Olivia Newton-John's dark and tragic past

Chances are, you know exactly two things about Olivia Newton-John right off the bat: she was "Summer Lovin'" sensation Sandy opposite John Travolta's Danny in Grease (1978) and she was a fitness music icon in the early '80s with her peppy anthem "Physical." Those facts are true, but there's a lot more to the Australian actress and singer than meets the eye. Her sunny smile conceals a lengthy history of personal struggles that are collectively so bizarre it's hard to believe a single person could experience so much strange trauma. 

Keep on scrolling to learn more about Olivia Newton-John's dark and tragic past.

Olivia Newton-John's boyfriend vanished, literally

Unlike her famous on-screen counterpart, Olivia Newton-John had a hard time finding that special someone to be as "Hopelessly Devoted" as her fictional Danny Zuko. She and her husband of 10 years, actor Matt Lattanzi, divorced in 1995 amid rumors he was unfaithful.

Her subsequent long-term boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, literally ghosted her. McDermott and Newton-John dated for nine years before he vanished in 2005 after embarking on a fishing trip in San Pedro, Calif. According to the Daily Mail, McDermott was reported missing roughly a week later when he failed to show up to a family event. He was never seen nor heard from again until several years later when he was rumored to have been spotted in Mexico, allegedly having secretly fled to the country (potentially with a new German girlfriend) to escape a large amount of debt. The U.S. Coast Guard's official determination was that McDermott was lost at sea during that fateful voyage, but suspicions that he faked his death persist.

It's all speculation, of course, but for Newton-John, the inexplicable heartache still looms large. "I don't think I will ever really be at peace with it," she told Australian Women's Weekly (via MindFood Magazine).

A man died in Newton-John's house

What started out as a dream home became a house of horrors for Newton-John and her second husband, natural health businessman John Easterling. The couple purchased the luxurious waterside mansion in Florida's Jupiter Inlet County in 2009, and after owning the home for four years, they decided to put it on the market. They reportedly hired a contractor to oversee extensive renovations that would increase the value of the sale.

The man they hired for the work, 41-year-old Christopher Pariseleti, reportedly died by suicide by shooting himself in one of the property's bedrooms while Newton-John and Easterling were away, according to CNN. The shocking incident caused prospective buyer Rosie O'Donnell to pull out of the sale. Newton-John and Easterling had so much trouble selling the home that they even brought in an exorcist to cleanse it of any lingering spirits. In 2015, the $5.5 million listing was taken off the market. In January 2016, the Miami Herald reported it was finally sold to a Swedish advertising executive for $5 million cash.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Her daughter grappled with anorexia and addiction

Olivia Newton-John's daughter, Chloe Rose Lattanzi (her only child with her first husband), suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager. In a 2013 interview with Entertainment Tonight, a 27-year-old Lattanzi said she was "embarrassed" by her past. "It's just really sad because I was just a little girl, and now I look at it and I look like a walking skeleton." At one point, Lattanzi admitted to weighing only 90 pounds at 5 foot six inches tall.

Lattanzi said the anxiety of being a celebrity's child fueled her anorexia and substance abuse. "Fame totally messes you up," she told the Daily Mail in 2013. "I don't blame my mother for my problems, but I would never want to be famous or raise a child of my own around the cult of celebrity. It ruins lives."

Interestingly, Lattanzi has followed in her mother's performance footsteps and appeared alongside Newton-John on Dave Audé's 2015 single "You Have to Believe," a remix of her "Magic" single from the Xanadu motion picture soundtrack. In October 2015, Lattanzi credited her fiancé, martial artist James Driskill, for helping her make a full recovery.

Olivia Newton-John's clothing business failed

There are plenty of actors and singers who've triumphed as entrepreneurs in other industries. Just look at what the Jessicas — Simpson, Alba, and now Biel — have done with their product lines. For a while, Olivia Newton-John enjoyed great success with her Koala Blue sportswear line. Founded in 1982, the business ballooned from a successful flagship shop on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood to 49 locations across the globe, including stores in Australia, France, Japan, and Canada.

The company was hit hard by the economic downturn in the early '90s and had to file for bankruptcy protection in 1991. "We expanded too fast," Newton-John told People magazine, "and when the recession hit, we really got hurt." The failed business venture was yet another unfortunate twist in the Grammy-winner's sad saga.

Newton-John is still dabbling in work outside of the limelight as a children's book and cookbook author. The biggest lesson she took away from the Koala Blue crash, she told People, was "don't do it again!"

She lost loved ones to cancer and fought for her life

1992 was a particularly painful year for Olivia Newton-John. Her 5-year-old goddaughter died from cancer; followed by her father, and then, just two weeks after losing her dad, Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer. "It was all at once. Everything just came at me" she told People."You can't help but feel despair at some point. It's overwhelming."

The music star underwent a partial mastectomy, breast reconstruction, and chemotherapy and became cancer-free for more than 20 years. She founded the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Australia. However, cancer dealt another blow to Newton-John's family in 2013. According to People, her older sister, Rona Newton-John, lost her battle with brain cancer in May 2013 — on their late mother's birthday, no less.

Reflecting on her life's challenges, Newton-John told People, "I'm a much stronger person than I realized. Sometimes you need to be confronted with things before you really know your potential."

Olivia Newton-John's battling cancer again

In May 2017, Newton-John revealed that she was again diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer at the age of 68, which caused her to postpone her U.S. and Canadian tour schedule so that she could seek treatment. According to a statement from her inner circle to People, Newton-John felt positive that she would win her newest battle with cancer and would be back to her long-lived business of entertaining the masses by August of the same year. "I decided on my direction of therapies after consultation with my doctors and natural therapists and the medical team at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia," the singer-actress added of her treatment plans.

Her daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, echoed the same optimism in a statement to People, saying, "My mom and best friend is going to be fine! … Cancer is the disease of our generation and it is part of my and my mother's quest to beat this insidious monster." Lattanzi added that as part of Newton-John's treatment regimen, she will be using cannabidiol oil, along with "other natural remedies" and modern medicine. No doubt, Newton-John's decades of experience combating this disease on behalf of herself and others should give her a solid foundation from which to fight this time and inform her treatment decisions going forward.

Her undercover hospitalization

In August 2019, Olivia Newton-John revealed that she was secretly admitted to her own cancer center the year before, when her stage IV breast cancer metastasized to her sacrum. She was hospitalized for three weeks, sneaking around wearing a beanie and a face mask, and called it her "scariest" experience with the disease because it'd affected her bones. "It was a challenging year because I broke my sacrum and I had to learn to walk again and everything," Newton-John told Entertainment Tonight. "But I am strong and I am back and I'm feeling good and loving every minute." 

While speaking with 60 Minutes Australia around that time, the singer-actress said, "We know we're gonna die at some point … we don't know when it is. When you're given a cancer diagnosis or a scary honest diagnosis, you're suddenly given a possibility of a time limit … So every day is a gift, particularly now." 

Newton-John went on to explain that she tries not to look at cancer as a fight: "I think that sets up that kind of feeling in your body of you're battling something strange inside you. I let it go and tell it to leave and talk to my body to heal itself and don't try to make it that." She added, "Because that takes up your whole life and your whole being."

Newton-John and her daughter rarely discuss her cancer

Olivia Newton-John and daughter Chloe Lattanzi revealed to 60 Minutes Australia that they rarely speak about the Grease star's illness. Newton-John said it's difficult to talk about it with Lattanzi, explaining, "She's my daughter … she's part of me."

Meanwhile, Lattanzi said that she never broaches the topic unless Newton-John wants to do so. When she was a child, she learned of her mother's initial cancer diagnosis from a classmate because Newton-John hadn't told her about it. Explaining that she knew her mother didn't want her to stress about the disease when she was so young, Lattanzi added that now that Newton-John has cancer for a third time, she didn't like strangers knowing about the illness and constantly reminding her mother that she was sick.

"Her illness helped me heal my illness," Lattanzi said of her own battle with addiction, adding, "I knew I needed to be — I wanted to be — bright and happy and available and around for my mom when she was struggling with this. I thought I was okay, but I wasn't. I was still struggling with severe depression and whatever. I faced it head on." Lattanzi added, "It's kind of like, 'Oh, can't run anymore … This is a really finite, black and white thing you're looking at. There's no more sort of running away anymore from your pain. Deal with it. She needs you.'"