Publicity photo of John Travolta promoting his role on the ABC television series
Publicity photo of John Travolta promoting his role on the ABC television series "Welcome Back, Kotter" in 1976.

Famous birthdays this week: John Travolta

18/02/1954 - current (64 years old).

"I was just thinking of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and how young they were when they died. I would like to be a pop icon who survives. I would like to be a living icon.”

1954: John Joseph Travolta was born in Englewood, New Jersey, USA. He is an American actor, film producer, dancer, and singer.

After attending Dwight Morrow High School, Travolta moved across the Hudson River to New York City and landed a role in the touring company of the musical Grease and on Broadway in Over Here!, singing the Sherman Brothers' song "Dream Drummin'". He then moved to Los Angeles to further his career in show business.

1972: In September, Travolta's first California-filmed television role was as a fall victim in Emergency! (Season 2 Episode 2).

1975: Travolta first became known in the 1970s, after appearing on the television series Welcome Back, Kotter until 1979. He has been a practitioner of Scientology when he was given the book Dianetics while filming the movie The Devil's Rain in Durango, Mexico.

1976: His first significant movie role was as Billy Nolan, a bully who was goaded into playing a prank on Sissy Spacek's character in the horror film Carrie. Around the same time, he landed his star-making role as Vinnie Barbarino in the TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-1979), in which his sister, Ellen, also occasionally appeared (as Arnold Horshack's mother).

1977: Starred in the box office successes Saturday Night Fever. Music by Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb and David Shire. Travolta was in a relationship with actress Diana Hyland, whom he met while filming The Boy in the Plastic Bubble; Hyland died of breast cancer this year.

1978: Starred in the American musical romantic comedy film Grease based on the musical of the same name. The film depicts the lives of two high school seniors: bad boy Danny (John Travolta) and good girl Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) in the late 1950s.

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.

Travolta promoting
Travolta promoting "Staying Alive" in Sweden in 1983.

1983: After Urban Cowboy, Travolta starred in a series of commercial and critical failures that sidelined his acting career. These included Perfect, co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis, and Two of a Kind, a romantic comedy reteaming him with Olivia Newton-John. During that time he was offered, but turned down, lead roles in what would become box office hits, including American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman, both of which went to Richard Gere.

Travolta dancing with Diana, Princess of Wales, at the White House on November 9, 1985.
Travolta dancing with Diana, Princess of Wales, at the White House on November 9, 1985.

1989: Travolta starred with Kirstie Alley in Look Who's Talking, which grossed $297,000,000, making it his most successful film since Grease. Next came Look Who's Talking Too IN 1990 and Look Who's Talking Now in 1993.

1991: Married Kelly Preston and bought a house in Islesboro, Maine. The couple had a son, Jett (April 13, 1992 - January 2, 2009). Their daughter, Ella Bleu, was born in 2000 and a third child, a son named Benjamin, was born in 2010 in Florida. Travolta and Preston have regularly attended marriage counseling; Travolta has stated that therapy has helped the marriage.

1994: He played Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino's hit Pulp Fiction, 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.

1995: Notable roles following Pulp Fiction include a movie-buff loan shark in Get Shorty.

1997: Had a role as an FBI agent and terrorist in Face/Off.

1998: He starred as a desperate attorney in A Civil Action and a Bill Clinton-esque presidential candidate in Primary Colors.

1999: Also starred as a military investigator in The General's Daughter.

2000: Travolta also starred in and co-produced Battlefield Earth, based on a work of science fiction by L. Ron Hubbard, in which he played the leader of a group of aliens that enslaves humanity on a bleak future Earth. The film received almost universally negative reviews and did very poorly at the box office. Travolta's performance in Battlefield Earth also earned him two Razzie Awards.

2001: Swordfish; 2007: Wild Hogs and Hairspray.

2007: He starred in Wild Hogs and played Mrs. Edna Turnblad in the remake of Hairspray, his first musical since Grease. Travolta was inducted into the Living Legends of Aviation and acts as the award show's official ambassador.

2008: Travolta lent his voice for the film Bolt in which he played the title role.

2009: In memory of his son, Travolta founded the Jett Travolta Foundation, a non-profit organization to help children with special needs. It has contributed to organizations such as the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

2010: On September 13, 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 8-day 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.

Also that year, after the Haiti earthquake, he joined other celebrities in helping with the relief efforts. Travolta flew his Boeing 707 full of supplies, doctors, and Scientologist Volunteer Ministers into the disaster area.

2012: In May of this year, an anonymous masseur filed a lawsuit against Travolta citing claims of sexual assault and battery. A lawyer for Travolta said that the allegations were "complete fiction and fabrication" and someone wanting their 15 minutes of fame.

John Travolta at the Deauville Film Festival in 2013.
John Travolta at the Deauville Film Festival in 2013.

2014: Travolta denied claims made in January by his former pilot, Douglas Gotterba, that they had shared a sexual relationship while working for Travolta's aircraft company. He received the IIFA Award for Outstanding Achievement in International Cinema.

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, also receiving an additional Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of lawyer Robert Shapiro in the series.

2017: Travolta was named in a criminal complaint by a 21-year-old masseur who accused the actor of sexual battery that reportedly took place in 2000.


Travolta is a private pilot and owns four aircraft. This excludes the ex-Qantas Boeing 707-138B (Ex-VH-EBM) that he owned. The plane was donated to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) near Wollongong, NSW.

He is the author of the book Propeller One-Way Night Coach, the story of a young boy's first flight.

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