The day John Travolta walked up in his swimmers and asked Wollongong's Allison Dawson for some sunscreen

Once in a lifetime: The day John Travolta asked Allison Dawson for sunscreen and told her how much he loved babies. She is prepared to put on a swimming costume and do it again when he visits Albion Park in November.
Once in a lifetime: The day John Travolta asked Allison Dawson for sunscreen and told her how much he loved babies. She is prepared to put on a swimming costume and do it again when he visits Albion Park in November.

With just 15 weeks until John Travolta flies to Albion Park in the Boeing 707 he has donated to HARS many people are excited about the chance to possibly meet him.

But one Wollongong woman who enjoyed the experience of a lifetime 30 years ago is hoping for a reunion.

John Travolta was a huge international star when he met Allison Dawson. He had already made Saturday Night Fever and Grease and had just finished filming a new movie.

One thing he enjoyed doing away from the spotlight was sailing and scuba diving. Which in a pure case of right place at the right time presented an amazing opportunity for the young Wollongong woman who was working a dream in island location.

Mrs Dawson was living in the US Virgin Islands in the late 1980's and her boyfriend at the time, Tom Miller, was a scuba instructor. Among their friends was the captain of a charter yacht which John Travolta and some friends had chartered on several occasions.

To their surprise the skipper of the sailing boat asked them one day if they would take the group out scuba diving in their boat. Which resulted in the young couple getting to spend a day with the Hollywood star and three of his friends.

Mrs Dawson spent most of the time watching the group in the water. Then when John Travolta climbed back on board the scuba diving boat she stood back not wanting to interrupt his private leisure time.

But to her surprise the star of her favourite movie Grease walked over and "asked me for some cream for his sunburn".

"It was around the time he was making the movie "Look Who's Talking". He then looked at photos we had on our boat and asked who the people were. He saw a photo of my dad (Dr Allan James) and asked me what he did. I told him that he was a doctor, a paediatrician, and he told me how much he loved kids'.

"It was a nice day. Fun of course. But particularly because he was so normal and nice".

Mrs Dawson said she knew John Travolta was coming on board their small boat a few days before she met him.

"The captain of the yacht told us the group was coming back again and were interested in scuba diving. He asked if we would follow them around and take them diving for the day. I was certified diver and my boyfriend was an instructor".

2012: Simon James , Allison Dawson and Rohan James with their father Dr Allan James at his retirement dinners: Picture Sylvia Liber.

2012: Simon James , Allison Dawson and Rohan James with their father Dr Allan James at his retirement dinners: Picture Sylvia Liber.

Mrs Dawson said the group had dived before and knew what they were doing.

"They had followed us on their yacht and then came onto out boat to get ready for the dive. When they finished they came out of the water onto our boat and that is when John Travolta came inside and saw the photos of my family that were pinned to the wall. I remember he was so interested to know who the people were in the picture. He said "I love children..I have just worked with the babies on the movie" (Look Who's Talking).

"When he found out where I was from he said he loved Australians and how much he enjoyed working with Olivia Newton-John in a movie. I said "yes I know". I was trying to be as normal as I could".

Mrs Dawson said she would love to meet him again to see if he remembers the girl from Wollongong and would happily be his tour guide.

She thinks he would enjoy a drive down Grand Pacific Drive from Bald Hill, over Sea Cliff Bridge and see the spectacular Illawarra coastline.

Seeing he is so interested in aviation he might like to learn more about Lawrence Hargrave's groundbreaking work at Stanwell Park as the father of flight.

And he may even enjoy hang-gliding onto Stanwell Park Beach or Skydving the Beach in Wollongong.

"When I heard he was coming my first thought was what an amazing thing he was doing giving his plane to the HARS Musuem," she said.

Personally she is proud of the city and would love him and the world to see it through the media attention he attracts.

But she would also love to see him have a chance to relax and soak in the easy going city she has called home since she was five years old.

She will always remember how down to earth and friendly he was when she met him and thinks he would really fit in to the Illawarra's laid back lifestyle and picturesque setting on a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the sea.

Mrs Dawson wonders whether John Travolta remembers already meeting someone from Wollongong.

"I wonder whether he would find it interesting to know there was someone here in this small town in NSW who had met him on a scuba dive in the Virgin Islands 30 years ago," she said.

Not long after the photo was taken Mrs Dawson's mother sent it to the Women's Weekly who were running a competition looking for the best photo of people being photographed with famous people.

She was beaten by someone who was photographed shaking the Pope's hand.

"I thought many people have done that. Not everyone has stood beside John Travolta in a swimming costume. He was really sunburnt. And he said "do you have any cream I can put on my sunburn"."

Mrs Dawson said she didn't ask to be in a photo.

"I was hesitant to do it because he was on a holiday with three friends, not many people would have known he was there and I didn't want to be one of these people who stuck a camera in his face and ask if I can have a photo," she said.

He came up and said do you have any cream I can put on my sunburn

Allison Dawson

"But my boyfriend Tim said do you mind if I take a photo. And he was standing on the other side of the boat and said "oh yeh" and came over and put his arm around me. He didn't mind it at all".

Some of the things that stuck her from meeting him in real life was how tall John Travolta was.

She said he was obviously good looking and has enormous talked but the thing that impressed her most was how easy going he was.

She said he was just a really nice guy.

"He was just so nice and normal," she said.

"We tried to treat him just like the other people we took diving on our boat. We didn't make a fuss or anything like that.

"We just stood back and if they wanted us to do anything we did. But we just let them enjoy the day.

2018: Alli Dawson with her daughter Zoe Bolt at the opening of Juniper Gin Bar in Keira Street, Wollongong. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

2018: Alli Dawson with her daughter Zoe Bolt at the opening of Juniper Gin Bar in Keira Street, Wollongong. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

Mrs Dawson is married to Angus Dawson.

She is a well known restauranter who opened and ran many Wollongong eateries with former husband and llawarra Steelers legend Michael Bolt.

They included Stingray, Five Islands Brewery, Metro, Brasserie and Pig Dog.

In 2018 they teamed up again as business partners with their daughter Zoe Bolt to open Juniper Gin Bar in Keira Street, Wollongong.

When Mrs Dawson lived in the Virgin Islands she went scuba diving once or twice a day every day for 2.5 years.

Looking back she is very glad she did because that gave her the opportunity to meet the star of her favourite movie.

"I know every single word of every single song," she said.

"My daughter and I watch it all the time".

Mrs Dawson is such a fan she said she may have a copy of the photo of them together in her pocket the week he arrives in case she gets the chance to meet him again.

"If they need a hostess or someone to show him the Illawarra who has lived her all their life I would be happy to fill that role," she said.

"Seriously though I just think it is wonderful he is coming here and is bringing his plane.

"I would love to be able to see him again and show him the photo but probably that is not likely to happen. But if it does that would be fun.

"And I am happy to recreate the photo. I will put on a bathing suit and do it again".

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This story The day Gong girl Allison met movie star John Travolta first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.