OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN IN MANILA CONCERT / CONVERSATION W/ RICKY LO
[PHOTO - Olivia Newton-John takes time to rest after arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila on Friday, March 30, 2012. PHOTO BY JUDE BAUTISTA]
MANILA, MARCH 31, 2012 (INQUIRER) By: Pocholo Concepcion - British-Australian singer-actress Olivia Newton-John arrived Friday night at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The four-time Grammy winner is performing on Saturday, March 31, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
At age 63, Newton-John is still active recording, touring and acting in musical films. She also travels the world promoting breast cancer awareness, health (she co-owns a spa and has just released a cookbook), and other concerns.
She’s known in the music industry for reinventing herself a number of times. From a laid-back, country-pop star in the early 1970s (“I Honestly Love You,” “Have You Never Been Mellow,” “Let It Shine”/”He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”), she went on to star in the 1978 film version of the Broadway musical “Grease,” in which she sang “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You’re the One that I Want” and “Summer Nights” (the last two with John Travolta).
In 1980 she again starred in a musical film, “Xanadu” (with Gene Kelly), whose soundtrack included her singing on “Magic,” “Suddenly” (a duet with Cliff Richard), and the title track with the Electric Light Orchestra.
A year later she released the studio album “Physical,” whose title track attracted controversy for its sexual content. She countered the mild backlash (two conservative American radio stations banned the single from their playlists) by filming a video of the song promoting exercise.
She successfully battled breast cancer in 1992 and wrote songs about dealing with the disease.
In a recent interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Newton-John said, “Music has always been my therapy.… It brings joy to many people on many levels. I love how music can inspire, heal and bring out many different emotions in people.”
We Honestly Love You, Olivia!
CONVERSATIONS With Ricky Lo The Philippine Star Updated March 25, 2012 12:00 AM 0 comment to this post
[PHOTO - Olivia Newton-John then and now: It’s as if she hasn’t grown older, has she?]
Before she hung up, I made sure that I would tell Olivia Newton-John a resounding “I honestly love you,” echoing the title of one of her classic hits.
When Olivia comes for a concert at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on March 31, produced by Wilbros, I’m sure that’s the same thing her loyal fans would like to shout to her, “We honestly love you, Olivia!”
She herself called from Miami, Florida, where it was, she noted, “Six o’clock in the evening,” and was pleasantly surprised when I greeted her, Good morning!” and laughed when I told her that it was early morning in Manila.
She was bubbly on the phone, punctuating almost her every sentence with girlish laughter which sounded exactly the same way it did in Grease (with John Travolta) and other movies — full of life, full of energy, full of enthusiasm. So warm and friendly was she that she instantly made me feel as though we were long-lost friends.
Judging from the voice on the phone, I guess Olivia will sound “like she did before” in her Big Dome concert where she’ll once again regale her fans with her old hits including Hopelessly Devoted To You, Physical, Xanadu, Summer Nights and many more, plus…but of course!...I Honestly Love You.
A little backgrounder as refresher on Olivia (from the Internet):
Olivia Newton-John was born in Cambridge, England, to a Welsh father, Brinley Newton-John, and a German-born mother, Irene Born (eldest child of Nobel prize-winning atomic physicist Max Born. Fast-forward to 1954 when Olivia was six years old: The family migrated to Melbourne, Australia, where her father worked as a professor of German and as Master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne. Olivia eventually settled down in the US. She lives in Florida with her second husband and her only daughter from a previous marriage.
A breast-cancer survivor, Olivia is an advocate for health awareness involved in various charities, health products and fund-raising efforts.
When you watch Grease now, what comes to your mind?
“Oh, the movie was a lot of fun. I probably would have enjoyed it now. But you know, when I did the movie I was comparatively young. It gave me a lot of pleasure because so many people loved the movies and still do.”
According to my research, you were a little older (just turned 29) than your character (a high school senior) and they made some adjustments in the script because the producer wanted you and nobody else to play the role (even changed from the play’s original American Sandy Dumbrowski to Australian Sandy Olsson vacationing and then living in the US).
[PHOTO - In this exclusive phone Conversation, the star of Grease talks about the ups and downs in herlife, how she survived the Big C (diagnosed 20 years ago) and not wanting to watch her old movies, not even Grease, because, she laughed, ‘It’s embarrassing!’ ]
“Yes, they did.”
What’s your favorite scene in the movie?
“I have a few. One of them is when I first saw John’s character in school. Another is when I was sitting all alone not knowing what to do.”
And any favorite song from it?
“Yes, of course, Hopelessly Devoted To You. You like it, too, don’t you?”
I’m sure you have a DVD copy of Grease. How do you and the people with you react to it?
(Laughs and laughs) “No, I don’t want to watch it. That would be embarrassing!”
We’re expecting you in Manila on March 31…
“…I’m curious how Manila looks now. I think I was there many, many, many years ago. By the way, I don’t think I was ever there. So it’s going to be my first visit.”
Why did it take you so long to come to Manila and give your fans a chance to see you perform “live?”
“You know, it’s a very big world. It’s hard to be everywhere. I try to cover as much of the world as I can. Unfortunately, I haven’t been touring the world for many years; I’ve been doing only small tours. And I do want to cover places that I haven’t been to before.”
We’d love to see you perform your well-loved hits including Physical, I Honestly Love You and Xanadu. Please tell us a brief background of these three songs. First, Physical which became very controversial because it was thought to be very sexual at that time.
(Laughs) “Oh, Physical. In its day, it was very controversial. Now, it’s kind of very tame.”
Didn’t you think that people were reading meanings into the song that were not there?
“No, I don’t think so. What I did was turn it into a good exercise song — you know, Let’s get physical, physical; I wanna get physical…Nice to work out to, isn’t it?”
Do you exercise to the tune of Physical? A lot of people do.
“Ohhhhh…I never play my music; neither do I watch my movies.”
“That’s very…egotistical!” (Laughs) “I’m glad other people do. Not me. Like the other day, I was at a supermarket and suddenly, I heard Summer Nights (from Grease the original play). Hmmm, I found it cool and fun when other people were playing, although I wouldn’t play it myself….well, not at home.”
What about I Honestly Love You. Were you dedicating it to somebody special?
“Hmmmm…probably…a long time ago. When I sang it then, it was my character Sandy feeling the song. Now when I sing it, it’s a very different thing.”
Have you ever sung it to somebody in real life?
“Oh yeah, many times! To my mother when she was very ill, to people that I care about.”
What about Xanadu (from the movie of the same title)?
“Maybe I would tell the audience a little background of the song when I sing it in Manila.”
You’ve been through ups and downs. What has sustained you through the downs?
“I think a positive attitude and belief that I would get through them; never to give in. I’m lucky that I have a strong character; I am fortunate that up to now, I’m still singing, writing many songs and doing a lot of other things, especially charity work. In June, I will be in Australia to perform for a hospital. I also run a spa called Gaia Retreat in Byron Bay, Australia. In 2008, I helped raise funds to help build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center in Melbourne. I’m living a pretty busy life.”
You mentioned cancer. (She diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 on the same weekend her father died. She has recovered and become a tireless advocate for breast cancer research and other health issues.) How did your music change after you recovered?
“In 1994, I made an album called Gaia: One Woman’s Journey which chronicled my ordeal. I did it so that women can learn from what I went through.”
What did you learn from your intimation of mortality?
“Gratitude. Yes, gratitude for life and for every day, really. And compassion.”
Any word of inspiration and encouragement for women in the same condition?
“Yes, I can tell them, ‘Look, here I am; I’m still here 20 years after I was diagnosed.’ That’s the best encouragement that I can give them — to reassure them that they can get through and they will. And, yes, have a mammogram regularly. Better yet, do the checking yourself. That’s how I found mine.”
How do you maintain your health now? What kind of diet do you follow and what workout do you do?
“My husband and I eat a lot of organic food. We do enjoy a serving of ice cream every now and then. It’s a matter of anything in moderation. You can indulge in anything but to a certain extent. Also, think positively and get as much exercise as you can.”
What’s the craziest thing that you’ve done for love?
(Laughs again) “I’ve done some but they are too private, so I won’t tell you.”
If you have to turn back the hand of time, would you change anything?
“No, I wouldn’t change anything. Everything that happened happened for a reason. Maybe I would only change the things if I have hurt somebody’s feelings.”
[PHOTO - In Grease, the iconic movie version of
the Broadway musical, with John Travolta]
(Note: Produced by Wilbros with The Philippine STAR among the sponsors, Olivia Newton-John Live in Manila will be staged on March 31, Saturday, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. For tickets, call Ticketnet at 911-5555.)
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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