Why nobody likes John Travolta: Decades of controversy and hiding in a strange religion

Despite starring in iconic cult films and comedies in a career that has spanned almost 45 years, the actor is derided and mocked.

After 44 years in the business, you’d think Travolta would have earned some appreciation. 

On paper he has done it all. He’s a fantastic actor with a diverse career, and despite a few flops, he has enough Face/Offs and Greases, Saturday Night Fevers, Get Shortysand Pulp Fictions to deserve some respect.

But for a man who should be enjoying titanship of laudation, accolades and standing ovations like one Leonardo “the Humanitarian” DiCaprio, Travolta has really received the short end of the stick in the court of public opinion.

On a good day he is mocked and derided, accused of feuding with other famous Scientologist friends.

On a bad day rumours circulate of dangerous sexual escapades; decades of concealing his sexuality and allegations he sexually assaulted two masseuses in late night spas (which he denied and were investigated but later closed by police): behaviour that is more Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction than it is Danny from Grease.

John Travolta has had to fight for public approval, achieving “comeback” status on a number of occasions. Picture: AFP
John Travolta has had to fight for public approval, achieving “comeback” status on a number of occasions. Picture: AFPSource:AFP


In 2017, a police report surfaced of a harassment charge filed against Travolta by a 21-year-old male spa employee in February 2000. Travolta had booked a deep tissue massage after midnight at the LaQuinta Hotel in Palm Springs in California.

The spa employee accused Travolta of repeatedly removing his towel and exposing his buttocks, inviting him into the steam room so he wouldn’t be alone, telling the masseuse he was attractive and he was “excited” and dropping his own towel while standing.

He also accused Travolta of reaching out while laying face down and touching the masseuse intimately. The report also alleged Travolta said a number of sexually explicit things to the masseuse.

The report concluded the complaint did not meet the requirements for sexual battery and the case was dropped without further investigation by police.

Around the same time a second allegation emerged when another unnamed spa employee claimed Travolta assaulted him late at night in similar circumstances, but the case fell apart after Travolta provided a strong alibi that proved he was in another city at the time.

The accuser claimed they had got the dates wrong and changed lawyers, claiming to have “substantial documentation and numerous witnesses regarding the substance of Travolta’s actions,” but the case was not picked back up.

Travolta with his wife Kelly Preston. Picture: Dave Kotinsky
Travolta with his wife Kelly Preston. Picture: Dave KotinskySource:Getty Images


In 2014 John Travolta’s co-pilot Doug Gotterba came forward to claim that he and the actor, who has always professed his undying love for the skies, conducted a six-year affair when he worked for him in the 1980s.

Gotterba stopped working for Travolta in 1987 and signed a “termination agreement” that included a “confidentiality clause”, which the co-pilot disputed the validity of when he expressed his intentions to tell the story of his affair in a tell-all book.

Travolta responded by saying he was out to extort money, calling the claims ridiculous.

But Gotterba was recalcitrant, saying, “Our dispute is purely about declaratory relief and will be a non-monetary judgment.

“This is about the truth and my right for a court to decide who is telling the truth, not for Mr Travolta to make a judgment,” He did, however, offer not to tell the story if Travolta gave him $US10 million.

Douglas Gotterba claimed he was seduced by Travolta. Picture: Facebook
Douglas Gotterba claimed he was seduced by Travolta. Picture: FacebookSource:Facebook


A former Scientology devotee and friend of Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston, Mike Rinder, offered speculation on the Church of Scientology’s attitude towards homosexuality.

“I cannot say if he (Travolta) is gay or not. I’m not going to speculate.” Rinder said. “All I know is it would be a catastrophe if he or anyone else in Scientology came out as gay. You can’t. The church is anti-gay even if they don’t publicise it.”

Rinder also said that Preston is much more dedicated to the religion than Travolta.

She was described as a “true believer” by an ex executive of the religion, Karen de la Carriere who said Preston was “either deluded or more likely just deaf” to her husband’s extramarital behaviour.

Ms de la Carriere said Travolta was “a bad boy who likes risky sexual adventures,” a comment that falls in line with a number of the scandalous allegations that have befallen the star.

Gawker obtained documents which detailed costs to the tune of $AU116,167 ($US84,500) by Travolta’s insurer from apparent demand letters received by Travolta from parties alleging “sexual assault”. These payments allegedly took place in 2012.

John Travolta with Lady Gaga at the Grammy after-party. Picture: Christopher Polk.
John Travolta with Lady Gaga at the Grammy after-party. Picture: Christopher Polk.Source:Getty Images

Speaking to a New York Times journalist in 1983 ahead of the release of Staying Alive, the sequel to his breakout movie Saturday Night Fever, Travolta managed to get hypersexual when asked about his acting and grab and kiss a confused female fan.

In a somewhat unusual encounter during an interview, a journalist describes the fan approaching him during the interview to compliment his work. Travolta then kisses her, the journalist describing her as “startled”.

Travolta became sexual in a 1983 interview.
Travolta became sexual in a 1983 interview.Source:News Corp Australia

The journalist then asks Travolta about the response to his body and the training he did to get in shape for the film: “I like sex, and I feel sexual so if that’s coming across, then I don’t want to deny people’s perception.” He told the interviewer “I think it’s a compliment if people see me that way, and I don’t find it limiting.”

The sexually charged turn of the interview seemed unrelated to the consequence of the subject matter, Travolta being asked about his ability to be taken seriously as an actor. Travolta had needed to get back into dancer’s form after six years had elapsed since playing the night time dancer Tony Manero.

In a recent press appearance at this years’ Cannes, Travolta was asked about his opinions on the #MeToo movement, largely focused on his former collaborative partner Harvey Weinstein with whom he made the film Pulp Fiction.

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