Remembering Patrick Swayze
Looking back at the life of the Dirty Dancing star
When I heard that Patrick Swayze had pancreatic cancer last year, I thought, “If anyone can beat it, he can.” And although the 57-year-old lost his brave and determined fight yesterday, I think it is a sign of how strong-willed Patrick Swayze was that he fought the good fight for as long as he did against one of the most deadly forms of the disease.
Because that’s the one thing you took away from all of Patrick’s performances, whether he was a ghost determined to have one last moment with his wife, or a dancer from the wrong side of the tracks fighting for the woman he loved, Patrick Swayze gave it his all.
I remember the first time I saw Dirty Dancing. It was 1987 and I was on vacation in New York City and my friend Kate and I went to see the film in a dingy theater in Midtown. It was a freezing cold January night and the rowdy audience warmed quickly to the film, cheering when Patrick said, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
Kate and I walked out of the cinema smiling like a couple of teenagers and believing in the transformative power of love (and the hotness of Patrick Swayze). While we were watching the film, it had begun to snow. As an Aussie who’d grown up on the beach, I was smitten. It was the first time I had seen snow falling, and the moment is etched in my memory. If you’ve ever walked down the streets of Manhattan in a snowstorm, you’ll know there’s something otherworldly about way the soft flakes muffle the sounds of the city, making it a magical place. I have seen that film many times since then and each time the thrill I get when I see Johnny Castle lift Baby above his head is even sweeter because it is tied in with my special NYC moment.
Like a good older sister, I inflicted my love for Dirty Dancing on my siblings. Our VHS copy of the film was practically worn out after the constant rewinding and rewatching of specific scenes. My sisters and I were drawn in again and again by Patrick’s strong yet vulnerable performance. And the tank tops and tight pants didn’t hurt either.
Maybe it was because he was a guy from Houston, Texas, who grew up in his mom’s dance studio, but the combination of rough-houser and sensitive dancer made Patrick a leading man with hidden depths.