Summer flings: either don’t mean a thing or a couple remains hopelessly devoted forever. In the case of Danny and Sandy, after their car flew off at the end of Grease, did they live happily ever after?
“Of course!” Olivia Newton-John answers with no hesitation.
Danny and Sandy were seen together relatively recently. In December 2019, Newton-John reunited with John Travolta for special live Grease singalong shows in Florida. They dressed up as their characters for the first time in over 40 years and chills were certainly multiplying.
“We had a blast, John and I,” she says. “I’d never seen the singalong version with the lyrics and I’ve never seen the audience join in.”
Tell me more.
“It was just hilarious and fun. And to meet the fans beforehand, all dressed up as different characters from the film. To think that 40-something years later, they still love it is quite amazing.”
Tell me more.
“The T-Birds, they came along too [the actors who played Sonny, Doody and Putzie] and Randal Kleiser, the director. We were on a bus for two days in Florida and we got to hang out which we hadn’t done since we made the movie.”
The pre-Covid plan was for the show to continue touring. If it did, would you get very far, say across to the UK?
“Yip,” she promises, but in a polite way. Like a pre-leather trousered Sandy would so as not to disappoint.
Newton-John is speaking to The Big Issue from her California home, joined on the line by her daughter, Chloe Lattanzi and her two “grandpups” Peanut and Jelly, currently lost under Newton-John’s dressing gown.
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Chloe, do you think Sandy makes all the right choices in Grease?
“No, but if she did it wouldn’t be an interesting film,” Lattanzi says. “I mean, there are no right or wrong choices, there are just experiences. I liked her change at the end, but I hope she did it because she wanted to.”
Newton-John jumps in: “She’s the same person, she’s just got different clothes on.”
The back and forth between the pair proves they go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong. Always close, they have been brought closer together by Covid.
“That’s the one part that’s awesome,” Lattanzi says.
“It’s been amazing for that fact because Chloe’s been able to be here with me. She was here for two months, then she went back to Portland, then has been here about three weeks again now. So it’s really wonderful. That part of it is the positive gift.”
Living together again after many years, do you revert to a mother-child relationship?
“Yes, I do get told to make my bed and tidy my room!” Lattanzi laughs. “Just from being with each other consistently, we’ve never been closer. I feel at peace when I’m with her.”
“And I have to say, I feel the same way,” Newton-John adds. “That expression: You’re as happy as your unhappiest child. And so if I’m away from Chloe and I don’t know how she is I’m always concerned. The wonderful thing about being together is I can see how she is every day and so if she’s happy, I’m happy.”
Through the years, they have supported each other with issues they’ve faced. Chloe, 35, also a singer who has appeared on the Australian version of Strictly, has battled depression, alcohol and cocaine addiction and has suffered from body dysmorphia. Newton-John, now 72, lives with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She was first diagnosed in 1992, the same day as her father’s death, and again in 2013 and 2017.
Newton-John always describes herself as a cancer thriver rather than survivor, has no concern about her prognosis and takes every day as a gift. Her treatment focuses on medicinal cannabis that her husband John Easterling grows on their ranch. So well-known in the world of plant-based medicine he’s known as ‘Amazon John’, he’s developed new genetic varieties specifically for Newton-John.
Lattanzi also runs a medicinal cannabis farm with her fiancé outside Portland, Oregon.
Of course, the scientific benefits of cannabis are yet to be proven. That’s why the Olivia Newton-John Foundation was established, so it’s not just anecdotal evidence but scientific facts.
“I think all the answers are here, we just have to find them,” Newton-John has said.
Equally important is exercise. So when you think, OK, let’s get physical, what do you do?
Newton-John: “I walk and we have a little gym. I had an elliptical bike and I do a few things like that. Chloe dances.”
Lattanzi: “I watch hip-hop and salsa dance instructionals on YouTube. It’s a great workout. It works out everything.”
The pair have duetted on a new song, Window in the Wall, an uplifting ballad about unity, being non-judgemental, and how a little more love will make it right.
We need to accept each other for our differences, rather than let that divide us
A woman Newton-John had met at a health clinic sent her a song written by a cousin. Despite being anxious about having to diplomatically decline, in a strange twist of fate, it seemed destined to be.
“We didn’t write the song, but I love the lyrics because I thought they were really thought- provoking,” Newton-John explains.
So what thoughts does it provoke?
The first line asks: Has the world forgotten how to love, are we blinded by the hate we let inside?
Lattanzi: “I don’t think the world’s forgotten how to love. It’s in our nature, we just need to be reminded of our humanity.
Newton-John: “Oh, no, [hate] doesn’t overshadow love. We’ve got to realise that we need to accept each other for our differences, rather than let that divide us.”
Lattanzi: “There’s no right or wrong, there’s only different perspectives.”
Newton-John: “What we have in common? We all have blood in our veins and hearts that beat and the same emotions: love, hate, fear, cowardice, bravery.”
How do we find – or build – that Window in the Wall?
Newton-John: “Communicating with people. I think a lot of problems have been because we haven’t been able to be face to face. We’re on two screens and you can’t feel a person’s energy or really look into
Lattanzi: “We need to turn off the screens. In a way, we’re following the narrative of the screen. If we turned it off, we’d be in a better place. Actually, I went for a year without watching any television or going on social media.”
Did that help?
Lattanzi: “Yes, I got sober. And I healed a lot of pain and gained a lot of awareness. And read a lot of books.”
How do you resolve disagreements you have with each other?
Newton-John: “Stop and discuss what has just happened, each other’s point of view and then apologise if you’ve upset each other.”
Lattanzi: “It’s not a hard thing. But I look back and think, oh god, I wish for those years, I looked at what I wanted, instead of what I didn’t want. I wish I focused on what was good instead of what was negative. Those are some really important lessons.”
Window in the Wall is out now (Green Hill Productions)