Olivia Newton-John is in Baltimore this weekend for Pink and Blue for Two, a cancer awareness benefit focusing on early detection for breast and prostate cancer. Tickets were still available as of Blade press time Wednesday. Visit pinkandbluefortwo.com.
Although running a few minutes late on her way back from a hair appointment in Jupiter, Fla., Newton-John apologizes profusely and took time with the Blade this week to talk about cancer, dance mixes of her old hits and rumored missing “Xanadu” outtakes.
BLADE: So tell us about the event.
NEWTON-JOHN: It was founded by my nephew and is designed to raise awareness for both prostate and breast cancer since there are similar statistic rates for both. I found my own lump myself and it’s kind of total common sense, but all women need to be doing their own self-examinations. This will come with a self-exam tool for women that magnifies touch. It was his idea and we thought it was a great fit between what he does and my work so it’s something we’re encouraging couples to do together. I’m coming to co-host it.
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BLADE: You’ve been an advocate for early detection, right?
NEWTON-JOHN: Yes. I like to think of it like this. Which may sound simplistic, but it makes sense to me. If you have a toothache and you catch it early, it’s a filling. If you wait until later, it means a root canal. The earlier you find cancer, before it’s metastasized, the better. Most lumps are non-malignant but it’s better to know and be aware. Some women tend to ignore stuff and sometimes things go away and sometimes they don’t. You need to know your own breasts and what’s normal for you. Breast cancer occurrences have actually increased in young women. Girls should start regular exams at 21. It should really be part of your health regime.
BLADE: What advice would you give to someone who’s just been diagnosed?
NEWTON-JOHN: It’s natural to freak out, but if you sense anything is wrong, go have a mammogram and a biopsy. I knew something was off with mine and luckily I had a surgeon who did a surgical biopsy. You have to trust your instincts. Also have someone you trust, a friend, a sister, your mother, someone who feels safe and close to you, to do all the phone calls for you to all the friends and family who will want to know. You can easily end up spending your whole time on the phone keeping everybody updated but find someone else who’s healthy who can handle that for you.
BLADE: You were hilarious on “Glee.” How was that with Jane Lynch?
NEWTON-JOHN: I love Jane Lynch. We had a wonderful time. It was a blast.
BLADE: You started recording your own songs later in your career. Did you always write or did that come later?
NEWTON-JOHN: I think I always wrote songs but I was surrounded by so many talented people early in my career, like Steve Kipner and John Farrar, who wrote “Physical,” that I felt kind of insecure to write or produce my own songs. We had maybe one on each album. But after I went through my cancer, especially with the album “Gaia,” I started to gain a little more confidence and it started to make sense.
BLADE: Do you enjoy songwriting or is it tedious and trying?
NEWTON-JOHN: No, I love it. I love the process. Songs come out of me all the time. I’d love to write every day if I had the time.
BLADE: Some fans are asking about you doing a dance album. Have there been rumors about that or is that something you may consider?
NEWTON-JOHN: Well this movie I just did, “A Few Best Men,” it will be out next year and John Farrar and I did a dance track for that. Also they’re doing some remixes with my nephew, Brett Goldsmith who’s been writing songs for like 20 years. He’d write a demo, give it to someone else. I said, ‘This sounds so good, why don’t you keep them,’ but he kind of sat on these tracks for years. And I was busy doing other stuff, so we may be releasing some of that soon. The other thing we’re doing is remixes of the old songs, like we just did “Magic.” That was popular so we may do some more.
BLADE: “Xanadu” has become such a cult hit over the years. It’s rumored there’s a tape of three hours of outtake footage but none of it was on the DVD release. Is this an urban legend or do you know of “Xanadu” outtakes?
NEWTON-JOHN: I’ve never heard that. I guess it’s a legend.
BLADE: Why has “Xanadu” become such a favorite? There’s even a “Xanadu” Preservation Society. What is the appeal?
NEWTON-JOHN: I think some of it is Gene Kelly. He was such an iconic dancer in his time. Also I think the music was always popular. And also I think what Kenny Ortega did with the dancing. It was 20 years ahead of its time with the break dancing and so on. I think maybe it just took awhile for everybody else to catch up with it.
BLADE: Is it easier for veteran male artists than female artists?
NEWTON-JOHN: It’s hard for me to say. I think it’s hard for any older artist to get radio play but you kind of go away for a while and come back into fashion. I can only speak from my own experience but I’ve always felt very lucky. And there are lots of women I can think of who manage to stay popular from a certain era. Cher, Streisand, even Annie Lennox and a few others who were big around the same time I started. A number of us are still played.
BLADE: What’s your proudest accomplishment?
NEWTON-JOHN: My daughter.
BLADE: How is Chloe?
NEWTON-JOHN: She’s doing great and getting a lot of, well, sort of a cult following, which she likes. Some of her stuff has been pretty controversial, but she’s drawn attention to problems a lot of young people have. She’s my proudest achievement.