Toronto
3 min

Greg Kearney bids farewell

Olivia & I, into the sunset

This being my final column for Xtra, I’m supposed to wax reflective and say lyrical things about how I’ve grown from a skittish, ethereal pup into an incisive toughie these past six years. I was all set to effusively thank my longtime editor, who abided my scabrous whimsy all this time, only to gently and shrewdly coax me out of writing whatever the hell I wanted to and into writing about specific things like exciting places to get take-out in the area or monthly interviews with famous gay arty people named Wayson Choy. I was eager to ‘fess up to the deep mortification I felt upon realizing that I am incapable of writing about anything specific or resolutely real-world, anything other than empathic trivia such as how and when Christine McVie’s ass mystically indicated that I should only ever smoke Matinee Extra Milds.

But then, of course, Olivia Newton-John’s boyfriend went missing and my own life narrative became incidental. I forgot who I was. I cared only about Olivia Newton-John’s welfare. How was Olivia Newton-John feeling? Was her lustrous hair pulled back in a careless ponytail, connoting grief? Was her hideous, anorexic teenage daughter a help or a hindrance in her darkest hour? At 57, having been through so much, does the “carpet” still match the “drapes”?

These were all questions I asked during my abortive interview with the first of many famous, gay arty people named Wayson Choy. The non-response I got led me to realize that I was incapable of writing about earthy, specific things, and also that I was totally fucked up.

So, this is the meek, desperately random way I’m going to rediscover myself and end this column: I’ll present a brief biography of Olivia Newton-John alongside a brief biography of myself. Let’s sit back and see how the two conflate!

Olivia Newton-John was born Sep 26, 1948. Her parents were upper-middle class and her grandfather won the Nobel Prize for physics and was Jewish. I was born to trash Mar 4, 1973. Said trash immediately abandoned me and I was adopted by older, infertile trash. It gave me pleasure, as a child, to remind my passively xenophobic mother that Olivia Newton-John was one-quarter Jewish. “But she has such nice skin!” she’d say in dismay.

Olivia Newton-John was 30 when she portrayed a 16-year-old in Grease. A 34-year-old Stockard Channing was also cast as a 16-year-old so that Olivia wouldn’t look absurd. I often tell people that I’m 16 when procuring sex through the Internet. When we meet I tell them that I’m mature for my age because I’ve been through a lot and that I’m actually a Holocaust survivor. That would, necessarily, mean that I’d have to be at least 65. If someone confronts me with that math, I just say something like, “I know! It’s so wack that I’m still 16!” and then we go for it, teen-on-teen. Shyly. Both of us leaving our Che Guevara T-shirts on.

In 1981, Olivia enjoyed a 10-week run at number one with the coyly suggestive single, “Physical.” Four years later, abandoned by the muse, she released the album Soul Kiss, a lurid mess with songs about forced oral, threeways, sharing afterglow with that homely Beach Boy who died of cancer and getting pregnant by your GP. I also blew my aesthetic wad with my first book Mommy Daddy Baby, using up all the pee, poo and retarded incest baby jokes I’d accrued over 32 years. Bereft of all insight and fun, my next book is a 300-page novel concerning a woman struggling to open a package of wieners.

Olivia Newton-John successfully battled breast cancer in the early ’90s and then made an album of healing, new age songs including one sung from the perspective of a tree. I have never had breast cancer, but my next book is a 300-page novel about a tree struggling to open a package of wieners.

The 1996 film It’s My Party featured Olivia as the dear friend of a superficial gay couple whose most cherished romantic memory is riding a ski lift together. Conversely, none of my friendships with gay men have lasted. I either make them fuck me or they become more famous and successful than me and I have to denounce them as derivative and fat.

And now Olivia Newton-John’s lover is missing, perhaps dead and bloated, floating in the ocean. Olivia has retreated from view. Rumour has it that she’s at some holistic mountain refuge, fasting, getting foot rubs from starving immigrant women, writing awful songs solely for the sake of catharsis.

My boyfriend is not missing. In fact, he’s quite ubiquitous, forever underfoot, smiling and milling and feeding me constantly. Presence makes the ass grow fatter. Not that you’ll ever see mine again.

This is my last column, and hereafter I will be serene, tongueless and anonymous, happily picking through rotting produce at Price Chopper, having never been mellow but more than willing to learn. In private. Quietly. Maybe through the Learning Annex. If I can afford it.