When most people think of the 1978 film “Grease,” they think of a timeless tale of high school romance between two teens in different social circles.
Steve Berke thinks of medical marijuana.
Berke, a resident and two-time mayoral candidate of Miami Beach, Fla., found fame with his YouTube marijuana parodies of hit songs – stuff like “Pot Shop” (Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”) and “Should Be Legalized” (Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie”).
His pot-parodying ways landed him at the Wise County Old Settlers Reunion in Decatur this week where he filmed a parody of “You’re the One That I Want” from “Grease” – in the same fun house carnival ride that was featured in the original film.
“I knew that a fun house like the one in the movie would be instrumental to our video’s success,” Berke said. “So I did some digging, and found the original fun house, and it was owned by a woman who said she would be here for this week only, so I got my crew together and told them, ‘We gotta go to Texas to shoot this.’”
The owner of the fun house, Debbie Kaiser of Carrollton, learned of the carnival ride’s origins when her late husband, Skip, bought it from a carney a few years ago. She said the years haven’t been kind to the fun house. It’s been repainted, but it’s still something she’s proud to own.
“It’s kind of rough-looking, but I’m excited to see that someone wants to use it to have it in a video,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser also said she thinks the issue that the video is trying to talk about is important.
“So many drugs out there are dangerous, so I’m all for natural stuff instead of giving people a bunch of drugs,” Kaiser said.
The video, which stars Berke in the “Danny” role and Briley Hale in the “Mary Jane/Sandy” role, is all about the benefits of medical marijuana, something that is coming up on a Florida election ballot.
Amendment 2, a Florida general election item in November, would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Florida “for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician,” according to the Florida Department of State.
Lyrics like “I got pills/They’re multiplying/And I’m losing control/All these doctors, they keep prescribing/It’s so terrifying!” are answered by “Mary Jane,” a green-pants-clad, cannabis-themed take on “Sandy”: “Cheer up, there’s another plan/And it’s no longer taboo/You better cheer up, there’s another medicine/And those pills haven’t helped you.”
Berke says the lyrics are “kind of the story of my life.”
Berke was a two-time All-American tennis star at Yale and UC-Berkeley and went pro in 2004. He ended up herniating two discs in his back right away, ending his pro career.
For a while, he said, nothing alleviated his pain – not pills, not fusion surgery, not spine injections. Then the pro athlete who said he looked down on others for taking a toke found medical marijuana.
“That was the only thing that could control the pain,” Berke said.
After his career ended, he got involved in politics and ran for mayor of Miami Beach twice, once in 2011 and again in 2013 on a heavy pro-pot platform. He lost both times, but that didn’t stop him from recording the parodies that got him so many YouTube hits in the first place. Now he’s starting a new YouTube channel that will focus on cannabis culture.
Titled “4TT,” short for “4 Twenty Today,” the YouTube channel will be a news channel for “all things cannabis related,” Berke said.
“It’s a growing part of American culture. It’s becoming less and less taboo, and I think there’s definitely a market for that sort of thing,” Berke said. He was quick to point out that the entertainment will be for everyone, though.
“This is not a channel for potheads or stoners – it’s going to have something for everybody.”
The channel currently has only two videos uploaded, and Berke and his crew hope that the “Grease” parody will get more views than their previous videos.
“We’re looking to get views in the seven-figure range with this one,” crew member Lee Molloy said.
Berke said that he believes his crew’s time in Decatur was well-spent, and he even participated in the record-setting washer tournament on Tuesday.
“We got our butts kicked [in the washer tournament], but everyone has been super-friendly and accommodating,” Berke said. “We’ve really enjoyed our time here.”
Berke’s YouTube channel is expected to launch Aug. 15.