Friday, May 27, 2011

The Javelins Versus the Pink Ladies in Chicago

In my recent Chicago Reader story about the real Pink Ladies from Chicago's northwest side Taft High School of the 1950s, I talked about the school's popular, local hangout, Canale's Pizza. Located on Higgins near Harlem, the now-defunct Canale's along with nearby and still-thriving Parse's Red Hots and SuperDawg Drive-in served as models for the musical "Grease" Burger Palace, according to Jim Jacobs, "Grease" co-writer and Taft alumni.

The greater neighborhood also spawned an odd lot of celebrities from different ends of the spectrum, from Hillary Rodham Clinton from nearby Park Ridge, to John Wayne Gacy of Norwood Park Township, two blocks from the Chicago border, as well as Taftites, both famous and infamous, ranging from superspy Robert Hanssen, portrayed in the film “Breach,” to the lovely actress Donna Mills of “Play Misty for Me” and TV’s “Knots Landing” fame.

"The depiction of the Pink Ladies [in 'Grease'] is true to us,” said Rosemarie Doladee Marinelli, a former Pink Lady at Taft who now lives in Florida. “We acted tough, but we weren’t tough. In those days, You had to act tough in a public high school dominated by people who never went to a Catholic elementary school, as we had. You needed friends. It was survival.”

“There were the guys’ clubs [such as the Goombas, Imperials and Ravens], and clubs that had both guys and girls, such as the Javelins and the Knights, but we were the first all-girls club at Taft,” she said.

Marinelli remembers a particular confrontation with the Javelins at Canale’s Pizza. “Our friend Margie was a wild child. She stole a lot of girls’ boyfriends,” she said. “When Margie started flirting right there with one of the Javelin guys, the Javelin girls went berserk. In the confusion, they dragged me into their car and two girls held a knife to my neck in the back seat.” It took a guy in the front seat to convince the knife-wielding pair that they had the wrong girl. “They let me go,” said Marinelli. “Margie? She ditched out the restaurant’s back door.”

So much for needing friends to survive, huh Rosemarie?

Marinelli also thinks she may have inspired the "Grease" Pink Lady character “Frenchy,” though Jim Jacobs said he doesn't know and never met Marinelli, who left Taft the year Jacobs started. She said, “I wore glasses and was the geek of the Pink Ladies. I dropped out of high school my junior year to take care of my dad, who had cancer. But I wasn’t a beauty school drop-out.” ◦

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