Where did the baby name Travolta come from in 1978?

Part of the "Saturday Night Fever" (1977) movie poster
John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever

We’ve been watching John Travolta for decades. He’s played a Sweathog, a bubble boy, a hit-man, a chubby 1960s housewife…

Despite all this output, though, the surname Travolta has appeared on the SSA’s baby name list only once:

  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: unlisted
  • 1978: 11 baby boys named Travolta [debut]
  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: unlisted

Were the parents of these babies inspired by Travolta’s portrayal of disco dancer Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (released in late 1977), or by his role as Rydell High greaser Danny Zuko in Grease (released in mid-1978)?

My money’s on Saturday Night Fever, but both films did extremely well at the box office (Grease remained the highest-grossing movie musical of all time for more than three decades!) so it’s hard to know for sure.

Which movie do you think the parents of those 11 baby Travoltas had in mind?

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