BWW Feature: Olivia Newton-John Meet & Grease, Interview and Book Review at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater
She Comes From the Land Down Under!
Brew a proper cuppa and grab a Tim Tam or two and settle in for a 3 part series featuring Olivia Newton-John, including details on the Meet & Grease Sing-A Long, an intimate conversation, and a review of her autobiography, saved just for this special holiday publishing.
Strap in ONJ admirers for a wild ride in "Grease Lightnin". From Xanadu to Malibu, from the land down under to the USA, catch a glimpse of the woman who has captured our hearts, whose songs radiate in our souls and who taught us all to Don't Stop Believin'.
Meet & Grease Tampa Florida
For us Floridians not used to being windblown by crisp air at an outdoor venue, any event has the potential to see less of us. We tend to keep our toes in the sand, our face in the sun, and don't like wearing a lot of clothes. But not tonight! This was Meet & Grease night at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater and the T-Birds, Pink Ladies, Beauty School Dropouts and Greasers of all generations adorned their finest and packed the house to sing along with Sandy, Danny and our classmates from Rydell High. Nobody was skipping school tonight. This was the Grease reunion of a lifetime and Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta were at the head of the class.
Everyone was peachy keen, jelly bean. Most were dressed as their favorite Grease characters. The audience knew they were a part of something special, a celebration very few would get to experience in person. Photo ops were planted throughout the venue offering Greasers the chance to pose with each other, Grease Lightnin', and several other systematic, hydromatic cool cars from back in the day. The merch booth offered a nice selection of tchotchkes, especially the autographed books from Director Randal Kleiser's Grease: The Director's Notebook. And ya gotta love an event that gifts you with a goody bag the minute you walk in! But what was it for? We'll get to that later. We were here to watch Grease, sing along and take part in a Q & A session with Olivia and John. This was the class reunion to beat all class reunions and it doesn't get better than that.
Just before the movie started some of the original T-Birds came out to explain the "props" in our goody bags. We were to hold up the postcard with the infamous picture of Sandy and Danny at the beginning and end of the movie when they sing the Grease theme. One side of the card read "GREASE IS THE", the other side read, "WORD". Our job was to turn the card to match the words being sung. It looked really cool if you looked back behind you to see the synchronization. The red and white pom poms, (Rydell's school colors), were to be shaken during the football game. Some day we'll ring that victory bell! We slicked back our hair with the comb provided at the same time the T-Birds combed through their locks. The bubbles that we blew during Beauty School Dropout glistened against the dark sky and the breeze kept them spinning like a roller coaster throughout the venue. Finally we waved the checkered flag at Thunder Road during the race for pink slips. We cheered for our gang and booed our rivals.
As the movie was ending, Olivia and John came to the stage and the crowd jumped to their feet and went nuts. There they were Sandy and Danny reunited and looking as though time stood still. The pair wore the iconic threads they are known for, Olivia looking ever so lovely and John suave as usual in all black and a lot of leather. They were seated in a 50's style diner booth that took us back to our favorite burger hangout. John asked the crowd if they had a good time and Olivia noted she and John had a good time watching us have a good time. Hosted by Grease Director Randal Kleiser and the T-Birds, we were treated throughout the rest of the evening to everyone's remembrances of filming Grease and were also let in on a few inside jokes. Some of the questions asked included a request for John to sing "Stranded At the Drive-In", which he had never sung to Olivia before. Olivia was asked to sing "Hopelessly Devoted to You", and she asked fans to sing with her. Not a dry eye in the place. At one point John and the T-Birds sang and danced to "Grease Lightnin", just the way it was staged in the movie. That about brought the house down. Needless to say this was an unforgettable night of entertainment, nostalgia and pure fun.
An Intimate Conversation
Olivia took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for our readers. I hope you will enjoy this delightful interview from one of the most, endearing, enduring and engaging women of our time.
I'm sure you have a lot of fond memories from filming Grease. Is there one in particular that stands out?
The fun of all of us being together. All of it was notable because I hadn't made many films at that time and doing a musical was so much fun. It was just a great energy and I think that's what comes through when you watch the movie. That's what it was like on set.
What personality trait(s) do you share with Good Sandy?
I don't know how to answer that question. Well let's see, we were Australian. We were female. I think Sandy was very positive and a decent person. No one has ever asked this question. It's a hard one!
This question may be harder! What personality trait(s) do you share with the Naughty Sandy?
Oh, I'm not sharing that one!
Ok, let's see...Sandy and I like black leather jackets. We like Danny Zuko. We were kinda before our time. Sandy changed for her man but he changed for me too! So it was kind of a compromise on both ends. They just loved each other and it was sweet.
Speaking of black leather jackets, I was so touched to see the gentleman who bought your famous Grease leather jacket, donated the over $200,000.00 he paid for it to your Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, and returned the jacket to you!
Was that the most amazing, generous, kindest thing ever! It still chokes me up that somebody did that for me or went to that trouble.
(Olivia told me it will be framed and hold a prominent place at her wellness & research center)
I am reviewing your book, which is a delightful walk down memory lane. You've been very open to us in the media and transparent in your book about your ups and downs in your life and in your career. Through it all you have shown strength, dignity, perseverance and even humor. What is the most sacred positive affirmation you have tucked in your heart that keeps you going?
Oh, I like that expression. I think, "this too will pass" is a very good one to keep remembering because things change and it's not going to always be like it is, good or bad, especially with painful things, and just believing that it will get better. I think I have been lucky in that I have always had a pretty positive attitude. It's been tested; it's been tested a lot. But I overcome. I'm pretty naturally a positive person. There have been times, of course, that I get depressed like everyone else, or scared, I'm human. But I think overriding that is my belief that everything will be ok and that it will get better. It will change because life never stays the same. I'm also very lucky I am surrounded by a lot of love and great people. So, I am very blessed!
You beautifully stated your book was a memoir to Chloe. What message would you like fans to receive from your book?
Remember that we all go through difficulty. Whether you're a famous person or not a famous person, rich or poor, we all suffer and we all go through difficult things. We all have joy. We all share the same emotions. No matter where we're from, or the color of our skin, or where we live, what you think in your head is your future. Our beliefs and what we think in our heads, sets the course of our lives.
You have received an OBE and many well-deserved awards, titles and accolades. What award would you give to whom and why?
I think awards for people who are kind and humanitarian are deserved. The thing that upsets me most in life is cruelty whether it's to people or particularly to animals, so I think people who are kind and have shown humanity and find a way to help people deserve recognition. And we have a lot of those good people in the world.
Everyone wants to wish you all good things, and happy days. You are such a bright light for all of us. Describe a perfect day for you.
A perfect day for me is, well, kind of like this morning! I got up, I'm in Florida, so I'm looking at the beautiful ocean, and I had a cup of tea. I've got a friend with me, so we had a chat. If I was at home, I would be with my animals. Any time I can spend with animals in a beautiful setting, which is where my home is, my daughter would be there, my husband would be there, my animals would be there and a group of friends would come over later and we would have lunch or something and sit around the pool. I can't play tennis anymore but my dream would be to play some tennis, or go for a horse ride. Now I have miniature horses and can't ride them but I can enjoy them. They are so gorgeous and sweet! My ideal day is a very simple day at home with my family and my animals.
You are a cannabis advocate. How can fans help support this effort?
Everyone can support this with their votes. Every state has laws that affect the usage of cannabis. Many states have made it legal now and I'm hoping it will be the whole country soon because it's helping so many people. The wonderful thing about cannabis is not only does it help with pain, anxiety, sleep, it helps with so many different issues that we are discovering all the time. The beauty of this plant and what it can do is that it's not dangerous. You can't die from cannabis. So therefore, people who are on opioids and drugs, have to get off of them. I know this myself because I was on morphine for 9 months when I broke my sacrum last year. I had to get off morphine and I used cannabis to do so. I know it's possible so I advocate for it because it's safe way of easing pain. And it's a plant - a whole plant and what would we do without them - the plant kingdom is the source of everything for us. I strongly believe in it and I'm trying to make it more available to people in Australia where the laws a lot tougher.
Your husband John is helping you with plant remedies?
My husband is called Amazon John for the many years he spent in the Amazon. He's an expert in plants. I've learned so much from him. I'm so grateful to him and the knowledge he's given me. This morning I took about 10 different herbs. Most of our drugs that were derived from the plant kingdom, from the Rain Forrest, we've only touched about a third of the plants there. We've got to get to the rest and not burn them down. It's pretty scary destroying our planet and our remedies.
Does John have a book on his research and expertise of the plants of the Amazon?
No, he should, shouldn't he? I've been encouraging him and he's working on it.
You represent so many wonderful things to all of us. What would you like to be remembered for?
Oh gosh, being remembered for anything would be nice! I think I've been very lucky to have a wonderful music career. For me music is a healer.
Also for working with cancer, I'm hoping and dreaming that I'll see an end to cancer in my lifetime and I am working towards that goal. I would like to be a person that at least had some effect on cancer in my lifetime.
How best can we support Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre?
You can visit https://www.onjcancercentre.org/ to learn more about what we do and how you can help.
Don't Stop Believin' Book Review
I'm coming from a very inspired and emotional place after reading Olivia's touching book, Don't Stop Believin', a beautiful memoir dedicated to her daughter Chloe Rose. For more than 5 decades Olivia has been one of the most successful entertainers of all time, with more than 100 million albums sold worldwide. Her iconic role in Grease further catapulted her to stardom on the big screen, expanding her career into more films, concerts and television appearances. Olivia's narrative however extends well beyond her life as an entertainer. This three-time cancer survivor has become the portrait of grace, strength and perseverance for those battling with cancer and other devastating diseases. She is the Joan of Arc to the animal kingdom in her benevolence to stop animal cruelty. She is the defender of our planet bringing about awareness and generously giving to causes and charities across the globe. As founder and Patron Saint of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Olivia is the Siren for cannabis advocacy, promoting its safe and healthy benefits which she incorporates into her own health regiment, combing traditional and holistic practices.
Opening her very cleverly formatted book and knowing her music, you will smile to find book chapters named after her songs or album titles that serve as an umbrella for chapter context. The manuscript is peppered with meaningful black & white and color photos that are an obvious treasured part of Olivia's private collection. Her positive attitude and warmth radiates on every page. Olivia writes in the tone, humor and rhythm by which she speaks. The only way to one-up this book is to add the audible version to your library, narrated by Olivia herself. And with that charming Australian accent, I'm pretty sure this is one of those books that people buy both the narrated version as well as the hardcover.
Not To Give Away Too Much - Here's A Few Takeaways...
Olivia shares her life story honestly and candidly as she recounts growing up in the Newton-John household, the role her father an MI5 officer played in breaking German Enigma codes during World War ll, her Nobel Prize-winning physicist grandfather's connection to Einstein, her rise to stardom, thoughts on motherhood, voice to save our planet, guardian to stop animal cruelty, and as a cancer survivor, her determination to beat this disease as well as find a cure within her lifetime through her cancer wellness and research centre.
To quote Olivia from her Author's Note page, "I am a private person living a very public life. I therefore chose to only tell stories about my own life that I hope are entertaining or interesting".
Some of the most adorable stories at the beginning of the book capture sweet little Livvy getting into trouble as kids do. One day she decided she needed to take her own temperature for some reason, accidentally bit down on the thermometer, and ended up with a ball of mercury rolling around her tongue. Then there was the time the headmaster at school had to call her out in front of her classmates. They had "bank days" where children brought money to school and it was put in a bank for them to learn savings principles. It seems that generous little Olivia spent her money on the way to school for "lollies" for her friends instead. (I think she made a good decision, and probably a lot of good friends too). Big sister Rona served as a great diversion from parental punishment that day as Rona was expelled for skipping school to meet boys, bleaching her hair and wearing her skirts too short! Mum, Irene and Dad, Brin had their hands full!
Olivia also shares the hurt she felt when her parents divorced when she was 9 years old. Although it was amicable it still altered their family dynamics, which changed her life forever. It would later form her fear of not having a successful marriage.
Prior to her stardom Olivia takes readers back to Australia and London when she and best friend Pat Carroll were a singing duo. The way Olivia describes their antics, nightclub performances and apartment living is so endearing and filled with humor and crazy escapades.
Greasers and Xanadu followers will absolutely love all the details about screen testing for the part of Sandy, the fun stories from the set of Grease and the lessons she learned from iconic film and dance man Gene Kelly while filming Xanadu.
Olivia recollects her cancer survival stories that are heartwarming, heart wrenching and above all infused with encouragement, hope and faith. She has taken what life has thrown at her, good, bad, and ugly and learned to adapt, be present and embrace change - a lesson we can all use.
Don't Stop Believin' is a must read for all Olivia Newton-John admirers and anyone wanting pure inspiration. This memoir is a slice of life thoughtfully and affectionately written from the soul of a woman who has done it all, has been through it all, and offers life lessons that draw you in and nestle into a place deep in your heart. Olivia is imparting wisdom, love and light in a simple title that captures every bit of three little words, Don't Stop Believin'.
More about Olivia
Olivia Newton-John, AO, OBE is an English-born, Australian-raised singer, actress and philanthropist. Olivia's successes include four Grammys, numerous Country Music, American Music, Billboard and People's Choice Awards, an Emmy Award, ten #1 hits and more than fifteen top 10 singles. She also scored another #1 hit, this time on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, with 'You Have to Believe', a duet with her daughter Chloe Lattanzi - becoming the first mother/daughter duo to top this Billboard chart. In 1978, her co-starring role with John Travolta in Grease catapulted Olivia into super-stardom and to date it remains the most successful movie musical of all time. In 2018 the film celebrates its 40th anniversary. Olivia has been a long-time activist for environmental and animal rights issues. Her personal journeys with cancer led her to announce her partnership with Austin Health and the creation of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre (ONJCWC) on the Austin Campus in her hometown of Melbourne. She serves on the national advisory board for the Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Florida. In that role Olivia helps to raise awareness of the center and provide counsel as a Moffitt Ambassador. Namesake, H. Lee Moffitt is a close friend and adviser who helped Olivia set up her cancer and wellness center in Australia. Olivia co-owns the award-winning Gaia Retreat & Spa near Byron Bay in New South Wales.
To learn more about Olivia visit www.olivianewtonjohn.com.
In the spirit of full disclosure I want to let readers know I have been extremely blessed to work with Olivia on several projects. She was the first celebrity I worked with as a newcomer to the entertainment industry. She set a standard I watched that few have followed in her kindness, generosity and concern for others. Part of who I am today is because at a very impressionable age, this very nurturing muse taught me that we never know the power our words and demeanor can have on another. Thank you for the Love & Light. ~carolan