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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-Chook 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 correct, so we didn’t discuss an excessive amount of at first, besides that she advised me how cute she thought John Travolta was.

Once 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 motion pictures earlier than that one) I started to improvise along with her as [my character] Frenchy. I’m going: “Oh, Sandy. I’m so comfortable you’re my neighbour and we will come to highschool collectively!”, and he or she’s taking a look at me like, is that this within the script? However then she caught on and we had a lot enjoyable. I stated: “What was it like going to highschool in Australia?” She stated: “Oh my God. I needed to put on gloves, and the boys went in a single place and women went in one other.” And earlier than we knew it, Randal [Kleiser], our director, was saying “Motion”. She hugged and kissed me afterwards and stated “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 plenty 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 all the time get these Leibniz biscuits with milk chocolate on high.

Once 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 turned good friend, she actually was there for Chloe and it was so essential for her to share with the world what she went by way of and the way she beat it – not solely surviving most cancers, however thriving.

She raised hundreds of 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 hundreds of thousands that introduced in. I went for eight days and I keep in mind Olivia discovered a bit misplaced kitten, which she known as Magic. It was so small and he or she saved 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 all the time 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 repute too. Nicely, there was a scorching momma smouldering beneath that lovely exterior. We have been doing the scene on the drive-in and, at one level, this very attractive, horny girl with huge hair and excessive crimson footwear comes strolling between the automobiles. No one recognised her at first. Then we realised it was Olivia. All people went loopy and stated they only couldn’t imagine it. And the blokes, their tongues have been hanging out, they have been drooling.

In later years, I went to see her carry out throughout. It was nice as a result of I received to be a rock star for 5 minutes. Throughout her Grease phase, she would say: “A few of us have made mates which have lasted 40 years, and I’ve a good friend 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. All people’d be screaming and screaming. I’d come on stage and say to the viewers: “Isn’t she probably the most stunning particular person you’ve ever seen in your life?” And we’d do Summer season Nights collectively. In fact, I might by no means keep in mind the lyrics, however it didn’t matter. It was a lot enjoyable.

She would all the time ship me stunning orchids on my birthday. This yr I received very sick and was within the hospital for 2 months. After I received dwelling I known as her and he or she stated: “I heard from so-and-so you have been sick. Why didn’t you inform me?” The subsequent day, I received stunning orchids from her. Nicely, the day earlier than she died, a kind of orchid buds fell down, and I simply had a sense that that meant one thing. Then certain sufficient I received the decision that she had gone.

In Grease, Frenchy desires Sandy to be a Pink Woman, and Rizzo says: “She appears 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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