Friday, October 9, 2020
76 F
The Villages

Kelly Preston loved ‘normal life’ here with John Travolta and children

Tony Violanti
Tony Violanti

The death of Kelly Preston, 57, on Sunday, reminded me of the first time I met her and husband John Travolta.
It was 2007 and I was covering Travolta for the Ocala Star-Banner. Travolta was about to open his new movie “Wild Hogs.” The couple held a charity opening for the film in Ocala, near their Anthony home on Jumbolair Aviation Estates.
So, I took my notebook and expected the usual Hollywood shuffle from a couple of glamorous, rich, world famous movie stars dealing with a local reporter.
You know the routine: canned talking points, rehearsed answers and commercial spin in the place of humanity.
Well, I was wrong.

At the risk of cliché, John Travolta and Kelly Preston came across as regular people and likable human beings.

John Travolta and Kelly Preston talking to Tony Violanti in 2007.

I discovered that under their movie star skin, they were  — strange as it sounds —  just like you and me.
For me, it was a lesson in life and journalism.  Don’t pre-judge anybody, because you never know when one of the biggest stars in the world gets his kicks hanging out at Wal-Mart.
“Sure, John loves to go to Wal-Mart, but he can’t go to Wal-Mart,” Preston told me. “When John goes to Wal-Mart, it’s like (raises her voice as a store announcement): ‘John Travolta on aisle six.’ It’s crazy, people gather all around. He can’t last five minutes.”
Preston couldn’t resist laughing at her own words. But beneath the laughter was the essence of this power couple. They found life in small-town Central Florida a refuge from gossipy glitz and the unrelenting glare of Hollywood glitterati.

“I love rubbing elbows with life and real people,” John Travolta told me. “I don’t like living in ivory towers. That just doesn’t work for me, and it never has. I tried it and it doesn’t make me happy.”
He and his wife didn’t have to put on any airs or acts on the streets of Anthony or Ocala.

“We love it here because we can have a normal life,”  Preston said. “John loves to go to Denny’s and Target, but that’s how life is here.”

John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston with their children Ella and Benjamin.

They came to Anthony around 2003. Beyond the privacy and normalcy, Preston and Travolta found something just as vital: a sense of community.
“People here are very caring and very down to earth,” Preston said. “They have been wonderful and supportive to us. Most of the time, they respect our privacy.
“(Also), this is the best place for our children. They can go outside, and they have their freedom and their own space.”

The tranquil, peaceful life in Anthony, however, could not shield the couple from life’s tragic consequences.

The couple, at that time, had two children: a son, Jett, then 14, and daughter Ella, then 6.
In 2009, Jett, 16, died of a seizure.
I remember a sad January day in 2009, as I stood outside near the Travolta property in Anthony covering the private memorial service being held inside.
I was told by a close family source that John Travolta and Kelly Preston both kissed a large photograph of their son Jett at the close of the emotional service.

Many big stars were in attendance, including Lisa Marie Presley; Garth Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood; actors Forest Whitaker, James Gandolfini, Kirstie Allie; and retired baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.
Once again it hit me: Celebrities are just people. They live and they die. They laugh and they cry. They share the joy of life and look for solace from friends when death casts its shadow.

“You know, it’s horrific,” Tom Cruise told ABC television earlier in that day, “Both of them are doting parents. Just wonderful people.

“John just adored him; both of his children,” Cruise continued. “It’s something that I don’t have the words for.”

Standing outside Jumbolair Estates that day, watching helicopters and limousines come and go, while the television cameras followed every move, it dawned on me that status, wealth, fame or stardom offers no sanctuary from outrageous fortune.

Like two years ago, when Kelly Preston was diagnosed with breast cancer. The couple, who married in 1991, had another son, Benjamin, who was born eight years ago.
Cancer didn’t care.

Kelly Preston died Sunday and John Travolta offered these words on Instagram:
“It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my beautiful wife Kelly has lost her two year battle with breast cancer. She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many. My family and I will forever be grateful to her doctors and nurses…as well as her many friends and loved ones who have been by her side. Kelly’s love and life will always be remembered.”
Sometimes, as a reporter, you feel like an accidental tourist. You drift in and out of people’s lives, writing about their most joyous and saddest moments. And you have to sum it all up on a keyboard, while straddling a line between objectivity and heartache.
I wasn’t close to Kelly Preston or John Travolta, but I met them both and liked them both. Together, they radiated a sense of fun, love and commitment. It wasn’t an act.
We live in dark times, when death and disease are common denominators, regardless of wealth, fame or social standing. It’s a moment to cope and contemplate loss, but we must keep alive the memories of good times and good people.

I won’t forget Kelly Preston.

Villager Tony Violanti is a long-time entertainment writer and part of the Villages-News.com team.

More Headlines

Coronavirus fears could cast pall over VP’s event in The Villages

Coronavirus fears could cast a pall over Vice President Mike Pence's event in The Villages. Villages-News.com's David Towns has the latest.

The Villages tops 700 COVID-19 cases as six more local residents succumb to virus

The Villages surpassed 700 cumulative cases of COVID-19 on Friday – just five days after all three town squares reopened with live entertainment – as six more local residents succumbed to the deadly virus.

Photos

Pair Of Delta Flower Beetles On A Wildflower

Check out this pair of delta flower beetles on a wildflower in The Villages. Thanks to Ron Clark for sharing!

Little Tree Frog Inside Double Hibiscus In Lady Lake

Check out this little tree frog spotted inside this double hibiscus in Lady Lake. Thanks to Gina Collins for sharing!

Black Vulture Feeding Its Fledgling

This adult black vulture was feeding its fledging in The Villages. Thanks to Ron Clark for sharing!

Letters to the Editor

Canceled my Daily Sun subscription over offensive ad

A Village of Hillsborough resident canceled his subscription to The Villages Daily Sun over an “abhorrent” political ad. Read his Letter to the Editor.

Business

$28.7 million Lake Sumter Apartment Homes now open to renters

Lake Sumter Apartment Homes, a $28.7 million affordable housing community consisting of 158 apartment homes, is now open to renters.

Crime

Police investigating tequila heist at Total Wine in Lady Lake

Police are investigating a tequila heist which occurred at the Total Wine superstore at Lady Lake Commons.

Opinions

King Trump is his own court jester

Columnist Hugo Buchanan has a little fun with the recent actions of his favorite court jester, President Trump.

Top Stories

Villagers upset about trashy rental home in their neighborhood

Villagers upset about a trashy rental home in their neighborhood are sick and tired of the situation.

Coronavirus fears could cast pall over VP’s event in The Villages

Coronavirus fears could cast a pall over Vice President Mike Pence's event in The Villages. Villages-News.com's David Towns has the latest.

The Villages tops 700 COVID-19 cases as six more local residents succumb to virus

The Villages surpassed 700 cumulative cases of COVID-19 on Friday – just five days after all three town squares reopened with live entertainment – as six more local residents succumbed to the deadly virus.

Letters to the Editor

Canceled my Daily Sun subscription over offensive ad

A Village of Hillsborough resident canceled his subscription to The Villages Daily Sun over an “abhorrent” political ad. Read his Letter to the Editor.

Bring back happy hour!

A Village of Rio Grande resident, in a Letter to the Editor, lays out the case for bringing back happy hour at the town squares.

Open letter to the Director of Golf in The Villages

A Village of Santo Domingo resident, in an open letter to the head of the Golf Division, describes how his life as a cancer survivor could be at stake due to changes coming to golf courses.

Crime

Police investigating tequila heist at Total Wine in Lady Lake

Police are investigating a tequila heist which occurred at the Total Wine superstore at Lady Lake Commons.

Man led by ‘God’ breaks into home for cold drink in Harbor Hills

A man who said he had been directed by “God” broke into a home and helped  himself to a cold drink in Harbor Hills.

Teen employee at TJ Maxx in The Villages reports car damaged in road rage incident

A teen employee at TJ Maxx in The Villages reported that her car was damaged in a road rage incident.