What was the genesis of this fundraiser?
OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN: Well, I’ve been an advocate for breast cancer screening, and it was actually my nephew, Emerson Newton-John, who came up with the idea of putting together an event to raise awareness of that and prostate cancer screening. Because the numbers are almost identical [for both diseases], it’s just that men don’t talk about it so often.
Are you doing this all over the country?
OJN: No, just in Baltimore, because of the car race. My nephew has a great interest in car racing, so this seemed like a perfect time and place to do it.
Is your nephew actually racing?
OJN: He isn’t this time, but maybe he will be next year.
You were diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, right?
OJN: Right. So it’ll be 20 years next year.
Before you were diagnosed, how knowledgeable were you about the disease?
OJN: Well, I knew enough to examine myself, because I had had a history of having lumps before. And I was lucky that I did examine myself, because I found my lump early, which is really important.
You actually found your cancer yourself?
OJN: I did! And then I went to have a mammogram, and interestingly enough, it didn’t show up on the mammogram. That’s why I always say to women that you have to be responsible for your own breast health and do regular self-exams, because sometimes [the doctors] catch it before you do, but often, if you are aware of your own body, you’ll find it first.
Finding that lump must have been terrifying.
OJN: Not really, because knowledge is power. So if you have the knowledge early and you can get [treatment] early, it’s less likely to be life-threatening. Truthfully, the earlier you find it, the better your chances are.
So you had a lumpectomy?
OJN: I had a partial radical mastectomy, actually, because they were concerned. Now, they would probably do a lumpectomy, but that’s what they did 20 years ago. And I also had chemotherapy for about nine months. The good thing about that is now, I understand what it’s about, so when I’m building my Cancer and Wellness Center, I’m aware of the need for support emotionally as well as physically.
Have you come across any studies that have demonstrated that gay men and lesbians are more or less likely than the general population to screen themselves for prostate or breast cancer?
OJN: You know, I don’t know about that, but I have a feeling it’s something that needs to be encouraged more in the gay community, particularly with women.
Why do you suppose that is?
OJN: I really don’t know. But of course the bottom line is that all women need to be aware, and all men need to be aware as well, so I want to encourage all of your readers to get themselves screened. It’s jus common sense.
Between Grease and Xanadu and the “Physical” video, you’ve always been a bit of a gay icon. I suppose you’ve heard that before?
OJN: (Laughs) Yes.
Did you purposely seek out projects that had a gay sensibility?
OJN: I don’t think that was something that I sought out, it’s just that gays have always been a part of my life – in my audiences, in my career, in the people I’ve worked with. And over the years, the gay community has been very strong and loyal supporters of me.
In addition to the event, fans can purchase a dance remix of “Magic,” from Xanadu, to benefit your cancer center.
OJN: That’s right.
What do you make of the Xanadu revisionism–people seem to love it now, but when it first came out, I don’t think that was the case.
OJN: (Laughs) No, I don’t think that was the case when it first came out! I think it probably has to do with the music. The movie itself didn’t do that well, but the music was successful, and then they turned it into a Broadway musical, which kind of took it to another level.
It must have felt like you had come full circle last year on Glee, when you sang “Physical” with Jane Lynch.
OJN: It did. It was such a blast to see the [“Physical”] video set reproduced like that. And to still be performing and doing all these other things so many years later, I just feel really grateful. I’m very lucky.
DETAILS: Pink & Blue for Two Friday, Sept 2, 6:30pm. $45-500. Rams Head Live, 20 Market Pl. 410.244.1131 PinkAndBlueForTwo.com