When Olivia Newton-John first set eyes on John Easterling nearly 30 years ago, it wasn’t love at first sight. It wasn’t that the two didn’t like each other. Olivia and John both shared a love of environmentalism and met at an environmental conference through some mutual friends. After all, Olivia, the Grammy-award-winning singer, and actress who played Sandy in Grease was a passionate advocate for environmental and breast cancer awareness.
John, for his part, was a rainforest conservationist and entrepreneur who was starting his own business selling medicinal botanicals, Amazon Herb Company. At the time of their meeting, Easterling had never even seen Grease. And despite their mutual shared interests, there was no romantic spark.
From Friends to Lovers
Over the next few years, the actress and conservationist kept running into each other at charity events. “The more I got to know her, I thought, oh, she’s a really nice person, she really does care about people and animals and the rainforest,” Easterling said in an interview with Australian Women’s Health.
The fates would bring them together when Easterling visited California for a speaking engagement. Olivia graciously invited him to stay in her guest house. But on the day of his scheduled departure, Easterling got in a car crash on the way to the airport. Having fractured his lower spine, he was forced to remain at Oliva’s home until he recovered.
Soon after, Olivia performed a concert in Florida, where John lived. She invited him, and John was captivated by one of her songs “Pearls on a Chain”. It was during the song — which he called “very healing” — he knew he wanted to bring Olivia to the Amazon to meet local healers. The former Grease star agreed. “I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m taking her to Peru, I’d better watch Grease!” John told Australian Women’s Health. During their travels in Peru, the couple realized, for the first time, that they were in love. Olivia was “59 going on 60” at the time.
“I found the love of my life at 50 going on 60!”
Oliva and John were tied the knot in June 2008, atop a mountain in Peru. After returning to the United States, they had a second ceremony on Jupiter Island in Florida on June 30. Olivia is grateful that she was able to find the love of her life in her second husband. “He’s incredibly smart and compassionate,” she told People Magazine. “He says yes to everything, he says yes to life!”
“I always tell my friends you’re never too old to find love,” she added. “I found the love of my life at 59 going on 60!” For Olivia, the course of true love never did run smooth. She’d divorced her first husband, Matt Lattanzi, after 11 years of marriage. Matt had been very supportive through Olivia’s cancer journey, and the pair had shared a daughter, Chloe Rose Lattanzi. Although they broke up, the ex-wife and ex-husband remain on friendly terms.
A few years before marrying John, Olivia had been dating Patrick McDermott, an American cameraman of Korean descent. After they broke up, Olivia’s former boyfriend mysteriously disappeared during a fishing trip in 2005. A US Coast Guard investigation released in 2008 concluded that he had “most likely” drowned. Some reports claim he faked his death and is currently living in Mexico.
The Family’s Cancer Battle
After her first cancer diagnosis in 1992, Olivia’s cancer returned in 2013 and again in 2017. John, a staunch advocate for plant-based medicine, encouraged her to manage her pain with medical cannabis. “I’d heard a lot from my husband about how [cannabis] could help me,” Olivia said in an interview with Good Housekeeping. “I was a little nervous because I don’t like the feeling of any kind of mind-altering thing … but I started out very slowly, and I adjusted to it, and it’s really helped me greatly.”
In 2015, Olivia opened her own public hospital, the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Olivia is open about using cannabis to treat pain and other health issues and speaks at cannabis conferences to encourage others to consider the herbal remedy as an alternative to traditional painkillers. Every year, Olivia hosts a wellness walk and research run to benefit the ONJ Cancer Centre. She recently conducted an auction to benefit the hospital, selling off her iconic leather jacket and pants from Grease.
Throughout her breast cancer battles and quest to help fellow cancer “thrivers”, her husband John and daughter Chole have been by her side. “It just gets better,” John said when discussing their relationship with Good Housekeeping. “Olivia’s doing astonishingly well. It’s a long trip, and it’s just beautiful.”
This story originally ran on Rare.Us, November 10, 2020 and was re-published following her death.