My Dinner with Olivia

connie smith |


Olivia Newton-John at CARMEN'S BANQUET CENTRE, Hamilton ON

 photograph by Reg Beaudry

I stood in line in a roomful of fans and VIPs to have my

photo taken with her. After introducing myself and

explaining I was the one who would be interviewing                            

her, she told me she was glad we were doing it this

way instead of a long, boring speech. (As if, for her

adoring fans, watching Olivia Newton-John do or say

anything could be boring!)

How do you prepare for an interview with an icon?

She is arguably one of the most storied recording

artists/actors/activists in the world; star of the most

successful movie musical in history, whose journey

with breast cancer almost 20 years ago spawned a

new direction in music and life, dedicated to helping

people everywhere facing adversity in their lives. It

was this journey that brought Olivia Newton-John to

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

So I read a biography on her, scoured websites,

articles, watched her movies and listened to her

albums...well not quite all...there are now

41...counting her latest Christmas album with John


Olivia had sent her Grease co-star and long-time

friend, a text that their 1978 smash hit , “You're the

One That I Want,” had just become the best-selling

duet in pop music history.

Travolta suggested they do an album together in

honour of the occasion. The pair reunited after 30

years to record "This Christmas", with proceeds

benefiting a foundation in aid of children with

disabilities named after John's late son, Jett; the other

to support the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and

Wellness Centre that opened this past summer in

Melbourne, Australia, where the Cambridge,

England-born star grew up.

I was ready and I also had a gift for Olivia; one that

has travelled around the world with me. It is a framed

photo of her father, Brin Newton-John, a wellrespected

professor who appeared on a TV show in

Newcastle, New South Wales back in the 60's. One

of the young cameramen in the photo was my

husband Dave, when he was breaking into the

industry. Dave Wilson became an award-wining

producer and director at CHCH-TV in Hamilton.

When I saw this photo, I knew I had a mission.

Last February, NBN celebrated its 50th anniversary

on the air and alumni from around the world returned

for the celebration.

Quick digression: ONJ's brush with breast cancer

also inspired a new holistic approach to life. She coowns

an award-winning retreat and spa in Byron Bay,

Australia called "Gaia" which means Spirit of Mother


Byron Bay was a bit of a trek up the famous Gold

Coast from Newcastle but a perfect chance to visit

Gaia and its famous proprietor. Alas, as it turned out,

a planned meeting and interview was not to be. The

very day and a half set aside for Byron Bay conflicted

with a last minute publicity trip to Europe for Olivia.

Months later, upon word that Olivia was coming to

Carmen's as the special guest at a fundraiser for the

new CIBC Breast Assessment Centre, I reconnected

with Olivia's publicist. Carmen's, host of the

fundraiser, ”Singing a New Tune”, asked me to

conduct a Q & A … and I would finally get to present

that gift!

So I began with thanking Olivia for coming to see

me! (Haha). She loved the photo and our enchanted

chat began.

She learned of her diagnosis with breast cancer the

same weekend her father died. She never asked

“Why me?” “Why not me?” was her response when I

asked how she dealt with the news.

Sitting three down from her at the head table, I

glanced at her as she sipped wine and enjoyed her

meal. Does she watch what she eats, I later asked.

“I believe in moderation”, she replied, “and living well”.

And living well she does these days in Jupiter, Florida

with her second husband John Easterling, owner and

founder of Amazon Herb Company.

There were questions from the audience:

“How hot was John Travolta?” Olivia graciously

referred to the fun they have working together.

I ask, “Is it true you were sewn into those tight black

pants everyday?” “Yes they were before spandex.”

In a tribute to the Pink Ladies of Grease, a Hamilton

Pink Ladies Club donned their satin jackets they

proudly wear for the BrightRun, an annual event in

support of Breast Cancer Research in Greater

Hamilton Today.

Was it also true that early in her career as a young

teen in London, she inadvertently ended up

performing in a strip club? Yup. She sang with a

friend Pat CarrolI and somehow got booked into this

strip club to perform. She laughs, “We weren`t asked


She talked about the thrill of dancing with Gene Kelly

in “Xanadu” and singing before a TV audience in the

billions during the Sydney Olympics.

As for her other greatest thrill? Olivia's 26 year-old

daughter Chloe is fine... “sorting things out” as she

attempts to follow in her famous mother's singing and

acting footsteps and yes, at a still glamorous 64, she

is looking forward to becoming a grandmother one


Olivia heads back on the road in December to

complete a U.S. tour followed by a U.K. Tour in the

New Year, her first in 30 years to celebrate 40 years in

music. And before every concert she and her crew

will form a spirit circle to express their Grace and

Gratitude, one of the songs she sang that night and

words she now lives by: her “motto”. The other song

she chose to sing was “Magic”.

A fan asks what's her advice to women fighting

breast cancer or any serious challenge today.

Women must empower themselves and put

themselves first, she says and not feel they have to do

it all…please everyone all the time.

A woman Olivia once encountered in a ladies room

after her battle with breast cancer became public, told

her how she had breast cancer 20 years ago and is

fine now. Olivia says that was the moment she knew

she would be fine too. Nearly 20 years later Olivia

Newton-John is very fine indeed.

She refers to the innocent schoolgirl role in the movie

that made her so famous as “Sandy 1” who

transforms into the not-so-innocent ready-to-take-onthe-

world “Sandy 2”. Today “Olivia 2”, stands as a

beacon of hope and wisdom to women travelling that

same path everywhere.

The Carmen's event raised $60,000 for Hamilton's

new CIBC Breast Assessment Centre. Olivia we

love you. We honestly love you.


is a Hamilton freelance journalist

and part-time media instructor at Mohawk College.

She can be reached on FB, LinkedIn, and


Find out more about Olivia at