Olivia Newton-John State Memorial
On Sunday February 26, 2023 the world remembered the beautiful Olivia Newton-John. Olivia passed away on August 8, 2022 and her family was offered a State Memorial by the government of the State of Victoria in Australia, the country she grew up in. Her family was thrilled to accept the offer and worked closely with the government to organize a moving tribute to Australia’s (or better: the world’s) sweetheart
Although it was being live-streamed for a large audience the memorial was intimate, sincere and joyful. It was a celebration of her life, with a laugh and a tear.
Order of Service for the Sate Memorial
The first speaker at the memorial service which started at 4 pm was Olivia’s husband of fifteen years ‘Amazon’ John Easterling. John talked about the special love they felt for each other. He confessed he had never seen Grease before they met, which of course can be considered an extreme rarity since more than half the world population will probably have seen the movie since it was first released in 1978.
When he attended his first concert of Olivia he immediately felt the healing effect she had on her audience. He said: ‘And there was healing in the audience, people around me were crying. I got it. It hit me like a laser beam in the chest that Olivia was a healer and this is one of her mediums of healing.’
He joyfully described how he had proposed to Olivia, or rather how she had proposed to him: ‘We ended up in Scottsdale on Valentine’s Day and I started a charade at dinner and the secret phrase was, “Will you marry me”. And she got “will” and she got “you” and I said rhymes with hairy. Then out of nowhere, she just said, “Will you marry me?” And I said “yes”. And he concluded this lovely memory with: ‘She looked stunned for a minute and then started laughing and said, “You ratbag.” That is the story of how Olivia proposed to me.’
His emotional speech was filled with tears and laughter. He said that despite all the honours and accolades she had received from all over the world: ‘… what made her most happy was being at the ranch, being with the horses, being with the chickens and the dogs and the cat, or sitting in the courtyard just listening to bird songs.’
Love and light
He continued by saying: ‘I carry and feel Olivia’s presence, her sense of humour and spirit of adventure, the commonality of purpose we shared, and that gives me the strength to carry on until I find her again in that ultimate space of love and light. And: ‘At Olivia’s deepest essence, she was a healer, using her mediums of song, the words of touch. She was the most courageous woman I’ve ever met.’
Olivia’s only daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, held a highly emotional speech fighting her tears, saying she felt like ‘a little girl lost without her mother’. She said: ‘She was my safe space, my guide, my biggest fan and the earth beneath my feet. I know she is here standing beside me and within me. I can hear her voice.’ She continued: ‘I loved our snuggles. I would crawl into bed with her late at night even until I was 20 years old. I loved the way she smelled. Nothing felt safer to me. I loved writing music and singing with her and how she would always notice if I was slightly off key.’
And then: ‘I loved how she loved fully and completely. And I know that she would want me to tell each and every one of you how grateful she was for each individual special relationship.’
Tottie Goldsmith, Olivia’s niece and daughter of Olivia’s late sister Rona spoke on behalf of the Australian part of the Newton-John family. She described how Olivia was the one who kept the family together, with family members spread all over the world. She shared a funny story about Olivia’s bad sense of direction (north, south, east, west) and how they got lost driving in a straight line from LA to Las Vegas, and were pulled over for speeding – with Olivia behind the wheel.
Debbie Shiell (ONJCWRC)
Debbie Shiell, Director of Fundraising at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre rightly said that this may be the ‘end of an era, but it is the beginning of a legacy’. And that Olivia was a pioneer and a visionary when she was asked more than twenty years ago to lend her name to a hospital. Debbie perfectly described what she had meant for the hospital and what the hospital and the patients had meant to her.
Friends from the industry
During the memorial a video with tributes by some of her famous friends was shown. We saw them reflecting on her career, her philanthropy and what it was like having her as a friend. There were messages from Cliff Richard, Elton John, Barry Gibb, Dolly Parton, Pink, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Richard Marx, Keith Urban, Tina Arena, RuPaul and Mariah Carey.
These were some of the words that were spoken by Olivia’s best mates in the industry.
Dolly: ‘The world lost one of its greatest talents when Olivia left us. I know it’s especially painful for all the folks there in Australia since she is one of your own. As a country you should be very proud and know that the whole world mourns with you.’
Elton: ‘She was such a wonderful force of nature but she was funny, she was kind, she was warm and she was talented and every time we got together we laughed and laughed and laughed.
Throughout her career I watched her grow and grow and grow to be the artist she became. I was able to participate in television shows and go to the Grease party in New York City at Studio 54, which was a hoot and we always had the best time.’
He continued: ‘The ONJ Centre in Melbourne is a testament to what she did for so many millions of people. She fought her disease with the most incredible courage and a bravery which stays with me forever.’
Close friend Cliff: ‘We kept in touch over the years a lot. In fact, just about three or four weeks before she passed on I called her – and of course every time I ever phoned her she would say, “G’day Cliff, how are you darling”.’
And: ‘People would say, “How is she?” We knew she was battling with cancer. I said, “I don’t know, she sounds the same good old gorgeous Olivia.” I thought, of course, having fought the cancer for 30 odd years she would be around for another 30, still battling and still strong.
I’m afraid it was a terrible loss not just for me but for all of us.’
Delta Goodrem was the closing act with a heartfelt performance of a medley of Olivia’s songs. Delta and Olivia became good friends some twenty years ago when Delta too was diagnosed with cancer and Olivia was able to help her on her cancer journey. Lots of tears were flowing when she sang a special arrangement of Magic, Physical, Xanadu, You’re The One That I Want, Let Me Be There and Hopelessly Devoted. She ended her medley with I Honestly Love You, the song Olivia sang as the closure of each of her concerts to thank her audience. There was literally not a dry eye in the house after she had finished her beautiful rendition. A fitting tribute indeed.
You can watch the full broadcast of the memorial service here