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John Travolta - Idol Chatter
John Travolta - Idol Chatter

SO, YOU CLEVER BOY, WITH A LOVE SONG FOR BOBBY LONG YOU’RE PLAYING A SOUTHERN PROFESSOR TURNED ALCOHOLIC BUMJUST THE KIND OF THING THAT GETS A GUY AN OSCAR NOMINATION…
That would be nice. (sighs) You know, the couple of times I was nominated I had these very personal experiences like Paul Newman whispering in my ear during the Pulp Fiction Oscar night that he wanted me to win—and he was up against me. I felt like the Old Guard was wanting me to have it.

DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO BE A STAR LIKE MR. NEWMAN?
Well, we were very snooty in our family—we were true thespians right out of a cliché theatre movie—and, oh, my God, my Mom would sit with a glass of wine and my Dad would have a cigar and they’d watch us put on a show for hours. It was all “Oh, geez, Helen, look at that—have you ever seen anything better?!” We knew what was good work and wasn’t. So I guess I wanted to be good actor, mostly, and then the byproduct was being a movie star.

YEAH, AND WITH SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER AND GREASE

YOU BECAME THE BIGGEST ONE IN THE WORLD.
Which was overwhelming when the international, tear-apart-your-car-like-the-Beatles-type stuff started happening. I mean, Saturday Night Fever was a very dirty, foul-mouthed film that was considered a slice of life Mean Streets type movie and I just expected it to be a stepping stone. And then it became this…thing.

NOT TO WORRYTHAT MEGA-BOMB, MOMENT BY MOMENT WITH LILY TOMLIN, WOULD SOON DE-BEATLES-IZE YOU. WEREN’T YOU NAMED SOMETHING RIDICULOUS LIKE BRICK IN IT?
That’s close, but it’s not Brick…. it was something that got a laugh, though… hmmm. Strip. I was named Strip (laughs) I got really beat up for that and made a big mistake and went on a press tour for it, anyway. Why? Because Universal was willing to send me a Gulfstream 2 to do it and I wanted a free ride on that plane. (laughs) But then I came back with Urban Cowboy and it’s still a classic.

AFTER WHICH YOU ALL BUT GAVE RICHARD GERE HIS CAREER BY TURNING DOWN AMERICAN GIGOLO AND AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN. THEN YOU DID IT AGAIN BY TURNING DOWN CHICAGO, SAYING THAT YOU DIDN’T SEE HOW A MOVIE ABOUT “PISSED OFF HOOKERS’ WOULD WORK ON THE BIG SCREEN.
I was wrong. (laughs) But you gotta understand that I didn’t think the lawyer’s part was exciting and I’m used to getting the exciting part like the girl’s parts were exciting. It’s like when I was fourteen years old me and my girlfriend did Funny Girl as the class project: I played Omar Shariff’s part and she played Barbra’s part and even then, I was like, “She’s got the good part, I’m no fool!”

WELL, YOU SURE GOT TO PLAY THE ‘EXCITING’ PART IN STAYING ALIVE, THAT NOTORIOUS SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER SEQUEL IN WHICH YOU APPEARED OILED-UP AND IN A LOINCLOTH.
How ‘bout that? It was “80’s hot!”. (laughs)

YEAH, WELL, I’M CONVINCED PAUL VERHOEVEN USED IT AS A BLUEPRINT FOR SHOWGIRLS.
That’s hilarious—I never even thought about that!

AND THUS BEGAN YOUR LONG DECLINE UNTIL TARANTINO RESCUED YOU WITH PULP FICTION.
Actually, I was back on the cover of this magazine before Pulp Fiction with Look Who’s Talking. The cover read “Look Who’s Talking Back.” (laughs) Then three years later Pulp Fiction put me back to the kind of profile I felt I belonged in.

AND SINCE THEN, THROUGH HITS AND MISSES YOU’VE REMAINED THERE. AND, UM, THROUGH FAT AND SKINNY, TOOMIKE NICHOLS ONCE SAID THAT TAKING A MEETING WITH YOU, FOODWISE, WAS “NOT UNLIKE TAKING A MEETING WITH HENRY THE VIIIth.”
(laughs) He’s right. I was very indulgent and made no bones about it. And that’s the thing: I don’t hide my love of food. Once, years ago, I had a trainer that used to think that I would hide, like, candy bars in drawers, and I said “Let’s get one thing straight—I do not hide food, I’m out with my food!” (laughs)

AND WE LOVE YOU FOR IT. SO, LISTEN, A TOMBSTONE PROMINENTLY FIGURES IN BOBBY LONG. WHAT DO YOU WANT WRITTEN ON YOURS?
“He just wanted to be comfortable.”

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