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Published: Friday, 11/7/2003

Newton-John is a survivor

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It took a while before Olivia Newton-John s parents were convinced that their daughter had made the right career choice.

The Australian singer s father was a headmaster at Ormond College in Melbourne and her grandfather, Max Born, was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and close friend of Albert Einstein.

But at 16, Newton-John dropped out of high school to pursue an entertainment career.

“I think, initially, my parents were disappointed because I come from such an academic background,” Newton-John said in an interview last week from a tour stop in Charlotte, N.C. “Both of them wanted me to finish college, and when I didn t, there was a little worry about that - in the beginning. My mother was always encouraging, but when I began making my own way, they stopped worrying.”

Newton-John has made her way quite well indeed.

The 55-year-old singer, actress, and songwriter has had five No. 1 hits; starred in Grease, the most successful movie musical of all time; earned four Grammy Awards, released 28 albums, was voted into the Australian Music Hall of Fame, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and received an O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth.

Newton-John also has worked to raise funds and awareness for a number of charities, including a benefit concert Sunday night in Toledo to benefit the local Breast Cancer Foundation.

“A lot of the shows that I have been doing have been fund-raisers and it s been quite amazing because I am so associated with helping to fight breast cancer,” she said.

It s especially rewarding, Newton-John said, because she overcame a personal battle with breast cancer in the early 1990s.

“In the very beginning, it was hard to talk about, but now I feel very comfortable with it,” Newton-John said.

She is getting ready to release the “LivKit,” a home self-examination kit to promote early detection of breast cancer, and she has raised enough money to make the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre a reality in her hometown of Melbourne.

The Toledo concert is a rare opportunity for Newton-John s fans, since it is her first extensive U.S. tour in 17 years.

After the tour ends, she plans on taking time off and helping her 17-year-old daughter, Chloe, develop her own singing career.

As for selecting the songs for her current tour, Newton-John said she ll be singing the hits from throughout her 30 years in the business. It s not easy whittling down the selections to a workable number of songs, she said.

“I try to pick the songs that people want to hear but actually, it s difficult to fit them all in,” Newton-John said. “I don t want to sound egotistical. I feel very blessed.”

While she said she expected Grease, in which she co-starred with John Travolta, to be popular, she had no inkling that it would become the most successful movie musical ever made.

“No one would have guessed how amazingly popular it would be,” Newton-John said. “In my audiences today, the Grease fans range from little kids to grandparents.”

Olivia Newton-John will be featured in the Breast Cancer Foundation s 10th Anniversary Pink Ribbon Gala, 6:30 p.m. Sunday in the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. A reception in the Great Hall will follow the concert with food and beverages from area restaurants. Tickets for the Pink Ribbon Gala are $125 with gold circle seating, and tickets for the concert alone are $39, $45, and $70 from the box office, 419-381-8851, and Ticketmaster, 419-474-1333.



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