I don’t believe there has ever been a Rizzo who is more endearing or captivating than Stockard Channing after all these years.
Although Channing was a talented performer and her singing in Grease was simply amazing, the 79-year-old today appears to be a completely different person.
The Big Bus was the first movie I ever watched Stockard Channing in, and I thought it was hilarious. However, I had no idea that she would go on to have such a tremendous career back then.
Today, Grease, the 1978 American musical romantic comedy film based on the 1971 musical of the same name, and especially Stockard Channing’s iconic depiction of Betty Rizzo are what most people associate with her. Of all the actors who have portrayed the role of Rizzo, Channing was by far the best, as many people before me have said.
Many people may also be familiar with Channing through her role as First Lady Abbey Bartlet in the television program The West Wing. The seasoned actress received accolades for her on-screen chemistry with President Josiah Barlet, played by Martin Sheen.
“It just worked,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 2020.
“We had this chemistry from the beginning. I don’t know what it was, but we had it and it didn’t go away. It was a happy accident.”
BBut let’s examine the pinnacle of Channing’s career in more detail. She hasn’t appeared in a major motion feature since Grease, for the sake of candor, though she has continued to act in movies and on Broadway.
The seven-time Tony Award winner and 13-time contender for an Emmy seems to have no problem with being most known for playing the Pink Ladies’ bad girl Beth Rizzo in Grease.
Is that the whole truth, though?
Channing had a modest breakthrough in 1973 as the revenge-themed lead in the TV movie The Girl Most Likely to.
“A lot of people talk about the G-word [Grease] and all of that, but back in the day, I had as many people stop me in the street about that one movie. Because it’s about revenge, and people would sit in their living rooms and go, ‘Oh, I’m the only person watching this’ or ‘this person understands me.’ I’m not kidding. It was a million years ago, and then it was the highest-rated movie of the week. Revenge always works,” she says.
According to Channing, she has only watched Grease only two times.
“I used to be grumpy about Grease because I thought it was a kids’ movie or something. But now it’s sort of amazing. I’m very proud of it,” she told The Times in 2019.
The Manhattan-born actress was 33 years old when she played Rizzo and playing a high school teenager wasn’t so easy for her.
”I was so much older than she was in life, but I could not think about that so I sort of threw myself back to what I felt when I was her age over, even younger. The complexity of adolescents and hormones and sexuality and all of that other stuff. Seeing that I really was older I think that added to the isolation of Rizzo,” Channing told Broadway World.
Channing, who developed an early interest in acting, was overjoyed to be given the role of Rizzo, and her portrayal of the character propelled her to stardom in the late 1970s. She won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, but the New Yorker had trouble finding success after Grease.
The popular actress had two sitcoms of her own, Stockard Channing in Just Friends (1979) and The Stockard Channing Show (1980), but neither was a commercial success, and her career came to an abrupt end.
But Channing didn’t give up and kept working as an actor, making appearances in numerous critically acclaimed films and theater productions. She had the appearance of Elizabeth Taylor and exuded calm assurance. Her most recent appearance on the big screen was in the 2022 film Angry Neighbors.
Currently residing in London, Channing has recently been involved in theater production there. She and her boyfriend of 25 years used to reside in Maine until moving to England in 2019.
“Living on my own here during the pandemic, I was sort of taking the ride with the rest of the country,” she told The Times.
Channing has kept a modest profile personally. The Grease actress, who has always had a restless streak in her, is childless.
She has four divorces after four marriages. She finds solace in her dog, who has been her steady friend for many years, today.
Channing’s evolving appearance has garnered attention in recent years as well. Everything began in 2017 when she was interviewed on the British morning television program Lorraine.
Although Channing was there to discuss her career and the parts she has performed, many viewers were more curious in what had happened to the Grease actress’ appearance. Many people were astounded by how drastically she had changed; there were rumors on Twitter and tabloid publications.
‘Oh my god what has Rizzo done to herself?’ one viewer wrote while another expressed: ‘Shocked at how Stockard Channing looked on Lorraine. Why do they mess with plastic surgeons?’
According to a surgeon, Channing must have taken botox. Fortunately, though, Channing was defended by others. We all get older, therefore it’s normal for a 79-year-old woman’s appearance to vary over time.
To me, Channing still has that “Rizzo” personality – cool and sexy! Talking with Out magazine in 2011, the actress said she does “everything I f—ing can” to stay in shape.
“You get to a certain age, and you start playing a lot of mothers. Maybe if I had children I’d feel differently, but I really hate bumping up against all these guys’ memories of their mothers, which, trust me, aren’t so hot,” she laughed and continued:
“Or maybe they watched a lot of The Golden Girls, you know? And I may be very grateful for someone who was raised on The Golden Girls. But they aren’t hanging out with women this age now, and I’d like to think the world has changed since then.”