9 August 2022

Tributes flow for the iconic Olivia Newton-John and her unlikely Canberra connection

| Lottie Twyford
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Dame Olivia Newton-John on stage

Dame Olivia Newton-John died aged 73 at her home in Southern California. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Fans and friends around the world are today mourning the death of screen and stage icon Olivia Newton-John.

The 73-year-old Grease star died yesterday at her Southern California ranch surrounded by family and friends.

Husband John Easterling described her as a “symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer”.

“Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer,” he wrote.

Dame Newton-John had been battling successive bouts of breast cancer since 1992. That was a fight she shared publicly at times, although not in recent years.

She later established the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in her hometown of Melbourne in 2015.

She was also an advocate for medicinal cannabis, which she revealed she was using to manage her pain in 2018 during an interview with 60 Minutes.

During that interview, she said cannabis should be treated as a plant, not a drug.

In an interview with The Courier-Mail in 2019, she joked that she’d helped legalise marijuana in Canberra following a recent visit.

Certain medicinal cannabis formulations may be legally prescribed in the ACT while individual possession of small amounts was legalised following the passage of laws that started life as a private member’s bill from Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson in 2019.

“In all seriousness, I hope we played some part in it. We talked to the politicians about how the public are really wanting this change,” she said.

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Olivia Newton-John’s journey to stardom began in the 1970s when she began releasing music. She went on to win four Grammy awards, an Emmy Award, numerous Country Music Awards, American Music Awards and People’s Choice Awards, and had seven US number one hits between 1974 and 1977.

She represented the UK at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton where she took out fourth place.

But it was her role as Sandy in the 1978 film adaption of Grease that catapulted her to worldwide superstardom.

The Grease soundtrack spent three weeks at number one, sold 28 million copies worldwide, and she became only the second woman ever to have two singles – ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ and ‘Summer Nights’ – in the Billboard top five simultaneously.

Two years later, she starred in Xanadu with Gene Kelly.

She later became involved in many charitable causes.

Grease co-star John Travolta paid tribute to his “dearest Olivia” on social media this morning.

“You made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much,” he wrote.

“We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever!”

Acting Chief Minister Yvette Berry also paid tribute to Dame Newton-John on her social media this morning.

“Grease was the word but Xanadu was a place nobody dared to go,” Ms Berry wrote.

“But we all went there. Vale Olivia. Thank you for all the great music and your tireless work with cancer awareness.”

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HiddenDragon7:02 pm 09 Aug 22

Judith Durham on the weekend, Olivia today – Grief is the Word.

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