My blog gets ignored for a while when I’m busy, but I felt the need to post after the passing of one of my favorite celebrities of all time, Olivia Newton-John. Everyone who knows me knows that Xanadu is my favorite movie ever. I shout to the sky on a regular basis that I love it, and it’s my go-to comfort movie. When Olivia passed, I got numerous messages of condolence from people who know me, as if she were a friend of mine. There is no way I can not blog a tribute to her right now.
Throughout my childhood I had heard songs by Olivia Newton-John on the radio, and I’d seen her photo on an album cover that my mother had, but I had never seen her alive in 3-D. We didn’t have music videos or youtube or streaming yet, so unless you happened to catch a TV show someone was on right at the time it aired, or you went to a concert, you might never see your favorite musical acts in anything but a still photo. That all changed when I was 8 years old, and I saw Grease at the movies.
I loved Grease for many reasons, but mostly because of Olivia. Recently, I’ve been told that schools don’t do it anymore because the message is bad due to Sandy changing to a bad girl to please a man. Also, the world has changed, and people would probably call CPS on you if you let kids watch that movie with some of the content. However, when the film came out, people were a little more chill about that kind of thing, and we all saw it. I was 8, and my brother was 6, and we went with a group of similarly aged kids and a couple of moms from our neighborhood to see it on the big screen. Everyone at my elementary school was talking about it, so I know we weren’t the only kids who saw it.
That’s when I fell in love with Olivia. She was the prettiest person I’d ever seen, and you could just tell she was also nice. Lots of people in movies are beautiful, but something about her transcended mortal beauty. She was like some kind of fairy princess to me. She had an aura of goodness that made her glow in a way I’d never seen anyone glow.
A couple of years later, Xanadu came out, and again, a group of us went to see it. I was mesmerized by it. It had everything I loved: roller skating, music by ELO, colorful costumes, a fairy tale plot, and especially Olivia Newton-John, who was finally appropriately cast as the goddess she already was. I was 10 years old, and I’d found my favorite movie of all time. It imprinted on me like no other film I’d ever seen or have seen since. Later, I watched it again on cable when that finally happened, and I have owned it on VHS, DVD and now streaming. I watch it at least 3 times a year. I make sure to share on social media that I’m watching it, and I try to get others to give it a try so they can also bask in the glory that is Xanadu. I consider it my responsibility. It is a public service.
Now, I know all the shitty things that critics have said about that film, and I don’t care. They often miss the point of art, in my opinion. Also, I heard that Michael Beck, who plays her love interest in the movie, has said that the film ‘ruined his career’. I believe he overestimates himself a bit with that statement. He was flavor of the month right then because he was popular in some other film right before it, but he was the least fabulous thing about Xanadu. In fact, any decent looking guy with a talent for wearing jeans and speaking English could have been cast in that role, and it wouldn’t have made any difference to the film. He barely matters and didn’t even sing in it. Cliff Richard sang the songs we’re supposed to think are him. His acting is mediocre, and his career would have probably tanked anyway once that started being obvious. How anyone could be bitter when they got to be part of the best film ever and actually touch Olivia Newton John AND Gene Kelly is beyond me. I thought he was cute when I was 10, but he was dead to me after he said that nonsense. He needs to sit down.
But back to Olivia… In addition to her fairy princess looks, her angelic voice, and her obvious inner beauty, she was also an activist for animal rights and the founder of a cancer treatment center in Australia. She has used her fame to raise money for both causes for most of her life. I wasn’t surprised about either of those things. I could tell from the first moment I saw her that she loved animals, and her long battle with cancer made her want to help others who were suffering from it.
Olivia has been ridiculed as too soft or mainstream in the past. Someone even said she is what would happen if “white bread could sing”. But her reply was, “well, white bread is very popular, so I’m going to take that as a compliment.” She always saw the positive in things, and I agree. She wasn’t edgy or weird. She was popular. She didn’t write her own music or lyrics, but her voice was one of the best voices of our time. She was lovely and charming and perfect.
Olivia, you made the world better by simply existing., and you will always be in my heart.
Bon voyage, goddess!