became karaoke staples the world over.

And one of the actors to be part of this big screen phenomenon was Barry Pearl, whose role as T-Bird gang member Doody has seen him immortalised forever in pop culture history.

Pearl (L) was a member of the infamous T-Birds alongside John Travolta.

(Image: Getty)

“It seems like it was just yesterday,” the actor, now 73, tells Woman’s Day of the milestone anniversary this year. “It was very much a ‘blink of an eye’ experience. I had no idea that it would become what it is today.”

“It’s interesting that so many people are astounded at the longevity of the film. I can only say that it’s a combination of several elements – number one being the amazing performances of John and Olivia and how much the camera loved them.”

Telling the story of the blossoming love between Danny and Aussie expat Sandy during a turbulent senior year at Rydell High in the summer of 1959, the musical also featured character sideline stories, including the romance between Barry’s character and Pink Lady alum Frenchy (played by Didi Conn).

The 1978 classic saw Olivia Newton-John score her first breakout role.

(Image: Getty)


While the pair shared chemistry on-screen, Barry reveals that the chemistry continued when the cameras stopped rolling, too.

“There absolutely was chemistry between Didi and me,” he says. “It’s what made our playing so real and appealing on screen. But Didi was going through some stuff in her real-life relationship and I had a girlfriend at the time, so we respected each other’s situations.”

“Though we were young and certainly of the partying age, most of us had partners to go home to. So, though we did party on occasion, it wasn’t as wild as some may think. Saying that, Jeff Conaway (who played Kenickie) certainly made his portable dressing trailer rock and roll a few times!”

Memories such as these are what Barry has been reflecting on during this anniversary year – memories that he says are still fresh in his mind.

“There are too many!” he says of his favourites. “But some highlights include driving the vintage car down to Thunder Road, flying across camera at the end of the Beauty School Dropout song, filming Greased Lightnin’ and eating all the stuff I could cram into my mouth during the Frosty Palace scene.”

“I also remember trying to make Olivia feel at home by hopping around the rehearsal sound stage like a kangaroo,” he laughs.

Barry and Didi played the hilarious Frenchie and Doody.

(Image: Getty)


Speaking of the late, great entertainer, Barry was devastated to learn of her passing in August last year, following a lengthy cancer battle.

“Olivia was exceedingly humble, giving and loving” he says of his former co-star, holding back tears.

“She was so open to learn from everyone, despite being the successful and world-famous recording artist that she was — she never lauded any of her celebrity over anyone.”

“Olivia was always there when you needed her for whatever cause. There was a time a few years ago when my cat Gracie came down with jaw cancer. Liv was right there to offer help. She called me as soon as she learned of Gracie’s condition.”

“Olivia was a glowing example of how one should be with their celebrity. She was as human as the rest of us. Her passing, though, expected after a while, was still a devastation for us. We are blessed to have shared this plane with her.”

“Olivia was a glowing example of how one should be with their celebrity.”

(Image: Getty)


It’s anecdotes and memories like this that Barry will be sharing with fans during his upcoming national appearances at Supanova.

“The fans all over the world have kept us Grease-ers relevant throughout the decades,” he says.

“And we are all deeply indebted to each and every one of them for this.”

Now living an admittedly “unHollywood” existence and working as a film and acting teacher to special needs communities, Barry has admittedly never again reached the heights of his breakout role.

However, despite now being synonymous with Doody, he’s very proud of his part in the ongoing legacy that is Grease.

“Though I may have had some secret hopes of continued fame, I was never so deluded to think that it was definitely going to be that sort of reality for me,” he admits.

“The role may have pigeonholed me as a clown but no major damage was done. As the years have passed and as the film continues its upward climb to the most successful film musical of all time, I take the ride with pride and gratitude.”

“It has been an incredible blessing and honour to be part of the movie, and I’m fine with that being my legacy.”

Barry is still keeping the Grease legacy alive, attending the premiere of Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies earlier this year.

(Image: Getty)

Related stories