As It Happens

Olivia Newton-John on her cancer diagnosis, cannabis and selling that iconic Grease outfit

Olivia Newton-John, 70, is putting her outfit from Grease, along with 200 other items from her long career and personal life, under the hammer at Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles in November.

Over 200 items from Olivia Newton John's closet will be up for auction in November

Olivia Newton-John spoke to As It Happens about her life, her career, and why she's auctioning off her iconic outfits for charity. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Image)


This interview was originally published on Aug. 1, 2019. Olivia Newton-John died on Aug. 8, 2022.

Up until about 15 years ago, Olivia Newton-John was still touring in her iconic, black , skin-tight pants and leather jacket from Grease. 

"My publicist said, 'I can't believe you got this out on the road with you. I think you should preserve them,'" the actress and singer told As It Happens guest host Rosemary Barton. 

"And I hadn't really thought about it. I didn't believe that Grease would still be coveted after 40 years. I mean, it was just unbelievable."

But four decades since Sandy told Danny to "tell me about it, stud," the outfit from that scene could fetch an estimated $300,000 Cdn. 

Newton-John, 70, is putting her outfit from the 1978 movie musical, along with 200 other items from her long career and personal life, under the hammer at Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles in November, with proceeds going to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre.

"It has a purpose and people are going to enjoy it," Newton-John said. "I'll have a wonderful photo and it won't be sitting in a closet. So it all makes sense to me."

Olivia Newton-John's iconic leather outfit from grease is going on the auction block. (Paramount Pictures, Julien's Auctions)

Along with the outfit from the You're The One That I Want scene, the British-Australian actress will be auctioning off her original Grease script and a pink lace gown she wore to the L.A. premiere. 

And although it didn't quite make the cut in the movie, a "pink ladies" jacket that was presented to her by the cast and crew will be on the auction block.

Sandy may not have made it into the pink ladies' crew with Rizzo, Jan and Marty, but a jacket gifted to Newton-John by the cast and crew will be up for auction. (Paramount Pictures)

Two outfits from her hit song Physical — a velvet and gold lamé top and shorts, and the custom made silk satin bodice from the cover of the 1982 tour book — will also be for sale, as well as costumes from the 1980 film Xanadu. 

"It's been actually a wonderful, wonderful adventure going through all my past," she said.

"I mean, I have clothes in the auction that I wore in Vegas, like, in the '70s which I can't believe we kept." 

Cancer and cannabis 

A majority of the proceeds from the auction will be going to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia, which is where she grew up.

It has an emphasis on treatment for the mind and spirit, as well as the body, which was important for Newton-John — especially now that she's been diagnosed with cancer for the third time, and has become a patient in her own centre. 

She is still receiving treatment for cancer and recovering from a cancer-related broken sacrum. But in March, the singer was forced to release a video refuting reports that she was on death's door

"It was getting out of control," Newton-John said. "It nipped it in the bud. Just direct and truthful." 

A custom made bodice from the cover of the 1982 Physical tour programme and a velvet and gold lamé top and shorts that Newton-John wore to promote the tour. (Julien's Auctions)

She's also turned to medicinal cannabis, grown by her husband, to better her quality of life after going on morphine to deal with pain. 

"I was not going to become hooked and I was not going to remain on it," she said about the morphine. 

"So I started using cannabis to help with the pain, and I want everyone to know that I weaned myself off morphine with cannabis and it can be done and it's safe and you're not going to die from it." 

Newton-John and John Travolta dance on the red carpet as they arrive for the 40th anniversary celebration of the movie Grease. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite dealing with cancer and the press, the Grammy award-winning singer is staying positive. 

"I'm just grateful to be alive. I mean, every day is a gift for all of us and none of us know what our life is going to be or when it's going to end," she said. 

"I've had an incredible life and I intend to keep on living for a long time." 

Going through her closet, she said, was like going down memory lane.

The process brought up all sorts thoughts from her past, she said — like how she almost didn't take the part of Sandy in Grease because she was worried about her career, which she wrote about in her 2018 book Don't Stop Believin'.   

"I was a reluctant Sandy," she said. "Then they sent [John Travolta] to meet me and, you know, how can you resist those blue eyes coming up your driveway?" 

While she doesn't have any qualms about parting with her many iconic outfits, there was one thing she had to do before giving up those skin-tight pants. 

"I tried them on, just for a giggle, and I wasn't going to tell anyone unless I could get them on one leg," she said. 

"And I could. Luckily, the zipper is broken so I wasn't able to really test the form of them — but let's just say my legs got in there." 

Written by Sarah Jackson. Produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes.