5 on the fly: lesser-known facts about Olivia Newton-John

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by Sarah Halfpenny

There have been many leaky eyes upon the news of Dame Olivia Newton-John’s passing. There’s so much to say about this remarkable woman: a four-time Grammy Award winner with number one hit songs and albums on the Billboard Hot 100; one of the best-selling music artists from the past 50 years with global sales exceeding 100 million records; an iconic actress who became an integral part of the lives of many millions around the world with her seminal roles in ‘Grease’ and ‘Xanadu’. We could go on for days! Here are five facts about the wonderful ONJ that you may not have known …

  1. Charity and activism work

Olivia was involved in many humanitarian causes including the cancellation of her 1978 tour to Japan to protest the slaughter of dolphins caught in tuna nets. She was also a performer in the 1979 Music for UNICEF concert, was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Environment Programme and was president of the Isle of Man Basking Shark Society for several years, just to name a few. Closest to her heart, however, was the establishment of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne in 2012, as a positive healing centre to support people on their cancer journey.

  1. Her first true love

When ONJ was just 16, she met a dashing young man on the set of what was to be her first film, ‘Funny Things Happen Down Under’, made entirely in Melbourne. The 21-year-old man was none other than Ian ‘Turps’ Turpie and they went on to work together on ‘Time for Terry’, an Australian variety show. The pair dated until Olivia moved to England with big plans for her future.

  1. Eurovision

In 1974, ONJ represented her birthplace of the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest. Wearing a voluminous blue frilly dress (which she purportedly wasn’t a fan of) and singing the jaunty song ‘Long Live Love’ (which she also wasn’t fond of but was chosen by British citizens) she came fourth, with the winner being none other than the little-known Swedish group, ABBA, who performed ‘Waterloo’!

  1. TV career

Apart from her big hit movies, ONJ also had a long and active career in television. She appeared on hit shows like ‘Glee’ (playing herself in two episodes), was a guest judge on ‘American Idol’, ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars’, starred in four made for television movies, was in three episodes of The Man From Snowy River, and hosted and reported on the animal and nature series ‘Wild Life’.

  1. An AFL fan

Growing up in Melbourne from the age of 6, it’s no surprise that ONJ followed footy. She was a supporter of the Carlton Football Club and even performed the Australian national anthem at the 1985 VFL Grand Final, where over 100,000 fans watched Hawthorn trounce Carlton by 42 points. (Hopefully lovely Livvy’s beaming smile helped ease the loss for Carlton supporters!) She once again performed the national anthem at the AFL Grand Final in 2014 when Hawthorn beat the Sydney Swans by 63 points. It seems ONJ was a good luck charm for the Hawks!

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