Xanadu (1980) :: MOTD


Xanadu (1980)
Written by Richard Christian Danus and Marc Reid Rubel
Directed Robert Greenwald

“I’m Alive” :: Electric Light Orchestra


Have you ever heard the expression “kissed by a muse”? Well, that’s what I am. I’m a muse.” ~ Kira

Well, I’m glad someone’s having a good time.” ~ Sonny

Oh, don’t make jokes; I’m serious.” ~ Kira

I was 11 years old when Xanadu came out in theaters. I saw it opening weekend with the daughter of one of my mother’s best friends. The girl was older. A teenager of 14, I think. She seemed so much older than me, cooler and knowledgeable and experienced from my perspective. She knew the significance of green M&M’s, she’d french kissed a boy before, and knew all the coolest bands. I looked up to her.

I looked up to Olivia Newton-John, too. Part idol, part hero, part crush, she was everything to preadolescent me. I loved her music, her style, and everything about her (well, everything an 11 year old girl could perceive about her). I couldn’t wait to see Xanadu.

My teenage friend dressed me up for the occasion. She put lip gloss on over pink lipstick, blue eye-shadow and rubbed glitter lotion all over my arms and shoulders. I wore a borrowed shirt of her that she had to pin in the back (I didn’t have the boobs to hold it up) and jeans (my own, no where near as cool, or as tight, as hers, but they did the trick).

The movie, oh my stars, I fell in love with it. I loved it more than Grease, most likely because I got to see this one in the movie theater, and with a teenage “friend”. The music was everything and I went out and bought the soundtrack – a double album that I still own today – with my saved up allowance.

I felt a part of the movie, and the movie felt a part of me.


It was romantic and fantastical and full of music and dancing, Los Angeles, the beach and clubs and kissing, oh and more music and dancing. My friend had a mad crush on Sonny, and wanted to be Kira, falling for him and having him demand that her parents let her be with him. I was torn between wanting to be Kira, and wanting to be loved by Kira, I couldn’t really decide which I wanted more (though I’d only admit to wanting to be her to my friend).

I wanted to be grown-up and living in their world. I would have even enjoyed painting those giant replicas of album covers, if I had any artistic talent like that (I’m a writer, not a visual artist). And I would have loved to have known, and roller skated, with Kira and her sisters, around Venice and Santa Monica beach.


The movie was released recently on Blu-ray and I was super excited to get a copy for myself. I watched it today, for the first time in years, and loved it just as much as that first time, just in different ways. The music, well, my love for it never changes. But, the things I loved more this time were Gene Kelly (I really didn’t appreciate who he was back in 1980) and his dancing, and presence in the movie, Olivia in general – I love her still, and she was so delightful in this, she glows and shines, and has so much chemistry with both Gene Kelly and Michael Beck, and I also really love seeing the Los Angeles of 1980.


I love movies and books and music about Los Angeles, so that part of it really tugs at me in a good way. Some areas look so much the same (does Santa Monica ever really change?), and others look completely different. I wish the art deco building where Xanadu ends up being still existed, I’d love to go see it.

I’d also forgotten all about the animated sequence in the middle of the movie, with the Don Bluth animation. What a fun surprise.


I also find Kira’s story interesting. A Muse who has never had feelings or love, or a dream of her own. What happens at the end? She is told she can go down to earth for a moment, or forever, so does she become mortal? Is she the bar-server at the end? She seems that she doesn’t recognize Sonny, so does that mean she’s mortal, but without her memories? Or is that just her playing at not remembering him?

I think I like the idea of her being mortal but with no memories, and having the chance to make her way in the world, on her own terms…but maybe still falling in love with Sonny, anyways (well, I am a romantic at heart, I am).

“Xanadu” :: Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra

But, really, if Sonny gets to be part owner of Xanadu, Kira should, too. It was actually all her idea.