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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 she or he was attractive. With stars, you are inclined to maintain a distance till you’re feeling that the time is true, so we didn’t speak an excessive amount of at first, besides that she instructed 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 together with her as [my character] Frenchy. I’m going: “Oh, Sandy. I’m so blissful you’re my neighbour and we will come to high school collectively!”, and she or he’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 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 mentioned “thanks, thanks!” for serving to to interrupt the ice.

That was the start of a deeper friendship. I occurred to dwell simply down the street from her in Malibu, so we spent plenty of time collectively. We went horseback using 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 high.

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 turned a great good friend, she actually was there for Chloe and it was so vital for her to share with the world what she went via 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 little bit misplaced kitten, which she known as Magic. It was so small and she or he stored it proper subsequent to her chest, in her sports activities bra, the entire time. She had a horrible chilly, however she wasn’t pondering of herself, she was at all times pondering 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 Photos/Allstar

Her character in Grease begins off as this goody-goody-two-shoes, and that was Olivia’s repute too. Properly, there was a sizzling momma smouldering beneath that lovely exterior. We had been doing the scene on the drive-in and, at one level, this very attractive, horny girl with huge hair and excessive purple footwear comes strolling between the vehicles. No one recognised her at first. Then we realised it was Olivia. Everyone went loopy and mentioned they only couldn’t imagine it. And the blokes, 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 phase, she would say: “A few of us have made buddies 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 folks 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 lovely particular person you’ve ever seen in your life?” And we might do Summer season Nights collectively. In fact, I might 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 lovely orchids on my birthday. This yr I acquired very sick and was within the hospital for 2 months. Once I acquired house I known as her and she or he mentioned: “I heard from so-and-so you had been sick. Why didn’t you inform me?” The following day, I acquired lovely 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 desires Sandy to be a Pink Woman, and Rizzo says: “She appears to be like 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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