Hollywood was dealt another blow with a loss of another beloved icon of the 80’s in Patrick Swayze. Swayze died yesterday at age 57 after a year long battle with Pancreatic Cancer. Despite enormous success a couple of decades ago, Swayze did not live the typical Hollywood, high profile life. Instead he would submerge himself in his private life between projects. Some in the public (especially the young generation) may have forgotten about him, but not me.
While Swayze was apart of some big roles like The Outsiders and Ghost there was another special movie that really connected with me in my youth- Dirty Dancing (1987). I remember when the movie came out, I was 16, full of hormones and lost in the tumultrous years of teenhood. My first thoughts was that it was another silly romantic comedy that so embodied so many movies in that era of cinema. So I dismissed it. It left the theaters and it wasn’t until my friends and I rented it (on VHS) that it caught my attention. The funny thing was that I didn’t really watch it that night. Dirty Dancing was playing in the background while we all just hung out and goofed off. There were girls in the room and I wasn’t going to let a movie distract me from the attention of the ladies. However, occasionally I would glance over at the TV and would briefly be interested. I wanted to watch more but didn’t want the other guys to think I was too interested in this ‘chick flick’. Since I was the one that rented the tape, I took it home with me that night- and watched it all over again.
I loved this movie. I never admitted it in my teen years but I bought the tape and watched it dozens of times throughout high school. I bought the records (yes records and yes there was two of them!). Dirty Dancing was the late 80’s generation version of Grease. It was a coming of age story and about overcoming fear, family, and traditionalism with courage. As a young artist, I remember identifying with Swayze’s character of Johnny Castle (without the muscles or good looks!). His character was made to create even if that meant pain and sacrifice. Dirty Dancing was also about breaking out of the bonds of family and believing in yourself. Topically it was typical teen drama faire but it did it with heart, soul, and a fantastic soundtrack. It had a powerful impact on my life during those formative years. I used to day dream about saying “no-one puts Baby in a corner…” to the dad of a potential girlfriend someday. While this post is not a Dirty Dancing review, I will take the opportunity to give it 4.5 out of 5 Babbles and encourage you to watch or re-watch it again.
Swayze died like the character he portrayed in Dirty dancing; a man of character, passion, and love. You will be missed Mr Swayze. Thanks for dancing and thanks for not leaving Baby in the corner. I end my post with an excerpt from the LA Times about him:
The truth is, Swayze just never fit the Hollywood hunk mold, though he had that reddish brown hair, blue-sky eyes, chiseled cheeks and equally chiseled abs going for him. There were no strange eccentricities, no sex tapes to be leaked. He was, by all accounts, a professional on set, a worthy colleague for any actor who played opposite him whether friend or foe; kind to the crew; generous to a fault; sentimental and not ashamed of it.
Maybe that’s in part because Swayze was really never raised for this world. A Houston native who grew up dancing and riding horses, he married the love of his life, Lisa Niemi, when they were still young. They stayed together more than 34 years, until the end, spending their time just outside L.A. Swayze’s values were rooted in this country’s heartland ethics, and like his Texas twang, they stayed with him, he held them close. The actor had no taste for the tabloid culture and until he was dying, it had no taste for him