Thursday, April 7, 2011

Olivia Newton-John in 1978 (Totally Hot Tour)

In 1978, fresh off her iconic turn as Sandy, the goody-goody who becomes hot in 'Grease', with the tight black spandex-clad vision of the blond beauty fresh in people's minds, Olivia Newton-John capitalized on Sandy's transformation with one of her own. She embarked on her Totally Hot Tour to support her album (aptly named 'Totally Hot' of course.)
Before 'Grease', ONJ was essentially a wholesome country singer - albeit an Aussie one - who typified a squeaky clean image. What came after 'Grease' was an exploration of the theme of her own transformation into a sparkling, shining vixen. This period of ONJ's career could have been called 'Totally Pink'... because she wore a lot of it. (In these tour photos, her outfit looks lavender - but it was actually very pink.) She still maintained her clean image, whatever she did and wore. Because despite any effort to play up a sexy image, who she is within shines through and takes that to another level of a more goddess-like appeal. Not many people can rock pink spandex with a sparkly pink top and look like an exquisite Barbie doll (in the most authentic sense.) Of course, many have tried and failed. 

As a side, and jumping forward a few years to her heyday in the 80's, my first recollection of seeing Olivia Newton-John was when she performed her song 'Make A Move On Me' on a Solid Gold. That image of her bounding around the stage with her high-watt smile in a pirate outfit (her pirate stint was short-lived, but memorable) recalls for me the first moment in my childhood when I thought, 'That's something I might want to do...!' This appearance found itself an indelible place within my psyche and I never forgot it. Incredibly, someone uploaded that performance on YouTube, so here it is...
I did perform quite a lot in my youth, on stage in some instances. And as an adult, it turned out I could sing in a 'pure soprano' according to a seasoned Broadway coach who insisted on hearing me do scales (I was inadvertently watching his class.) I can sing any of her songs on key and even auditioned to play Sandy once in New York... and made it through a couple of rounds. Although being a performer was not what I wanted to pursue, a (brunette) ONJ is the closest thing to what I might have become, had I chosen to make it my life's work and was touched by some level of fate to do so. Despite any number of differences, our birthdays happen to be very close and we have similar dispositions. 
So when I watch an ONJ performance circa 1978, I marvel at what it might have been like to be her - at that specific point in time, just before she 'peaked' - while being acutely aware there's never been anyone quite like her since.

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