Only Olivia Fan Club

Broward Centre, Ft Lauderdale, FL

Sept 23, 2002

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The Palm Beach Post/Cox
by Kim Folstad
Sept 19 2002

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Blame it on the Spandex pants.

Olivia Newton-John's sexy "Grease " get-up turned her fans to goo in 1978. And her headband and cropped 'do made folks ache to get "Physical " in the 1980s.  So you kind of have to wonder: What image will the Australian superstar come up with as she heads out to tour North America in 2002?

Will she reinvent herself -- ą la Madonna and Cher -- when she performs for her fans at the Broward Center on Monday night? Will she try to vie with a new breed of flesh-flashing singers -- like Britney and Shakira? Nope. Not this time.

"I'm not really competing anymore," Newton-John says and laughs into the cellphone she's using to do interviews from her tour bus. "At my age, I can't be putting on the miniskirts anymore. . . . I kind of find my own way now."

OK, she really could do the sexpot thing if she wanted to. So what if her 54th birthday is only a week away? The pop idol's face and bod appear to have as much elasticity as the shiny stretch pants that made her the hit of Rydell High.  But you knew that, didn't you? After all, Newton-John has always seemed younger than her years -- even when she was playing that fresh-faced virgin-turned-vixen, Sandy, in "Grease."

"I was young," says Newton-John, a tad defensively, when asked how she pulled off playing John Travolta's high-school sweetheart in the movie musical. The truth: She was almost 30 when Grease was released. Travolta was 23.

Even in real life, though, Newton-John always could get the younger guys. In 1984, she married dancer Matt Lattanzi, who was 11 years her junior. They divorced in 1995. Her beau of six years, cameraman Peter McDermott, is eight years younger. "It's the luck of the draw," she says. "I'm not out looking for it."

Newton-John credits her youthfulness to good genetics, walking on the beach and tennis. "I'm not really a gym person anymore," she says (in a statement that will no doubt stagger aerobics fans everywhere). It's been 10 years since Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a simple mastectomy. She has been given a clean bill of health, but along with the environment, cancer remains one of her causes. Her name will soon appear on a new cancer center in Australia.

Newton-John continues to split her time "50-50" between the home she keeps Down Under and her beachfront house in Malibu, Calif. "I love both places," she says. And yet she is excited about the "Heartstrings" tour that will keep her away from both homes for a while.

"I do all my hits; I know that's why they come," she says of her loyal fans. But there will be some new things, too, and a twist: she'll be singing in front of an orchestra.  "It feels very grown-up," Newton-John says. "It gives the song a different feeling."

Newton-John's daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, will join her when she gets to Fort Lauderdale next week. A good bit of Newton-John's time these days is devoted to helping the 16-year-old develop her own singing and acting career. They have appeared in a couple of films together, including a feature made for Showtime, "The ¬Wilde Girls."

"There are good and bad things in being my daughter," Newton-John says of Chloe's decision to go into show business. Certainly, it's an advantage having a four-time Grammy winner at the dinner table who can advise her. But there's also the pressure of being watched as she learns.

So far, everyone is happy with how it's going. And in June, Newton-John and Matt Lattanzi -- who have remained friends since their divorce -- both attended their daughter's opening in "Hair " in Melbourne.  The media there went crazy speculating about whether Chloe would strip down for the musical's famous nude scene. "When asked, she would say, 'Oh . . . maybe.' And I'm saying, 'Really?' " Newton-John recalls. But Chloe never intended to disrobe, she adds. It was all just a very smart publicity move on her daughter's part.

While Chloe is working on her first CD, Newton-John is launching all sorts of new projects. She has recorded a new CD of duets with several fellow Australian artists. (Her music remains "pretty poppy," Newton-John says, whereas Chloe's sound is more "rocky.")

She also has a new line of signature wines under the Koala Blue label. And she plans to attend the "Grease " DVD release party in Los Angeles next week.


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