This weekend: Olivia Newton-John combines her talents with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

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I don't know how she sounds in concert -- I'm sorry to say I've never seen her -- but while I was speaking with Olivia Newton-John on the telephone recently, the voice I heard was the same one I'd heard singing so sweetly on my record player decades ago.

Your crush detector is working perfectly. But, seriously, did you see those album covers? Did you catch her on "The Midnight Special" or in one of her videos?

As a journalist, I feel an obligation to inform the readers of occasions when objectivity and professionalism go completely out the window, reducing me to a stuttering, stammering, starstruck ... ellipsis user.

The interview was arranged through her publicist, promoting her performance Saturday night with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Heinz Hall. I was told that Ms. Newton-John would call me at a precise time and that I would have 10 minutes with her.

She called me 10 minutes earlier than scheduled.

"Hey Dan," she said in a voice that was all Olivia-Newton-Johnny. "I like to catch you unawares, just to throw you off."

She laughs throughout the interview. She's done a million of these over the years, answering the same questions over and over again, and yet she sounds as though she's still having fun.

All in a happy, girlish Australian accent. It's a lilt! An honest-to-God lilt!

I asked her how many times she's been to Pittsburgh.

"Is this a test of my memory?" she laughed again. "I've been touring a long time, so I've kind of lost track. But I know that I've been there for sure."

We talked about her career, recording Grammy-winning hits that broke barriers between genres. We discussed her current tour and performing with a symphony. (For a cold, straight-forward account of the interview, you can read the preview that ran in this morning's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

She said she still enjoys touring, even though her current venture -- which began in September -- "has been a strenuous one."

"But we're on a bus, which I really enjoy because it's like a little home and you don't have to go through airports, which is really exhausting," she said. "We're a little family, my band and crew, and we socialize when we have a day off. And my husband's been able to join us [on some of the stops]. It's been hard, hard work because it's a lot of schlepping around, but we have a good time."

Again she laughed. Neither one of us had said anything particularly funny, but she still laughed.

If it were anyone else, this eternal sunshine, ain't life grand, savor every moment, smell the roses stuff probably would be irritating. But this is Olivia Newton-John, darn it, so it's good and it's good for you.

She is sincere. Look at her charity work. Ms. Newton-John, 64, a breast cancer survivor, has raised $200 million for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia.

"The wellness center has been a work of love for me," she said. "It's been 10 years of fundraising. We finally opened it in June. It was an incredible, moving experience for me after all those years. It was a huge effort. But it's open now and it's benefiting a lot of people."

Her cookbook, "LivWise," promotes healthy eating and benefits the center. She also is an ambassador to the United Nations Environmental Program and has supported the Red Cross, the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Rainforest Alliance.

It seems like a lot, I told her.

"Oh, there are days where I just lay around like a vegetable," she said. "But I like it. I'm used to working hard. And I'm enjoying it."

The interview was supposed to last 10 minutes. I got more than 13.

Tickets to Saturday night's show range in price from $35 to $125. The show starts at 8 p.m.

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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it. Contact Dan Majors at or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to:


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