Those in attendance at Saturday’s IPL 500 Festival Parade might experience Rydell High School flashbacks when grand marshal Olivia Newton-John makes her appearance on the parade route. “I’m going to need two flags to wave, and a ’50’s outfit, right?” jokes the pop legend best known—perhaps indelibly—for her role opposite John Travolta in 1978’s blockbuster musical Grease. “It’s been 35 years, and that movie is still popular,” Newton-John remarked in a telephone interview earlier this week. “People love it. I don’t know why, but I think it’s got a great energy in it. It’s fun, and the music is timeless.”
The 63-year-old Australian singer/actress/activist has certainly moved on. (Even if we haven’t.) Between amassing Grammys and Top Ten Billboard hits, launching several product lines, co-owning a spa in Australia, and surviving breast cancer in 1992, she found time to write a recipe book, Livwise: Easy Recipes for a Healthy, Happy Life, with all of her royalties from the book going toward The Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne. “A lot of the recipes are from my spa, Gaia Retreat & Spa, in Australia,” she points out. And though the theme of the recipes–simple, healthy cooking–does not immediately bring to mind the typical Memorial Day indulgence, she points to a few dishes that would travel well inside a 14-by-14 inch cooler to the Grandstands. “We have smoothies and wonderful drinks. The lemon chicken would be lovely, and we have some wonderful salads. I’m sure there’s tons of stuff you could take to the track.”
This is not Newton-John’s first visit to Indianapolis. “I’ve been there quite a few times, actually. I took my nephew, Emerson, there many years ago.” (That would be Emerson Newton-John, a racecar driver who makes his debut in today’s Firestone Indy Lights Freedom race, for which his aunt will wave the green flag.) “I like Indianapolis. I’ve done shows there as well.”
Newton-John also has a movie project in the works, a comedy called A Few Best Men, about a groom and his three best men who travel to the Australian outback for a wedding. (One online review described it as an Australian version of The Hangover.) “It’s a very raucous, funny comedy that is coming out sometime this year,” Newton-John explains. “It did really well in Australia, and it’s opening in England in August. I play the mother of the bride, kind of gone wrong.”
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Track photo by John Cote, courtesy IMS; Newton-John portrait via Facebook.