Working in television, you meet a lot of famous and famously annoying folks. One thing I’ve never done was to ask for an autograph. I never liked autographs. I personally never saw the value in them. Always believed the best place for a signature is either at the end of a letter or endorsing a check. I never really saw the value of an autograph until more than eight years ago when I met Jeff Conaway, who played Danny Zuko’s buddy Kenickie in 1978’s Grease.
I’ve always loved the movie Grease. When my oldest son was younger, we’d watch it together often and imitate the moves and the dances, though I’d always cover his eyes during the scene when Kenickie and Rizzo were in the backseat of his car. Conaway was booked on a television show I was working on, and we struck up a conversation. He was very laid back and spoke with great ease and openness. I shared with him how much I loved Grease but wonder why Black folks weren’t in the film. We laughed about it and other things.
He had the same mischievous smile he displayed in the movie. It wasn’t an act. That was really his smile. It was a memorable conversation. Then I did something I’d never done before. I took one of the pictures his publicist had brought of him from the movie. I asked Jeff Conaway for an autograph. He smile mischievously and wrote: “To Annie, the Black girl who should have been in Grease.” Gone too soon. RIP Jeff Conaway.