Pulling a John Travolta

Kendall Jenner, star of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, had a bit of a mix-up with her teleprompter at the Billboard awards last night and instead of introducing Aussie band 5 Seconds of Summer accidentally called the popular band One Direction. While Kendall Jenner was a bit embarrassed by the stuff up, the media have come up with a term for this kind of award show malfunction . . . The John Travolta.


For those of you who don’t know the story, it happened at the 2014 Oscars. Broadway star and voice of Elsa in Frozen, Idina Menzel, was ready to sing her new anthem ‘Let it Go’. The camera turned to John Travolta who gave a great introduction . . . until he got to her name which he accidentally mispronounced Adele Dazeem. And then Twitter exploded!

Upon repeating John Travolta’s mistake at the Billboard awards, Kendall Jenner’s gaffe has been dubbed a ‘John Travolta’.

In all fairness to Kendall Jenner, she was quick to notice her mistake and took complete ownership for it admitting on live television ‘Guys, I’m the worst reader’. But this incident being dubbed a ‘John Travolta’ is a fantastic sign for the theatre industry – well, at least Idina Menzel’s rapidly growing brand!

In the past, getting a musical theatre performers name incorrect would not have been such a big event. But more recently the line between Broadway performer and television/movie star has blurred. This is thanks to many musical television shows and a desire by theatre performers to make it to the big screen (probably because it is a lot less work!). As a result, the average person has come to know a little bit more about theatre even if they have no interest in the topic.

And the John Travolta gaffe is evidence of this.

John Travolta calls Idina Menzel by the name Adele Dazeem and suddenly music theatre fans and Frozen fans explode with amazement and slight anger. Through the process many other viewers are also educated on this performer and the names of Idina Menzel and Adele Dazeem are etched into their minds. But this latest development is especially exciting.

By coining the phrase ‘Pulling a John Travolta’, the Idina Menzel incident is recalled whenever anyone hears it. And as a result, so is her phenomenal performance after the incident as well as her ties to Broadway. The more people use this phrase, the more mainstream theatre becomes as it enters the commonplace vernacular and a theatre gaffe can be used by anyone – not just someone in the know.

So while I do feel very sorry for Kendall Jenner who obviously didn’t mean to accidentally introduce One Direction, the result is good for the theatre brand!