27 May John Travolta ~ A Complex Yet Good Celebrity for the Fans
John Travolta, American actor, singer and dancer. Travolta rose to fame during the 1970s, appearing on the television series Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979) and starring in the box office successes Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease (1978). His acting career declined through the 1980s, but enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s with his role in Pulp Fiction (1994), and he has since starred in films such as Get Shorty (1995), Broken Arrow (1996), Face/Off (1997), Swordfish (2001), Be Cool (2005), Wild Hogs (2007), Hairspray (2007), Bolt (2008), and The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009).
Travolta was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for performances in Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction. He won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for his performance in Get Shorty and has received a total of six nominations, the most recent being in 2011. In 2010, he received the IIFA Award for Outstanding Achievement in International Cinema. In 2016, Travolta received his first Primetime Emmy Award, as a producer of the first season of the anthology series American Crime Story, subtitled The People v. O. J. Simpson. He also received an additional Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of lawyer Robert Shapiro in the series.
The youngest of six children, Travolta was born and raised in Englewood, New Jersey, an inner-ring suburb of Bergen County, New Jersey. His father, Salvatore “Sam” Travolta (November 1912 – May 1995), was a semiprofessional American football player turned tire salesman and partner in a tire company, Travolta Tyre Exchange. His mother, Helen Cecilia (née Burke; January 18, 1912 – December 1978), was an actress and singer who had appeared in The Sunshine Sisters, a radio vocal group, and acted and directed before becoming a high school drama and English teacher. His siblings Joey, Ellen, Ann, Margaret, and Sam Travolta were all inspired by their mother’s love of theatre and drama and became actors. His father was a second-generation Italian American with roots in Godrano, Sicily, and his mother was Irish American. He grew up in an Irish-American neighborhood and said that his household was predominantly Irish in culture. He was raised Roman Catholic, but converted to Scientology in 1975. Travolta attended Dwight Morrow High School, but dropped out as a junior at age 17 in 1971.
In 1976, Travolta landed his star-making role as Vinnie Barbarino in the ABC TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–79), in which his sister, Ellen, also occasionally appeared (as Arnold Horshack’s mother). 1970s stardom Travolta had a hit single titled “Let Her In,” peaking at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in July 1976. In the next few years, he starred in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble and two of his most noted screen roles: Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Danny Zuko in Grease (1978). The films were among the most commercially successful pictures of the decade and catapulted Travolta to international stardom. Saturday Night Fever earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor,] making him, at age 24, one of the youngest performers ever nominated for the Best Actor Oscar. His mother and his sister Ann appeared very briefly in Saturday Night Fever and his sister Ellen played a waitress in Grease. Travolta performed several of the songs on the Grease soundtrack album. In 1980, Travolta inspired a nationwide country music craze that followed on the heels of his hit film Urban Cowboy, in which he starred with Debra Winger. He also starred in Staying Alive, the 1983 sequel to Saturday Night Fever, for which he trained rigorously and lost 20 pounds; the film was a financial success, grossing over $65 million.
In 1989, Travolta starred with Kirstie Alley in Look Who’s Talking, which grossed $297 million, making it his most successful film since Grease. Next came Look Who’s Talking Too (1990) and Look Who’s Talking Now (1993), but it was not until he played Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino’s hit Pulp Fiction (1994), with Samuel L. Jackson, for which he received an Academy Award nomination, that his career revived. The movie shifted him back onto the A-list and he was inundated with offers. Notable roles following Pulp Fiction include a movie-buff loan shark in Get Shorty (1995), a corrupt U.S. Air Force pilot in Broken Arrow, an FBI agent and terrorist in Face/Off (1997), a desperate attorney in A Civil Action (1998), a Bill Clinton–esque presidential candidate in Primary Colors (1998), and a military investigator in The General’s Daughter (1999).
Throughout the 2000s, Travolta remained busy as an actor, starring in many films, including Swordfish (2001); Ladder 49 (2004); Be Cool (2005); Lonely Hearts (2006); Wild Hogs (2007); the animated film Bolt (2008), in which Travolta voiced the title character; The Taking of Pelham 123; and Old Dogs (both 2009). In 2007, Travolta played Edna Turnblad in the remake of Hairspray, his first musical since Grease.
Since 2010, Travolta has starred mostly in action films and thrillers. In 2016, he returned to TV in the first season of the anthology series American Crime Story, titled The People v. O. J. Simpson, in which he played lawyer Robert Shapiro.
Travolta was in a relationship with actress Diana Hyland, whom he met while filming The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976). They remained together until her death from breast cancer on March 27, 1977. He married actress Kelly Preston in 1991, and they bought a house in Islesboro, Maine. They had three children: Jett (1992–2009), Ella Bleu (born 2000), and Benjamin (born 2010). They have regularly attended marriage counseling, and Travolta has stated that therapy has helped the marriage. They reside in Ocala, Florida.
On January 2, 2009, Jett died at age 16 while on a Christmas vacation in the Bahamas. A Bahamian death certificate was issued, attributing the cause of death to a seizure. Jett, who had a history of seizures, reportedly suffered from Kawasaki disease since the age of two. In memory of Jett, Travolta created the Jett Travolta Foundation, a nonprofit organization to help children with special needs. It has contributed to organizations such as the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, and Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Travolta has been a practitioner of Scientology since 1975, when he was given the book Dianetics while filming the movie The Devil’s Rain in Durango, Mexico.In May 1991, Time magazine published a cover story titled “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power”. In the article, former Scientology executive director William Franks alleged that Travolta was wary of leaving Scientology because he feared its leaders would publish revelations of his private life, primarily a history of homosexual behavior. The claims were reiterated by Franks and other Scientology defectors in the 2013 book Going Clear, and former Scientology official Marty Rathbun claimed that he had worked with Travolta’s attorneys several times to keep allegations about Travolta’s homosexuality out of the press and resolve lawsuits against him.
Travolta in the cockpit of his Boeing 707 in 2002. Travolta is a private pilot and owns four aircraft. Travolta named his 707 “Jett Clipper Ella,” in honor of his children. The “Clipper” in the name represents that Pan Am used that word in the names of their aircraft His estate in Ocala, Florida, is situated at Jumbolair Airport with its own runway and taxiway right to his house, with two outbuildings for covered access to planes.
Travolta was inducted into the Living Legends of Aviation in 2007 and acts as the award show’s official ambassador. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, joining other celebrities in helping with the relief efforts, Travolta reportedly flew his Boeing 707 full of supplies, doctors, and Scientologist Volunteer Ministers into the disaster area.
On September 13, 2010, during the first episode of the final season of her talk show, Oprah Winfrey announced that she would be taking her entire studio audience on an eight-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Australia, with Travolta serving as pilot for the trip. He had helped Winfrey plan the trip for more than a year.
He is the author of the book Propeller One-Way Night Coach, the story of a young boy’s first flight. Travolta endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In January 2019, after years of wearing wigs, Travolta began sporting a bald head. Net worth $250 million.