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Fame & Fortune: John Travolta

Bankrate: Who were your heroes growing up?

John Travolta: Well, airline pilots were my heros. I like airplanes. Firefighters were my heroes as well. I grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood so firefighters were a natural, but it was a little more romantic to see those planes go across the sky and think about where they were going and who was on board. In acting I loved Jimmy Cagney; he was a hero of mine. Because firefighters are innately humble and modest, they don't demand any attention at all so it's kind of like that kid in the family who is the best student but doesn't want the attention. They don't like being considered heroes. But they are. 

Bankrate: Besides being financially richer, do you think you've changed since your New Jersey days?

John Travolta: You know, I really haven't changed all that radically since my childhood days. I think I'm a bigger human being than I was but I always had potential. I've used everything I've learned over the years, and that's part of the maturing process. As a child, I felt a lot of hopes and possibilities. I remember sitting in my living room and watching the jet age come to fruition. I watched the Kennedy regime and I saw a man walk on the moon. Yes, I can go and buy expensive things -- toys, clothes, things for my family -- that I couldn't do before, but inside, I think I'm basically the same person. I've always looked at the glass as half-full. 

Bankrate: I spoke to a former dance teacher and partner back in New Jersey and she said you gave her a $10 check; she said she thought it would come in handy someday because her family didn't have much money, but it bounced.

John Travolta: (Laughs) Yes -- and I remember I told her to put it through again and it would be good. But I don't think she ever cashed that check. She told me I was going to be a star someday and the check would be a reminder.

Bankrate: You play a plus-sized woman in the new "Hairspray" film. Did playing a woman change your perspective on women, in general?

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John Travolta: Yes, because I realized the power a woman has. I wasn't a woman, yet I had the illusion of being a woman and I was treated differently. I was treated with a lot of flirtation. People would go get me coffee and talk to me like I was a woman. And people would want to touch my butt or my breasts like men do to real women. But it was an empowering feeling too -- dangerous, but empowering. The women in my family in the early 1970s were very powerful and strong -- they worked and had babies. Nobody was following the rules in my family back then. I had to learn from other women that there was a fight on for women's equality. But the women in my family were already doing it -- they were ahead of the game. 

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