Travolta is as colorful as it gets with an overly successful forty plus year career with no signs of slowing down. It only seems like yesterday we were all buzzing about how his Pulp Fiction performance was an instant classic…oh wait…that was yesterday! He’s responsible for countless box office hits and a flashy dance scene in each and every one of them. All the while, Travolta has led quite the adventurous life. With all of his success, he experienced heartbreak and tragedy each step of the way that makes his journey one we can’t overlook. Let’s take a peek into John’s amazing success story.
John Joseph Travolta, born February 18th, 1954 in Englewood, NJ grew up in an Irish neighborhood just outside New York City. As the youngest of 5 who were all also heavily involved in acting and performing, John would be constantly surrounded with his destined craft. His siblings are Sam, Ann, Joey, Ellen, and Margaret. With an Irish mother and an Italian father, it should come as no surprise that he grew up as a Catholic but was certainly a shock to the public later when he chose to convert to Scientology in no private fashion.
High School Dropout
It was always easy for him to imagine what it would have been like to have finished school and be a proper student, but unfortunately, that was never his reality. He hit a home-run with that image of what he should have been with his famous role as slick, Danny Zuko in Grease. It was at the young age of 16 when he decided that school wasn’t for him as he found more interest in acting. “Not too many of my friends identified with what I was doing,” Travolta said. “I participated in football and basketball, and did what they were doing, but not many kids understood my going to acting studios at night.”
Travolta Was Never A Good Student
His acting was a constant distraction that took precedent over his school work. John says that “I was only an average student”. With his Danny Zuko charm, Travolta did his best to sweet talk his teachers into giving him better grades despite how clear it was that they were never his focus. He said, “I tried to communicate with them on a more adult level.”
His Mother Was an Actress
His mother, Helen, was the reason his whole immediate family loved acting so much. John has accredited his mother repeatedly for being the reason he was influenced to enroll in drama school in New York. It was there that he studied voice, dancing, and acting. His mother and his sister even made appearances in Grease and Saturday Night Fever.
His Father Owned an Auto Repair Shop
Salvatore Travolta, a second-generation Italian American, was known for his love for Football. When the clock ran out as a Quarterback for a semi-professional team, he moved on and opened his very own tire shop in Hillsdale, New Jersey, called “The Travolta Tire Exchange”. He was a proud husband and father, having been able to witness the success of his wife and kids’ on-stage performances before he passed away in 1995.
Where It All Began
After dropping out of High School, Travolta crossed the Hudson River and moved to the big apple where he could get a fresh start. Like most actors, he went through the same hardship of getting lift off with commercials. When New York wasn’t panning out as he had hoped, he moved to LA to find bigger and better gigs, but soon after was brought back to where it all began to get his first big offer on Broadway’s “Grease” as Danny Zuko.
He Took A Swing At a Music Career
As a jack of all performance trades, Travolta made a successful attempt at music. At the young age of 22, John recorded his debut single, “Let Her In”. Having been on the charts for five months, it reached number 10 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It comes as no surprise that John’s many talents carried over into his amazing acting career, leaving this part of his career overshadowed.
Relationship with Olivia Newton John
It wasn’t until years after the premiere of “Grease” that both John and Olivia confessed their true feelings for each other that blossomed during their time together on set. In an interview in 2012, Olivia said ‘We both had a crush on each other’. ‘It created great chemistry.’ After all these years, Travolta and Newton-John still remain as close as ever. They say they see each other twice a year and call every other week.
His Connection to Scientology
Travolta has been open about his belief in the controversial church of Scientology. It was during the filming of one of his first films, The Devil’s Rain, that his relationship with Scientology began. It was back in 1975 that a fellow actress offered him a book on all of the religions and their theories called, “Dianetics”. It was a combination of this book and her guidance that he said turned him into a believer of this particular faith.
Slump in the 80’s
After an incredibly successful start to his career in the 70’s, Travolta hit almost a two-decade long slump. After the success of “Urban Cowboy” in 1980, John starting turning down major roles. In hindsight, maybe it was too early to be picky by not taking the lead in “American Gigolo” and “An Officer and a Gentleman”. As the public started to feel that he had completely fallen off the radar, he emerged with one of his most iconic roles in 1994 in “Pulp Fiction”. To this day, that one still arguably seems to make it into everyone’s top 20 favorite movies of all time.
John met Kelly in 1989 on the set of the movie “The Experts”. It was only 3 years after starting dating that the two Married in Paris. They had a Scientologist Wedding Ceremony which is heavily based and performed around the principles that traditionally lead to an ideal life and family, such as Affinity, Reality, and Communication (A-R-C). Two weeks later, they had another ceremony in Florida to make their marriage recognized in the US. They are known as one of Hollywood’s strongest couples.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Pulp Fiction was not only a huge relief for Travolta as the gem that brought him out of his slump, but was also one of the most successful films that would later be known worldwide as a classic. It was a giant stepping stone for both Travolta and Quentin Tarantino, the director. Of course, it certainly didn’t hurt that he played an amazing role alongside megastars like Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman. Their presence brought him back to the public’s attention through well-deserved association. His role as hitman Vincent Vega was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for this sensational performance that revealed what he could truly do on screen.
He Can Fly
Travolta always had a passion for flying. He earned his Pilots’ License when he was only 22. He says one of his favorite things is flying his private jet with his family and friends. Now, he has 11 different qualifications to fly planes as small as aerobatic competition aircrafts and as large as a Boeing 707. This man can do it all folks!
His Florida Home
His Florida home in a gated community serves as a private airport in the Northeast region of the state. There’s no better way to incorporate your hobby into your lifestyle like making it one with your home. Travolta can park his 707 Boeing right next to his front door like the rest of us would our cars, and that’s just one of several he can park at his estate. He even has his own personal runway, making it possible for him to travel all around the world at a moment’s notice.
John always finds a way to sing or dance in his movies, but he had never done it in a dress and heels before. In one of his most amusing roles as Edna Turnblad, Travolta had to wear a 30-pound fat suit and sit through makeup sessions that took up to 5 hours. It was 14 months after being offered the role that he finally agreed to play Edna, and we’re all thrilled he did.
Travolta has set an example for other actors throughout the years with his charitable actions. In 2010, immediately after the deadly earthquake in Haiti, Travolta got right on his private airplane with his wife and flew over to provide aid. His 707 was prepared with food, medical supplies, and doctors, all ready to come to the rescue. After landing, he said, “We have the ability to actually help make a difference in the situation in Haiti, and I just can’t see not using this plane to help…We have the ability and the means to do this so I think you have responsibility on some level to do that”. His actions solidified him as an authority on making the world a better place.
His Son Died
In an absolutely heartbreaking tragedy, John’s son Jett lost his long fought battle with Kawasaki disease, a violent illness that causes seizures. In 2009, Jett was only 16 when he experienced a seizure that caused him to trip and hit his head. Travolta referred to Jett’s death as “the worst thing that’s ever happened in my life”. He experienced a parent’s worst fear.
His Youngest Son Ben
After three years of trying to conceive a child, on November 23rd, 2010, little Ben’s birth came as uplifting news to the tragedy stricken family, still and forever grieving the loss of their oldest son, Jett. John stated publicly, “Certainly having little Benjamin has been a beautiful kind of glue for us to re-bond after a tremendous loss”.
He Started a Foundation
After the loss of his son, John and Kelly were looking for a meaningful way to honor and remember him while raising awareness. They have set up a foundation named after their son that aims to support “charitable, literary and educational purposes.”. 70 different organizations have received donated grants. Their website states “some of the Foundation’s specific objectives are to use its resources to assist and provide relief to children with vision, hearing, mobility, communication, behavior learning impairments or other special medical, environmental, health or educational needs.”