A few years ago Kelly Preston was perched on a couch in a Los Angeles hotel suite and uttered words rarely heard from an American.
“I love Vegemite, especially on the big crusty buns you get in Australia,” the actor, rubbing her hands together like she was trying to summon a jar out of thin air, told AAP.
Preston’s love for Australia’s favourite breakfast spread – and anything else from Down Under – should not be a surprise.
The actor moved to Adelaide aged 14 and attended the city’s elite Pembroke School.
Preston moved back to the US after two years to launch an acting career with roles including Jerry Maguire, Twins, and Gotti, but was a regular visitor to Australia with husband and Qantas “ambassador-at-large” John Travolta.
Travolta, Preston and their children Jett, Ella and Benjamin flew themselves across the Pacific in the ultimate Australian way – the family’s Qantas-branded Boeing 707.
Preston, 57, died on Sunday after a secret two-year battle with breast cancer.
“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,” Travolta wrote on Instagram.
“She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many.”
Close family friend Olivia Newton-John, who has had her own cancer battles, led a stream of emotional tributes by describing Preston as “a radiant, warm and gentle spirit – a loving, devoted wife, mother and sweet friend”.
Newton-John’s Hollywood break came when she starred opposite Travolta in 1978’s Grease.
The Australian singer-actor remained close friends with Travolta and Preston over the decades.
“My heart breaks for John, Ella and Ben,” Newton-John wrote on Twitter.
Preston and Travolta lived a life of luxury with multiple homes, including a Florida mansion built on an airport to allow the family to park their planes.
Tragedy, however, struck in 2009.
Jett, who was autistic and had seizures, died aged 16 while the family was holidaying in the Bahamas.
In multiple interviews with AAP over the years Preston glowed as she spoke about her family.
“I’d love to have some more kids,” Preston said in a chat in 2003…We will hopefully, probably, have at least one more – at least.”
Her wish came true in 2010 with Ben’s arrival.
Preston was born and raised in Hawaii and it was her parents’ marriage break-up that led her to Adelaide.
“My parents had just separated, they were getting divorced, and some friends of ours from Australia very spontaneously said ‘come here, come stay with us’,” Preston said.
“We said ‘OK, we’ll go for a couple of months’, and we stayed for two years and have so many great memories”
“When I left Hawaii I was thrilled to be going on a short trip but when I knew we were going to stay there for two years I was missing my family. But by the time I left Australia I was crying, I had a big group of friends at the airport, and I had made such great friends I found it was really hard to leave.”
It was Preston’s daily visit to the Pembroke tuck shop where she became hooked on Vegemite and other Australian fare.
“Vegemite was definitely an acquired taste,” she said.
“The first bite was not delicious, but on the big crusty buns with butter at school, oh I loved that.
“And lamingtons, pasties and pies.”