Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Remembering the stars of Grease who have sadly died

Their legacies live on 

grease stars who have died© Photo: Rex
Francesca Shillcock
Senior Features Writer
Updated: May 8, 2024
Share this:

Revered as one of the greatest musicals of all time, Grease has a legacy like no other. Catapulting John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John to new levels of stardom; the lives of the cast and crew were forever changed in the halls of Rydell High. 

Over 40 years later, the film remains as iconic as ever, and while we've been forced to wave goodbye to the incredible talents who made Grease what it was, their legacies live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew them, loved them, and watched them on-screen. Here, we remember Grease's unforgettable cast members…

Olivia Newton-John – Sandy Olsson

Olivia Newton-John was predominantly known for her music career in the early 1970s. As well as releasing albums, she even represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest.

But it was in 1978 – after appearing on the big screen as high school student Sandy Olsson in Grease – that Olivia was catapulted to stardom. Today, the musical movie is still considered one of the greatest of all time, and its legacy – and indeed Olivia's – continues 46 years after its blockbuster release.

grease danny and sandy© Photo: Getty Images
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta as Danny and Sandy in Grease

Following the global success of Grease, Olivia's musical career continued to grow and she released Physical, which was hailed by critics as her best album. The titular single from the album stayed at the top of the charts for over ten weeks. She was also hailed for her charity work and for setting up the Olivia Newton-John Foundation, seeking to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

olivia newton john service© Photo: Getty Images
Olivia passed away in 2022

It was in 2022 that the world was shocked and saddened to hear that Dame Olivia Newton-John had passed away aged 73, following a 30-year-long journey with breast cancer. Penning a heartwarming tribute to his dear friend and co-star, John Travolta noted Olivia's "incredible impact."

Jeff Conaway – Kenickie

Kenickie, played by Jeff Conaway, was one-fifth of the T-Birds alongside Danny (John Travolta), Doody (Barry Pearl), Sonny LaTierri (Michael Tucci) and Putzie (Kelly Ward). Kenickie was known as Danny's closest friend in the movie as well as the love interest of Betty Rizzo, played by Stockard Channing.

After the success of Grease, Jeff went on to star in TV series such as Taxi and Babylon 5. Throughout his career, Jeff was also open about his struggles with addiction and substance abuse. 

jeff conaway© Photo: Getty Images
Jeff Conaway played Kenickie

In 2011, the actor was found unconscious and placed into a medically induced coma. An autopsy later revealed that he had suffered pneumonia with sepsis after being taken off life support.

Susan Buckner – Patty Simcox

Crowned Miss Washington in 1971, Susan Buckner was introduced as peppy cheerleader, Patty Simcox in Grease. Following her stint in the hit musical, the actress went on to land supporting roles in The Love Boat (1979), When the Whistle Blows (1980) and Deadly Blessing (1981). 

She also directed children's theater in Florida and worked as a dance instructor at a gym in Coral Gables. 

Susan Buckner played peppy cheerleader Patty Simcox
Susan Buckner played peppy cheerleader Patty Simcox

It was announced in 2024 that Susan had "died peacefully on May 2 surrounded by loved ones." Her publicist, Melissa Berthier, refrained from noting the star's cause of death in the statement. Susan's beloved daughter Samantha Mansfield said: "She was magic, and I was very lucky to call her my best friend."

Eve Arden – Principal McGee

Famed actress Eve Arden portrayed the role of Rydell High School's Principal McGee. Eve was already hailed for her talent in the industry. In 1945, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the film, Mildred Pierce.

She then went on to star in the sitcom Our Miss Brooks – for which she was awarded the first-ever Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in 1954. After Grease, Eve also reprised her role in the follow-up movie, released in 1982.

eve arden© Photo: Getty Images
Eve Adren played the Rydell High Principal

On November 12, 1990, Eve sadly died at home aged 82. Her death certificate stated that she had died due to cardiac arrest after suffering arteriosclerotic heart disease.

Dody Goodman – Blanche Hodel

Alongside Principal McGee was her deputy, Blanche Hodel who was played by Dody Goodman. Before Grease, Dody was no stranger to acting and had appeared in many films, TV shows and Broadway productions. In 2008, she died aged 93 of natural causes.

Dody Goodman
Dody Goodman played Blanche Hodel

Sid Caeser – Coach Vince Calhoun

Sid Caeser played the role of Coach Vince Calhoun in the hit movie. Sid was predominantly known for his comedy acting work and had been nominated for many awards in his early career.

He was perhaps best-known for hosting the comedy programme, Your Show of Shows, which were considered hugely influential in the comedy world. Sid also reprised his role as Coach in the Grease sequel. He died in 2014 aged 91 after a short illness.

Sid Caeser© Photo: Getty Images
Sid Caeser died in 2014

Dennis Stewart – Leo Balmudo

Dennis Stewart played the role of 'bad boy' Leo Balmundo, the leader of the T-Birds rival group, the Scorpions. Like others in the original cast, Dennis reprised his role as Leo in Grease 2, which starred Michelle Pfeiffer and Max Caulfield. After Grease, he had a number of other small TV and film credits.

Dennis Stewart© Photo: Getty Images
Dennis Stewart played Leo Balmudo, leader of the Scorpios

In 1993, Dennis was diagnosed with HIV and, in 1994, he passed away aged 46 from pneumonia as a result of complications from AIDS.

Edd Byrnes – Vince Fontaine

Vince Fontaine, played by Edd Byrnes, is a TV show host who visits Rydell High for the school's televised dance competition.

Edd Byrnes was already a well-known actor before appearing in the movie thanks to his role in the television series 77 Sunset Strip. He was also a singer who released the song, Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb). In 2020, Edd died of natural causes at his home in Santa Monica. He was 87 years old.

Edd Byrnes© Photo: Getty Images
Vince Fontaine was played by Edd Byrnes

Annette Charles – Charlene 'Cha Cha' DiGregorio

Grease fans will remember Charlene 'Cha Cha' DiGregorio as the dancer who arrives at Rydell's school dance and immediately sets her sights on Danny – much to Sandy's upset.

Annette Charles© Photo: Getty Images
Annette Charles played Cha Cha

The actress who played her, Annette Charles, also appeared on TV shows such as The Incredible Hulk, The Flying Nun and Magnum P.I. throughout her career. She died in 2011 from cancer aged 63. 

Like this story? Sign up to our What to Watch newsletter to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox

Sign up to HELLO Daily! for the best royal, celebrity and lifestyle coverage

By entering your details, you are agreeing to HELLO! Magazine User Data Protection Policy. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, please click here.