‘Grease’ writer visits Hinsdale Central by Patty Simcox invitation
Jim Jacobs,co- writer of the play, "Grease," signs some autographs Sunday at Hinsdale Central after stopping by to talk with students who are presenting "Grease" March 7-9. | Chuck Fieldman—Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:44AM
HINSDALE — The granddaughter of Patty Simcox in “Grease” attends Hinsdale Central.
That was one of the things members of the school’s March 7-9 production of the musical learned Sunday when the co-writer of the original play stopped in for a visit.
Jim Jacobs, who in the 1960s co-wrote “Grease” with friend Warren Casey, spent more than 90 minutes visiting with the cast and crew in a visit set up by Hinsdale resident Suzi Houff, Jacobs’ high school girlfriend and the inspiration for the Patty Simcox character. Houff has a granddaughter attending Central.
“I wanted to make this happen because this is where I live now,” Houff said. “I wanted to kind of one-up every other school.”
“Grease” was written about the days Jacobs spent at Taft High School in Chicago. He graduated from Taft in 1970.
Houff said she lost touch with Jacobs after high school and was surprised to see his name when she attended a performance of “Grease” at the Blackstone Theater in Chicago.
“They had photos from our yearbook up, and I saw a picture of Jim,” she said. “It’s when I saw the yearbook photos that I figured it must be about our high school.”
Houff didn’t learn that she was behind the Patty Simcox character until a high school reunion 13 years ago.
“I saw Jim at the reunion, and he told me about it,” she said. “I never knew I was Patty Simcox. I felt all excited when he told me and then realized she was the obnoxious one.”
Houff said Jacobs explained to her that the Patty Simcox character wasn’t like that in the original writing of “Grease.”
“I wasn’t sure if I believed him but I saw a performance of the original play, and it was true,” she said. “Patty also had a much larger part. Many things in the play were changed when it went beyond Chicago for performances.”
Houff said she is very much looking forward to attending the March 9 performance of “Grease” at Central.
“I’m sure it will be great and a lot of fun,” she said. “As for Patty, I will own it. I’m OK with it and get a thrill when I see it.”
Chris Hicks, a Central teacher who is directing the play, said it was a scramble to coordinate Jacobs’ visit to Central.
“It was kind of last minute, but the kids were really excited, and I’m so glad we had such a good turnout and everything went so well,” she said.
Hicks has been involved with drama at Central since 1989, but this was the first time she and her students were visited by the author of a famous play for which they were preparing.
“He was so enthusiastic and loving. It’s such a great opportunity for our students who are involved in this play,” Hicks said. “By having him come here to talk with us, you feel like you can touch it. It’s real; it’s about real people, and we want to honor those people now when we do the play.”
Jacobs shared stories about the origin of “Grease” and some of his experiences while seeing productions around the world.
“A good deal of it goes back to my acting days and making a good presentation,” Jacobs said. “I realize this is a first for them, and I wanted to instill encouragement.”
Based on the response he got, Jacobs certainly was successful.
“I’ve been looking forward to this play, but I’m definitely more psyched up now after he came here and talked to us,” said Ryann Chioda, a junior from Hinsdale who is in the ensemble for “Grease” and also is a costumer designer for the play.”