Ron Matthew Inawat is president of the GoPride Network and contributes to ChicagoPride.com, PrideLA.com and other sites within the GoPride Network.
This weekend, international superstar Olivia Newton-John takes to stage at Northalsted Street Market Days, one of Chicago's hottest and largest summer street festivals.
Newton-John is a four-time Grammy winner and has been a sound and screen idol over the last four decades. Best known for her singing and acting roles in Grease and Xanadu, in addition to recent appearances on "Glee" and "Sordid Lives," she has had an illustrious career on the pop and country vocal scene with chart-topping songs like "Physical," "I Honestly Love You," and "Have You Never Been Mellow."
Earlier this year, Newton-John, who has been a long-time friend to the LGBT community, publically declared her support of marriage equality in Australia.
Before arriving in Chicago, Newton-John took a moment to chat about Market Days, working with Jane Lynch on "Glee", the newly opened Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre, her favorite co-star, her proudest moments and her gay and lesbian fans.
RI: Olivia, we are so so excited for your return to Chicago and for your performance this weekend!
ONJ: I am really excited about coming to Chicago and to perform for the first time at Market Days - I hear that it is a real blast!
RI: It's a truly amazing experience you'll never forget! Speaking of which, do you have a favorite memory of performing in the Windy City?
ONJ: I have so many wonderful memories about Chicago that to pick just one is difficult. I can say that they are some of the best audiences - so loving and kind!
RI: You were so caring in It's My Party, inspirational and fun in Xanadu, and super sweet to devilishly sexy in Grease. With so many memorable movie roles, which is your favorite?
ONJ: Every role has been fun and of course playing Sandy changed my life so, that role will always be special.
However, I recently did a film called "A Few Best Men" where I played a very fun character. She is the wife of a politician who, let's just say during the course of the film, goes from "very together" to "off the deep end." It's a crazy farce directed by Stephan Elliott ("Priscilla Queen of the Desert") and written by Dean Craig ("Death at a Funeral") so, you can imagine how crazy the film is!
It's a wedding film with a tremendously talented cast including Xavier Samuel, Kris Marshall and Rebel Wilson. Rebel plays my daughter and if you don't know her, you will soon enough!
RI: And who's your favorite co-star to date?
ONJ: Oh that's a tough question because I have had so many great co-stars. But, I guess I have to say John Travolta because we have such a history together and we did two films together. Though, dancing with Gene Kelly in "Xanadu" was pretty amazing and, I learned so much from Rue McLanahan during the filming of "Sordid Lives: The Series," which aired on Logo.
RI: Whether it's music, or in movies or television, is there an entertainer you would love to work with but have not yet had the opportunity?
ONJ: For sure it would be Tony Bennett. I just love everything about him.
RI: We hope you get the chance to work with him! Tony, are you reading this?
Well, very few entertainers have had a long and illustrious career as you...
ONJ: Oh thank you.
RI: What are you most proud of personally and professionally?
ONJ: This year marks my 40th year in music so, I am just grateful that people still turn up at my shows (laughs)!
Personally my proudest moment is, of course, the birth of my daughter Chloe.
Professionally I have had so many but, probably Grease as it seems to find a new audience every year. I love seeing grandmothers and their granddaughters at my live shows who have all connected to that film in some way!
RI: Yes, and just recently you cameoed on "Glee" which featured your acting and singing. Now, which of the two is your greater passion? And how was it working with Jane Lynch and recreating "Physical?"
ONJ: I love acting but, singing is my pure joy.
Working with Jane was so much fun - I had no idea she was a big fan of mine until she told me she named her dog after me - which I thought was very sweet. She is one of the most talented and funny actresses I know!
As for recreating Physical, It was a bit spooky when I walked on to the set at Paramount to film that scene because it was exactly like the set from the music video back in the 80s. A total flashback!
RI: In the past few months, you began your book tour that benefits the recently opened Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre to support a cause that's been very close to you. Can you tell us a little bit about the Centre and how important it was for you to see this vision come to life?
ONJ: I have to say seeing the sign on the building at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre for the first time will always be the greatest billboard I have ever had. After nearly 10 years of fundraising and building the first phase of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre opened on June 22nd!
The Centre will deliver a comprehensive range of cancer services, all under one roof. It will include purpose built facilities for cancer treatment, education, training and deliver international research programs of all types of cancers. A dedicated Wellness Centre will provide complimentary therapies that will work alongside the latest medical treatment - to help heal the whole person - body, mind and spirit. I am so proud of everyone who helped me make it a reality!
I am also very excited that my cookbook, "LivWise: Easy Recipes for a Healthy, Happy Life" is not only raising funds for the hospital with every book sold - but, it is also helping people change they way they eat to live a healthier life.
That makes me very happy!
RI: You've been an amazing inspiration and have made a difference in the lives of so many people battling cancer since you shared your own personal story and overcame your own battle with breast cancer.
And you've picked up the flag for many other causes and charities... Just earlier this year, you spoke in favor of marriage equality in Australia. How close is the issue to your own life, friends and family?
ONJ: To me love is love. It shouldn't matter. I have so many close friends and family who are gay I don't even think about it.
I just want everyone to have the chance to love who they want to and it just shouldn't matter. Some of the closest people in my life are gay and I have to say, have had longer committed relationships than many of my straight friends - including my beautiful sister Sarah and her partner.
RI: As an advocate for the LGBT community, what advice would you give to a young person who is experiencing bullying in their life?
ONJ: I would say be proud of who you are and find support from friends and family who love you and to not give in to it. We are so much stronger than we think we are!
RI: Being so beloved in the LGBT community, do you remember when you first realized you were a gay icon?
ONJ: I really don't know but, I do know that the LGBT community has always been a part of my life and has been incredibly loving and supportive through the years. Some of the most fun I have had on stage has been at LGBT events from Mardi Gras in Sydney to Los Angeles Gay Pride.
I am really looking forward to the audience at Market Days!
RI: We're all excited for next weekend. There will definitely be some "summer lovin'" from the crowd! Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. See you onstage this weekend!
Olivia Newton-John performs Sunday night, August 12 on the north stage at the Northalsted Market Days festival. The event spans six city blocks and features three music stages with more than 40 musical acts performing, including The Pointer Sisters, Adam Barta, Sheena Easton and Matt Zarley.