The Italo-American actor, singer, dancer and commercially-licensed airline pilot appeared in Q&A’s for live audiences in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
Along with other adoring fans, I was lucky enough to catch him at The Star in Sydney, as well as meet him in person!
Travolta, who is famous for playing a slew of Italo-American characters, including Vinny Barbarino in the television series Welcome Back Kotter, went on to etch a place in cinematic history as Tony Monero in the cultural phenomenon Saturday Night Fever, Danny Zuko in the musical Grease and later as Vincent Vega in the Quentin Tarantino masterpiece, Pulp Fiction.
The evening, which was hosted by television personality Melissa Doyle, started with a spine-tingling mash-up of ACDC’s Back in Black and The Bee Gees hit Stayin’ Alive booming over the sound system.
The big screens then played homage to Travolta’s filmography with clips set to the Frank Stallone hit Far From Over from the film Staying Alive.
Then out came Travolta with all the charm and charisma that you would expect from this perennially content Hollywood giant.
Prompted by Doyle, he answered questions and related to photographs, both professional and personal from his childhood in New Jersey, where he grew up to become the star of Pulp Fiction.
Travolta spoke about life as one of six children, where his eldest sister Elena was the boss and how much he emulated her and her “accomplished” acting performances alongside Ethel Merman and other established Hollywood royalty.
Travolta’s mother was a star of theatre and his father Salvatore (or Sam as he was known) was an elite athlete who wasn’t keen on seeing his son take on a role in the Arts.
Travolta excitedly recalled doing a deal with his father, which involved leaving high school to try acting for one year, with the condition that if it didn’t work out he would go back to school.
Of course, Travolta rose to superstardom as the “boss” of the Sweathogs in television series Welcome Back Kotter and as he said, “the rest is history”.
He gloated as he rolled on the back of his chair.
Travolta’s Italian connection is undeniable.
He was speechless and spellbound as he tried to describe his favourite film Federico Fellini’s La Strada and his favourite song to sing privately, Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon.
At the culmination of the evening, Travolta was asked how he would like to be remembered.
He struggled with the question, however, my thoughts went straight to what he has accomplished for the Italian community in his body of work.
His legacy for Italian immigrant generations the world over, was to hold a mirror up to our lives and to our community, as we strove to build lives for ourselves and our families.
Now we look to future generations and wonder “where do you go when the record is over?”
He wants to be remembered as someone who did good things and made a lot of people happy.
He likes how his films will live on as an enduring artefact for people to enjoy for decades to come.