A Tribute to Patrick Swayze (1952-2009)
In 1987, a little summer movie about kids dancing in a summer resort somehow became a global event. A couple of elements contributed to its appeal: the finger-snapping catchy tunes, the contagious dance-routines, the always relatable outsiders vs. establishment story-line. But, and I like to think I’ll have few detractors on this statement, most of Dirty Dancing’s success could be contributed to the sheer charisma and star-wattage of its lead actor, the incomparable Patrick Swayze.
On September 14, the world sadly learned the news that the Houston-born actor had succumbed to pancreatic cancer after a long, courageous and very public struggle. While we are glad to see an end to his pain, it saddens us that a life so joyful and courteous was cut short.
Patrick Swayze had a long and colourful career. He first grabbed my attention in Francis Ford Coppola’s underrated classic The Outsiders (1983) where, along with a certain Tom Cruise, he was relegated to supporting actor-status to the likes of Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell (groan) and Ralph Macchio (double-groan). It wasn’t until Dirty Dancing in 1987 that Patrick achieved true super-star and sex-god status. Everyone I knew at the time had a thing for Dirty Dancing and its rugged male lead. Guys wanted to be him. Girls wanted to be with him. 1 You couldn’t enter a dance school without witnessing some high school kids gyrating their hips to “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life”, which incidentally, is only beaten by Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do” for most weeks spent at #1. 2
He followed this success with hits like Ghost, Roadhouse and an undisputed action classic: Point Break 3. After the 90’s his star unfortunately faded, and like many stars of his generation, he was relegated to cameos and tv-shows. He still had one surprise for his fans though, and managed to silence many of his detractors by giving perhaps the greatest performance in his career by taking a supporting role in the undisputed cult-classic Donnie Darko.
So here’s the Playtime salute:
To the guy who was content to be a supporting actor to characters named Soda-Pop and Pony-Boy.
To the guy who made pottery (with Demi Moore no less) look sexy
To the guy who cleared out a Roadhouse all by his frickin’ self
To the guy who robbed banks dressed as an Ex-President and lived to catch the biggest wave.
To the guy who single-handedly put a stop to the habit of putting babies in corners.
We loved you.
We salute you.