Friday Love Letters: Dear Olivia Newton-John

Posted on July 22, 2011


Dear Olivia Newton-John,

Do any of your friends and family call you ONJ?  I do.  When you talk about someone so much, it becomes laborious to say the entire name Olivia Newton-John.  Like when my wife and I were enjoying a date night last week, and I was thinking of you, and said to my wife, “Did you know ONJ was born in England even though everybody thinks of her as Australian because she moved there when she was four before returning to England in her teens?”  When I say “ONJ”, my wife doesn’t have to ask who I’m talking about.  As a matter of fact, when I talk about ONJ she rarely even replies and sometimes even leaves the room–I assume she needs a quiet place to contemplate the interesting thing I just told her about you.

As a kid, I enjoyed the movies, Grease and Xanadu, and my family listened to all your records, but my like turned to love only after I discovered your record, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, could be opened to reveal this picture:

I spent hours staring at this album while listening to “You’re the One That I Want”.  Since I was only six, there was nothing sexual when I looked at the picture, but I remember fantasizing about you being in trouble and needing me to rescue you for some reason.  This is where the fantasies always stopped because I was only six and not competent enough to actually be any help in an emergency.  If your house was on fire, I would ask to use your phone to call 911, but you would tell me the phone was on fire–this is where my rescue ideas would end.  Sometimes you would ask me for directions, but at that age I only knew how to walk to school and back.  You never seemed to need directions to my elementary school.

Olivia, if we met in person, the first thing I would do is assure you Xanadu was a wonderfully bad film.  I’m not a violent person, but if Gandhi said Xanadu was the worst movie of all-time, I would punch him right in the mouth.  I know you were in on the joke and realized it would be the good-kind-of-terrible at the time you accepted the role of Kira, the roller-skating muse daughter of Zeus, and anticipated the movie achieving cult status decades later.  I’ve watched Xanadu twenty times, but I still get chills when Gene Kelly rollerskates in the round, leading a pack of skating dancers.  I get chills because I know each time around Gene Kelly will clap his hands and shout, “Hoh!” and at each “Hoh!” the scene divides into two screens, and then three screens, and then the Xanadu theme song starts, and I know you’re about to come up the stairs for your big entrance and sing the nonsensical lyrics:

A place where nobody dared to go
The love that we came to know
They call it Xanadu
(It takes your breath and it’ll leave you blind)

Even though I’ve seen Xanadu twenty times, I’ve watched this scene a hundred, and I make other people watch it as a test of friendship.  If they react with anything less than gushing praise, they will find I’ve transformed from friend to bitter enemy.

If I could build a time machine, I wouldn’t go back to invest in Apple, and I wouldn’t do anything altruistic like stopping an assassination or lending a young Vin Diesel money to attend culinary school.  But I would go back to 1983 and bring you a DVD of Two of a Kind, the film that effectively ended your chances at a movie career.  One viewing would convince you to reject the script, and you would thank me for rescuing your movie career and fall in love with me.  I would then use the DVD to help patent DVD technology a decade early and make enough money for us to start a detective agency (another fantasy from when I was six).

When my wife and I became pregnant for the first time, I suggested the name Olivia for a girl.  This was the one name we instantly agreed upon, although for some reason she never connected the name to my love of you, ONJ.  We had a son but she had soured on the name, Olivia, by the time we were pregnant for a second time after she realized my anticipated full name for our future daughter: Olivia Newton-Johnson.

ONJ dressed for the Xanadu finale number.

Posted in: Love Letters