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Olivia Newton-John remembered by Didi Conn

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The first time I met Olivia Newton-John was on the set of Grease in 1977. She arrived on this white T-Fowl convertible with the highest down. It was attractive, and he or she was attractive. With stars, you are likely to maintain a distance till you are feeling that the time is true, so we didn’t discuss an excessive amount of at first, besides that she advised me how cute she thought John Travolta was.

After we did our first day of capturing collectively, she was very nervous, so being the veteran movie actress I used to be (I solely did two films earlier than that one) I started to improvise along with her as [my character] Frenchy. I’m going: “Oh, Sandy. I’m so completely happy you’re my neighbour and we are able to come to high school collectively!”, and he or she’s me like, is that this within the script? However then she caught on and we had a lot enjoyable. I mentioned: “What was it like going to high school in Australia?” She mentioned: “Oh my God. I needed to put on gloves, and the boys went in a single place and ladies went in one other.” And earlier than we knew it, Randal [Kleiser], our director, was saying “Motion”. She hugged and kissed me afterwards and mentioned “thanks, thanks!” for serving to to interrupt the ice.

That was the start of a deeper friendship. I occurred to reside simply down the street from her in Malibu, so we spent loads of time collectively. We went horseback driving up at her place. Travolta got here up there and we talked about appearing academics – he didn’t imagine in appearing academics. She gave me little biscuits with tea. I’d by no means had them earlier than. From then on, I’d at all times get these Leibniz biscuits with milk chocolate on prime.

After we first met, she was a rock star with No 1s and TV specials. She was very career-driven. However when she first got diagnosed with cancer [in 1992], she had [her daughter] Chloe, and Chloe was very younger. In that second, she decided that she was going to get higher, which she did. Her priorities modified. She grew to become buddy, she actually was there for Chloe and it was so vital for her to share with the world what she went by means of and the way she beat it – not solely surviving most cancers, however thriving.

She raised thousands and thousands for the Olivia Newton-John Most cancers Wellness and Analysis Centre in Melbourne. One of many issues she did was a 21-day hike on the Nice Wall of China. Every walker was sponsored and I don’t know what number of thousands and thousands that introduced in. I went for eight days and I keep in mind Olivia discovered a bit misplaced kitten, which she referred to as Magic. It was so small and he or she stored it proper subsequent to her chest, in her sports activities bra, the entire time. She had a horrible chilly, however she wasn’t considering of herself, she was at all times considering of what she may do for others.

Olivia Newton-John and Didi Conn in Grease.
Olivia Newton-John and Didi Conn in Grease. {Photograph}: Paramount Footage/Allstar

Her character in Grease begins off as this goody-goody-two-shoes, and that was Olivia’s fame too. Properly, there was a scorching momma smouldering beneath that stunning exterior. We had been doing the scene on the drive-in and, at one level, this very attractive, attractive girl with massive hair and excessive pink sneakers comes strolling between the automobiles. No person recognised her at first. Then we realised it was Olivia. Everyone went loopy and mentioned they simply couldn’t imagine it. And the fellows, their tongues had been hanging out, they had been drooling.

In later years, I went to see her carry out throughout. It was nice as a result of I acquired to be a rock star for 5 minutes. Throughout her Grease section, she would say: “A few of us have made mates which have lasted 40 years, and I’ve a buddy like that. Didi, are you there?” I’d be sitting within the center and I’d say: “Yeah I’m!” And the individuals would go berserko. Everyone’d be screaming and screaming. I’d come on stage and say to the viewers: “Isn’t she probably the most stunning individual you’ve ever seen in your life?” And we might do Summer season Nights collectively. In fact, I’d by no means keep in mind the lyrics, nevertheless it didn’t matter. It was a lot enjoyable.

She would at all times ship me stunning orchids on my birthday. This 12 months I acquired very sick and was within the hospital for 2 months. After I acquired house I referred to as her and he or she mentioned: “I heard from so-and-so you had been sick. Why didn’t you inform me?” The following day, I acquired stunning orchids from her. Properly, the day earlier than she died, a type of orchid buds fell down, and I simply had a sense that that meant one thing. Then certain sufficient I acquired the decision that she had gone.

In Grease, Frenchy needs Sandy to be a Pink Girl, and Rizzo says: “She seems too pure to be pink.” And that purity, that sweetness, that magnificence, I noticed that the very first second I met her. That was the story of our friendship: pure coronary heart, pure love.

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