Interview with gay ally Olivia Newton-Johnby Michael Shinafelt
Olivia Newton-John is one of the most loved and enduring performers in the world. She is also one of the biggest gay icons ever - who many of us had crushes on and still do.
Whether it is because of her beautiful singing voice, her turns in the beloved films Grease and Xanadu or her activism, there is no one quite like Olivia.
Being a cancer survivor has not slowed Olivia down from any of the above endeavors. She has just released and new album A Celebration in Song featuring duets with some of her talented friends including the hit single and video "Right Here With You" with Delta Goodrem. She also appears on Sordid Lives on Logo (AfterElton.com’s parent company).
AfterElton.com: Congratulations on your marriage.
Olivia Newton-John: Oh, thank you.
AE: I caught your performance at Gay Pride in Los Angeles, CA this year.
ONJ: Oh yeah? I had a really fun time.
AE: You were great, I loved the show! Gay Pride LA was your only U.S. concert date for 2008, why did you choose to do only the festival?
ONJ: They asked me and I wanted to do one thing only this year as I am not touring right now. It was perfect timing and it was so much fun.
AE: Do you remember when you first realized you were a gay icon?
ONJ: I really don’t know, I don’t think about being an icon really. The gay fans have always been very loyal, there are a really great audience and have always been there for me.
AE: On your 1988 album The Rumor you recorded the first safe sex song by a mainstream artist, "Love and Let Live." AIDS hysteria was rampant at the time, did you receive any backlash for recording the song?
ONJ: Not at all, I’ve only ever gotten encouragement. I have never received any backlash, why would anyone do that? That would be a horrible thing.
AE: It took a lot of courage for you to do that at a time when everyone was so afraid of something that unknown.
ONJ: That was the very reason to do the song.
AE: Good for you! Did you ever see the stage production of Xanadu?
ONJ: I was there opening night.
AE: What did you think?
ONJ: I loved it, I thought it was wonderful.
AE: It’s one of my favorite movies; did you ever think it would become as beloved as it did?
ONJ: Oh no, I was embarrassed by it. I love the music, but the script wasn’t very good, it was not well received upon release, but people enjoyed it and it attained a different kind of status after that.
AE: What are your thoughts on it now after your initial reaction?
ONJ: Now I think it’s a hoot, and I got to dance with Gene Kelly, how amazing is that?!
AE: How was meeting Kathy Griffin at Sydney Mardi Gras in Australia?
ONJ: She and Carson Kressley were staying in the same hotel I was and my publicist said Kathy would like you to do her show (My Life on the D-List). I thought well that could be funny because I have never met her, if you can imagine, and she’s something! [Laughing] you really have no idea what she is going to say, I think I survived OK. [laughing]
AE: Do you ever think they will legalize gay marriage in Australia?
ONJ: I am sure they will, when they do everywhere else. Australia is pretty cutting edge.
AE: I have a confession, as a teenage boy you were my “girl crush”.
ONJ: Awwwwwwwww. [laughs]
AE: Margaret Cho and I chatted about how we both had the lyrics to your album Totally Hot memorized.
ONJ: Oh, that’s so cute. [laughs]
AE: Speaking of which the two of you did Randal Kleiser’s film It’s My Party together.
ONJ: It was so great to work with Randal again, and it was the first time I had a serious role. The film was pretty heavy, and I really wanted to be a part of it. I love Randal and there were some really great actors in it.
AE: Let’s talk about your current CD A Celebration in Song and the single off of it, "Right Here With You" w/Delta Goodrem.
ONJ: Delta is so wonderful we wrote that song with Amy Sky. We were walking The Great Wall of China for my Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Center in Northern Australia, which is a cancer hospital that I am putting my name to. So we did a three week journey to The Great Wall of China I had a lot of guests that joined me, Didi Conn, Joan Rivers and Leeza Gibbons came, a bunch of celebrities from around the world joined me for part of the walk. We would get to these difficult parts of the wall where we would be struggling and all start singing to each other, “Don’t give up, here I am.”
AE: The video and song are really great they really illustrate what is going on in the moment.
ONJ: Thank you, this project means a lot to me.
AE: One quick last question, why do you think gay guys like Xanadu?
ONJ: Maybe because it’s camp, I don’t know, you tell me! [laughs]
AE: It makes me smile.
ONJ: There you go. [laughs]