On the cusp of super-stardom JOHN TRAVOLTA reportedly “fell in love” with an actress who was 15 years older than him as they co-starred together. Within a year John was a household name and DIANA HYLAND was dead.
Diana, 37, who had starred on the TV series “Peyton Place” and recently guested on “Happy Days” as The Fonz’s girlfriend, played the mother of “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” a TV movie about a disease prone teen who was kept in a bubble.
The titular “Boy”, was young John Travolta, 22, making the leap from TV stardom on “Welcome Back Kotter” to full-fledged film sensation. But something funny happened on the way to fame – the two actors playing mother and son fell suddenly in love.
In NATIONAL ENQUIRER issue December 28, 1976, Travolta gushed, “I’m madly in love with Diana, pure and simple!”
Diana who had been married previously revealed their secret love to The ENQUIRER, “We clicked on our first meeting on the set of ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble’. But it was about three weeks before John asked me out for a date. We have a lovely relationship.
“Just being with John is a lot of fun. We get along so well and understand each other very deeply.”
Travolta confessed that he’d “never gotten along too well with girls my own age or younger – I guess I’m not playboy enough.”
Yet while John was being mobbed by young girls everywhere as his Vinne Barbarino sex symbol status became a cultural phenomena, he only had eyes for Diana.
They were glued to the TV premiere of “Boy” lying together in bed, the PR ballyhooed.
“I love Diana,” John enthused. “But marriage? It’s something we don’t talk about,” he told The ENQUIRER.
In 1977, Diana scored the part of Dick Van Patten’s wife Joan Bradford in the new sitcom “Eight is Enough”. But as Travolta began filming “Saturday Night Fever” tragedy struck.
Diana, who had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy, was suddenly ailing. The breast cancer had spread.
On March 27, 1977, Travolta held her in his arms as she died. "I felt the breath go out of her," Travolta recalled.
At Diana’s memorial service John wore the white suit they had bought together for their planned romantic rendezvous to Rio.
According to an interview, what kept John together during the "hardest 10 weeks of my life" were a Scientology auditor and Diana's final words –"I'm going now, but you are going to have this work".
A mere ten days after Diana’s service, Travolta went back to work starring in Grease.
Months later, Diana received a posthumous Emmy Award for her performance in “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble”.
A tearful John Travolta accepted the statuette in her name.