Only Olivia Fan Club

Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, FL

Sept 23, 2002

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St Petersburg Times
By Steve Persall
Sept 19 2002


Two hours after a telephone chat with Olivia Newton-John, she called back to inform me that she now has two signature wines on the market.  They can't possibly age nearly as well as their namesake.  Newton-John will perform locally Saturday, five days shy of her 54th birthday. She stills looks capable of squeezing into Sandy Olsen's Grease   leathers. And the voice still sounds 23, her age when she burst onto the scene in 1971 with an eponymous album. Beating cancer, raising a family and dodging movie or music critics kept her strong. Environmental issues keep her busy.

Through it all, Newton-John's fans have remained hopelessly devoted to her.

"I've been really lucky that I've sustained a career this long," she said. "A lot of people have kicked it in by now. I don't know how much longer I'll be (touring), either. Every year I think it will be the last time. It's not going to be forever, that's for sure."

Thirty-one years after Newton-John first sang Let Me Be There, she won't be much longer.

Oh, she'll still do the occasional private engagement for fat cats on a nostalgia trip, or a fundraiser for a $50-million Melbourne, Australia, cancer unit bearing her name a decade after her bout with breast cancer. Then, like now, she'll graciously accommodate requests for old favorites, even with a new album of duets due in November. The Grease sequence will still knock 'em dead, Have You Never Been Mellow will charm and the singer will still get Physical.

Newton-John figures she owes that much to fans after all these years.  "When I was young I remember going to see some of my favorite artists, and they didn't do their big hits," she said. "And I remember thinking: If I'm ever lucky enough to make it, I'm always going to do my hits because that's what got us here in the first place. I still enjoy those familiar songs, and I feel the enjoyment they give the audience. That's what it's all about."

Sometimes, Newton-John even can use a little audience assist to remember the lyrics.

"Oh, yeah, absolutely," she said, laughing. "I was doing a private show in Australia (last month) and I hadn't done a show in a long time, since last September, really. I sang it at rehearsal and I've sung this song a thousand times and in the middle it just went blank.  "I looked at the audience and sang: 'I have forgotten the words.' They just sang them back to me and I was fine."

Which song did she forget? "I'm not going to tell you," she said, "because I might jinx myself and do it again."

Forgotten lyrics are one reason Newton-John didn't enjoy touring in earlier days. Too much time away from home and grueling rehearsals made it "nerve-wracking" during the gravy days of top-10 hits.

"I've quite gotten to like it lately," she said. "I actually had really interesting times the last few times I've gone out. So it's come to be my yearly thing. I cram it all into one month so it isn't much time out of my year. Being away from home is always the hardest thing, but my daughter is now a teenager so she can either come with me or she's okay to be at home with friends.

"My nerves are now better. I've been around so long that I've gotten used to it, feeling much more comfortable on stage."

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