Fifteen months after the mysterious disappearance of her alleged boyfriend Patrick McDermott, Olivia Newton-John has finally laid out her official account in the new issue of People magazine. It’s an extraordinary collaborative work of revision and spin that includes a well-rehearsed interview, staged photographs and succinct explanations of Newton-John's behaviour throughout the scandal.
The star is crying by the end of the first paragraph and pushing a new album “to honor” McDermott by the second.
“Life After Loss,” beginning on page 77 of the October 9, 2006 issue of People, is a classic example of how the Hollywood machine cleans up after its celebrities and keeps the protective curtain pulled high around their private lives. All the questions that Newton-John’s actions raised after the mysterious disappearance of Patrick McDermott are glossed over, folded into the continuing saga of the diva’s tragic life, and ultimately used to promote a product.
And in an incredible twist, Newton-John's machine even brings McDermott’s ex-wife into the fold.
Actress Yvette Nipar, who’d brought McDermott into court, accused him of violent tendencies, fought him for child custody and support, and who'd maintained a steely silence through fifteen months of accusations that her pressures may have led him to fake his death, now tells People: "Never in a million years would I put my son's father in jail."
Then again, People reveals that Nipar “has become close friends with Newton-John during the ordeal,” and “now talks to Newton-John almost every day.”
Vanity Fair, Entertainment Tonight and The Black Dahlia have nothing on this: an article that deserves study in every journalism school as an example of the devil’s bargain that’s struck when magazines and celebrities make deals that trade control for exclusivity, and how every deal, no matter whose lives are involved, are used in the end, to sell something.
Readers of this site know the basics. Patrick McDermott, who has publically been identified as Olivia-Newton John’s lover since 1996 (the year she split from her much-younger husband) disappeared from a fishing boat on June 30, 2005. But his disappearance didn’t make headlines for seven weeks, until an intrepid tabloid journalist attached the name to the celebrity.
From Day One, there was confusion and uproar over why Newton-John had never reported him missing, nor gone to the media in case he was walking around with amnesia (in fact, she’d carried on with happy public appeaarances). Within days, it was discovered that McDermott was in a nasty custody dispute with his ex-wife, that he owed child support, had declared bankruptcy, and may have faked his death.
Newton-John’s silence quickly led many to suspect that McDermott may have been a “beard” or employee, hired to accompany her in public (she had been the target of dangerous stalkers in the past). It was also theorized that Newton-John may have belped McDermott disappear because of his financial troubles or other problems.
Within weeks, Newton-John resumed her public concert schedule and McDermott was all but forgotten-- but not by Tabloid Baby, which broke the news in March that the US Coast Guard was pursuing reports that McDermott was alive, and that he’d been sighted in a remote region of the Baja Peninsula.
In July, Australian journalist Nick Papp followed the lead to the area and found witnesses claiming to have seen McDermott. The chase's momentum was foiled by the celebutainment show, Extra (a Time-Warner product-- like People & Newton-John), which was handed a visor believed to be McDermott's, made a great show of promising to conduct DNA tests-- yet mysteriously returned the hat, untested to the Baja, possibly contaminating the evidence in the process.
The People story takes a different tack.
Newton-John on the nature of the relationship:
“He was the most romantic person I have ever known.”
Why Newton-John never reported him missing, and carried on a seven-week public schedule while he was gone:
“We were on a break, but we had been on breaks before and we got back together. We had a wonderful relationship.”
Why McDermott lived in blue-collar Van Nuys, and why Newton-John didn’t help her “soulmate” of nine years wih his financial problems:
“He had a lot of pride. So I didn’t know the extent of it.”
On the weeks and months after McDermott’s disappearance was announced, when Newton-John went on with a planned album promotion tour and concert tour:
People: “In any event, the first six months of McDermott’s disapperance were almost unbearable for Newton John.”
Newton-John: “I took antidepressants. I had to.”
On why Newton-John did not report her lover missing, and went on about her business for seven weeks while the Coast Guard searched for his body:
People: “She was in Australia visiting a critically injured goddaughter.”
Of the mysteries regarding McDermott’s disappearance, and suspicion from the start that he had faked his own death:
People turns then into conspiracy theories-- “a more bizarre alternative” that arose “earlier this year.”
The article continues with a continuation of its decade-long Newton-John tragedy saga, bringing in her 1992 bout with breast cancer and divorce. It does not bring up the homicidal stalkers that led her to seek help from Hollywood security consultant Gavin de Becker, nor does it mention de Becker’s involvement in this case.
Instead, the article focuses on “another crazy confirmation that good comes out of bad”: Newton-John’s new CD.
Yet, midway through the article is a reminder: a boxed sidebar story: “THE CASE IS STILL OPEN.”
The Patrick McDermott story continues...