By Alex P. Vidal
“A million lights are dancing and there you are, a shooting star
An everlasting world and you’re here with me, eternally.”—Olivia Newton-John in her song, Xanadu
SOMETIME in 2005 in Iloilo City, Philippines, then 12-year-old Sharmane and I sent by air mail our photo together holding a VCD of the blockbuster 1977 musical film, Grease, to Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) in her Hollywood, California address.
We wrote a brief note in the back.
We had been watching the film together like crazy multiple times—morning, noon, and night time.
Like Snow White caterwauling when she saw her favorite dimwitted Dopey dwarf, Sharmane would scream on top of her voice each time she saw Sandy Olsson gyrate in the film together with Danny Zuko (John Travolta), a matinee idol and dance virtuoso nonpareil.
While Sharmane was enamored with Sandy’s film, I was hooked on her love songs (I Honestly Love You, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Sam, Suspended In Time, Xanadu).
“Will she be able to receive it?” Sharmane asked with raised eyebrows and tight lips, casting some veneer of doubts to our project.
“Of course, yes. Look, we have here her complete mailing address,” I boasted with holistic confidence.
“After receiving it, will she answer us?” dyed-in-the-wool Sharmane inquired anew, this time in a firm face and wary eyes.
“Yes, of course. Our note was unique; I’m sure she would be able to spot the difference compared to the hundreds of letters from the fans she regularly receives from all over the world,” I boldly assured her, avoiding a direct contact with her pair of skeptical eyes.
“Basta ha. I will wait (for Sandy’s answer),” Sharmane vowed.
Weeks of wait turned into months. And even years.
But back before 2006 came, just when I thought Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) had forgotten waiting for Godot, Sharmane dug something down the memory lane.
“It’s been a long time. The photo we sent probably didn’t reach Sandy. Or, if she received it, she must have thought we weren’t that important to warrant a reply,” she theorized, her voice cluttered in sordid incredulity.
“Or she received it but was only too busy to reply; and if she forgets today, she will probably remember (to reply) later. Let’s not lose hopes,” I assured the now getting cynical young lady.
When I visited Hollywood in 2008, I was tempted to play tricks on Sharmane by telling her, “I will visit Sandy personally and if I have a chance to cone face to face with her, I will ask why she didn’t reply to our communication.”
Sharmane, now 15 and wiser, didn’t take my antics seriously.
Without saying a word, she smirked like Jane who found Tarzan too enfeebled mentally to introduce himself while uttering T-A-R-Z-A-N.
If the slim prospect of it-might-still-be-possible-to-get-a-reply anytime didn’t anymore titillate Sharmane, it’s her virtual resignation to the growing odds that have stacked after years of grappling with the elements of surprise. And her adolescence has upped her ante on contemporary Hollywood stars like Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Jessica Alba, to name only a few.
Of course, I traveled to Hollywood several times without even trying to find out Sandy’s whereabouts.
Years have passed—I mean, long years. Sharmane, now a Registered Nurse, no longer fancy herself into believing Sandy will eventually take time to give the ill-fated photo we sent years ago an iota of chance to be even “shortlisted” for a reply.
It’s been buried in the past, we both have accepted it; but the nostalgia and thrill—the immorality of Grease and her lovely and unforgettable songs—are still imbedded in our memory.
As a matter of fact, Sharmane still kept a copy of that VCD until now, while I secured the album containing Sandy’s nerve-tingling songs and play it from time to time.
Sandy or Olivia Newton-John, English-born and grew up in Australia, sang some of the biggest hits of the 1970s and ’80s while recasting her image as the virginal girl next door into a spandex-clad vixen—a transformation reflected in miniature by her starring role in Grease, one of the most popular movie musicals of its era.
She died on August 8, 2022 at her ranch in Southern California. She was 73.
Sandy’s real-life husband, John Easterling, announced her death. She had lived with a breast cancer diagnosis since 1992 and in 2017 announced that the cancer had returned and spread.
According to The New York Times, she was a prominent advocate for cancer research, starting a foundation in her name to support it and opening a research and wellness center in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia for years.
Rest in peace, Sandy. We are hopelessly devoted and honestly love you.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)