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Inside Olivia Newton-John’s secret romance: Grease star was in love with an Aussie TV icon

It’s no secret Olivia Newon-John had a turbulent love life marred by heartbreak, divorce – and the bizarre disappearance of boyfriend Patrick McDermott.

But fans may not know the tale of Olivia’s first true love – an Australian TV presenter by the name Ian Turpie.

The Grease star was just 16 when she first crossed paths with Ian, then 19, on the set of Australian variety show Time For Terry in 1964. 

Olivia Newton-John was in love with Aussie TV icon Ian Turpie before breaking his heart by moving to London. The pair are pictured together in 1965

Ian, an up-and-coming singer and actor, would later go on to host the long-running Australian gameshow The Price Is Right in the 1980s. 

Friendship quickly blossomed into a romance behind-the-scenes, with a source close to the pair telling Woman’s Day magazine Ian was Olivia’s ‘first big love’. 

‘Olivia was a gorgeous girl with a sweet voice, and as soon as she and Ian sang together there was amazing chemistry – he was bowled over by her and she fell hard for him,’ the insider said in 2012. 

The Grease star was just 16 when she first crossed paths with Ian, then 19. The pair are pictured on the cover of TV Week magazine 1965

The Grease star was just 16 when she first crossed paths with Ian, then 19. The pair are pictured on the cover of TV Week magazine 1965

In 1965, the young sweethearts also starred together in Olivia’s first movie, Funny Things Happen Down Under.

‘Ian and Olivia were inseparable. They often sang together, went everywhere together – to the car races, the football, dances, concerts. Olivia even joined in games of footy with Ian and his four football-mad brothers,’  The Australian Women’s Weekly reported in 1981. 

The couple would date for five years before their diverging career paths forced them to part ways for good. 

Olivia is pictured left in 2018, and Ian right in 2006 

Despite knowing he may lose her to the clutches of Hollywood, Ian was dedicated to supporting Olivia in her quest for stardom, even lending her his guitar when she auditioned for Johnny O’Keefe’s Sing, Sing, Sing’s talent quest.

Olivia ended up winning, but was reluctant to accept the prize – a trip to England. 

However Olivia’s starry-eyed mother Irene had other plans, convincing her daughter to take the opportunity and expand her career internationally. 

'As soon as the romance started getting really serious [Olivia's mother] whisked Olivia off to London, leaving a broken-hearted Ian behind,' a source said. Olivia is pictured in 1973

‘As soon as the romance started getting really serious [Olivia’s mother] whisked Olivia off to London, leaving a broken-hearted Ian behind,’ a source said. Olivia is pictured in 1973

During her absence, Ian went on to find love with Jan Hamilton (right) a stunning blonde model. The pair married in 1968 and had three children. Pictured in 2006

During her absence, Ian went on to find love with Jan Hamilton (right) a stunning blonde model. The pair married in 1968 and had three children. Pictured in 2006 

Ian, a heavy smoker, had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in February 2011, and died just over a year later in March 2012. Olivia was reportedly by his bedside during his final days. Pictured in 2006

Ian, a heavy smoker, had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in February 2011, and died just over a year later in March 2012. Olivia was reportedly by his bedside during his final days. Pictured in 2006 

Ian and Olivia reportedly vowed to each other they wouldn’t break up unless they’d been separated for three months. 

‘As soon as the romance started getting really serious [Olivia’s mother] whisked Olivia off to London, leaving a broken-hearted Ian behind,’ a source told Woman’s Day magazine. 

Despite her best efforts to return home for a visit, Olivia ended up spending much longer in the UK as her career took off. 

In a cruel twist of fate, it would be cancer too that took Olivia's life a decade later. Pictured in 1979

In a cruel twist of fate, it would be cancer too that took Olivia’s life a decade later. Pictured in 1979

Ian spoke of his heartbreak back in 1981, saying ‘[Olivia] was away for more than three months. She’d phone me every month with reports of how she was going, and of her big hopes of landing a recording contract.’

Ian ended up finding love with Jan Hamilton, a stunning blonde model. The pair married in 1968 and had three children. 

‘By the time [Olivia] came back [from England], things had changed with her and I’d found Jan,’ Ian said. 

After dating Ian, Olivia went on to experience a series of failed relationships. Pictured in 1981

After dating Ian, Olivia went on to experience a series of failed relationships. Pictured in 1981

Despite this, the exes would remain friends until Ian’s death at age 68. 

Ian, a heavy smoker, had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in February 2011, and died just over a year later in March 2012.   

Olivia was reportedly by his bedside during his final days. 

She married dancer Matt Lattanzi (right) in 1984 but they split in 1995 after he was confronted over his 'very close' relationship' with the couple's young babysitter Cindy Jessup

She married dancer Matt Lattanzi (right) in 1984 but they split in 1995 after he was confronted over his ‘very close’ relationship’ with the couple’s young babysitter Cindy Jessup 

In a cruel twist of fate, it would be cancer too that took Olivia’s life a decade later. 

After dating Ian, Olivia went on to experience a series of failed relationships. 

She enjoyed a romance with guitarist Bruce Welch between 1968 and 1972, before dating cowboy boot importer Lee Kramer from 1974 to 1979. 

Olivia began dating Hollywood cameraman Patrick McDermott (right) on-and-off in 1996, but things took a tragic turn nine years later when Patrick went missing in 2005. Pictured in 2001

Olivia began dating Hollywood cameraman Patrick McDermott (right) on-and-off in 1996, but things took a tragic turn nine years later when Patrick went missing in 2005. Pictured in 2001  

She later married dancer Matt Lattanzi in 1984 but they split in 1995 after he was confronted over his ‘very close’ relationship’ with the couple’s young babysitter Cindy Jessup.

Olivia was battling breast cancer at the time.  

The Xanadu star then began dating Hollywood cameraman Patrick McDermott on-and-off in 1996, but things took a tragic turn nine years later when Patrick went missing in 2005. 

She went on to marry Amazon Herb Company founder John Easterling (left), tying the knot at an Inca ritual in Peru in 2008

She went on to marry Amazon Herb Company founder John Easterling (left), tying the knot at an Inca ritual in Peru in 2008  

He had embarked on an overnight fishing trip in Los Angels but mysteriously never returned. He has never been found. 

Olivia confirmed they weren’t dating at the time of his disappearance. 

She went on to marry Amazon Herb Company founder John Easterling, tying the knot at an Incan ritual in Peru in 2008.  

The icon died peacefully at the age of 73 at her home in southern California on Monday, surrounded by her family and friends.   

Olivia’s death was announced by her husband on her social media pages. 

Olivia's death was announced by her husband John Easterling on Monday on her social media pages

Olivia’s death was announced by her husband John Easterling on Monday on her social media pages 

Olivia had been battling stage-four metastatic breast cancer for years

Olivia had been battling stage-four metastatic breast cancer for years

‘Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends,’ he wrote.

‘We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.

‘Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer.

‘Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer.’

Olivia is survived by her 36-year-old daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, 36

Olivia is survived by her 36-year-old daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, 36

The family asked for donations to be made to her cancer organization, the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, instead of flowers.

She is survived by her 36-year-old daughter, Chloe Lattanzi. 

The actress famously beat breast cancer twice but was diagnosed again in 2017.

She spent the last few years at home, campaigning for animals’ rights and raising money for her charity online.

Olivia is most known for her famous role as Sandy in the 1978 movie Grease. She is pictured in the film with co-star John Travolta

Olivia is most known for her famous role as Sandy in the 1978 movie Grease. She is pictured in the film with co-star John Travolta

She also was a strong campaigner for the use of medical cannabis for treatment in Australia. 

In a haunting interview with The Guardian in 2020, she said of the disease: ‘It’s been a part of my life for so long.

‘I felt something was wrong. It’s concerning when it comes back, but I thought “I’ll get through it again”.’ 

Olivia's iconic sweet-to-sexy transformation was recreated for years to come in costumes and tributes

Olivia’s iconic sweet-to-sexy transformation was recreated for years to come in costumes and tributes  

In other interviews, when asked how she battled the disease so bravely, she said: ‘I’ve had and am having an amazing life so I have no complaints.

‘I really don’t. Everyone goes through something. We all have something we need to go through in life. This has been my challenge.’ 

Earlier this year, Olivia said how she tries to keep positive amid her battle, telling Who magazine: ‘I focus on the positive side of things, no matter what the challenge.’

In light of her diagnosis, Olivia said at the time that she doesn’t focus on statistics or time limits.

‘Positive thinking is so important to living a healthy and happy life,’ she said.

Earlier this year, Olivia said how she tries to keep positive amid her battle, telling Who magazine: 'I focus on the positive side of things, no matter what the challenge'

Earlier this year, Olivia said how she tries to keep positive amid her battle, telling Who magazine: ‘I focus on the positive side of things, no matter what the challenge’

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