The film legend is remembered for his chiseled features and his unique tough and tender brand that appealed to everyone. EVERYONE.
Sure, you know he was once the sexiest man alive, but did you know he wrote and sang top ten power ballad "She's Like the Wind" (EDITOR’S NOTE: the remainder of this post will be better received if you listen while you read).
But what do we really know about him, and what could we learn from Mr. Swayze during his short time on earth.
We set out to watch as many Patrick Swayze movies as possible to see exactly what he was trying to teach us. Since P. Sway became a household name at the peak of the VHS era we decided to do his oeuvre justice it needed to be watched as the gods intended—on tape
Now, actually getting a VCR proved to be a little more time consuming than we had planned. I thought like anything else, we’d just get it on Amazon. But in a search for VCRs the first few options were actually DVD players. Then I saw this:
Sure, it’s a combo player. And shipping is free. But our budget for a VCR was $15 and we wanted a black one. Ebay and Craigslist were similarly and surprisingly void of cheap VCRs. Pawn shop owners laughed when we stopped in. Luckily a neighbor who heard about our Swayze research project offered up a VCR from their basement.
Getting Swayze movies on tape was a little easier thanks to some robust collections on the internet. We scored three must watch titles – Ghost, Red Dawn, and Dirty Dancing as a bundle for $4.99. Added a few others for good measure and waited. We already had Point Break on DVD, so we cheated there, plus To Wong Foo was on cable so we DVR’d it.
Now it was time to pop the popcorn and settle in to see what we would learn. Besides the fact that Rob Lowe and Jennifer Grey are in a lot of these movies. Also had to briefly pause to argue with my partner in the experiment about the fact that Patrick Swayze was not in Overboard. It’s Kurt Russell. We agreed it’s a good movie, probably better now that we own a VCR.
“Ditto”. The little saying between Sam (Swayze) and Molly (Demi Moore) in Ghost. It’s also what Marvin, my uber driver, said from the front seat as I explained the Swayze project to the person who would soon be enduring several hours of choice 80s and 90s tapes.
“Ditto, the love man! Patrick Swayze in Ghost!”.
The project was off to a stunning success -- Sam’s love for Molly made an impression on Marvin the uber driver. We arrived at our destination, probably thankfully, before getting to talk about the pottery scene, but I can only imagine what the movie did for the clay industry. Romance and relationships were central in a lot of his movies. But Dirty Dancing and Ghost are the stand outs.
Take it from the one time sexiest man alive. Women love a man who knows his way around a dance floor. In Dirty Dancing Baby was immediately struck by Johnny Castle as he took the dance floor. The staff party lit up when Johnny and Penny arrived. In real life, Swayze and his wife Lisa Niemi were both ballet dancers and she wrote and directed 2003’s One Last Dance where they danced together.
“Same town, new story? Let’s get a beer.”
Without mentor Wade Garrett there would be no Dalton in Roadhouse. Sam Elliott’s memorable turn as the bouncer guru shows that even the best cooler in the business needs some advice sometimes. In Youngblood, Swayze’s Derek Sutton mentor’s younger hockey talent like Dean (Rob Lowe). Celebrated drag queen Vida Boheme (Swayze) helps noob Chi-Chi Rodriguez (John Leguizamo) in To Wong Foo….
A lot of Swayze’s work came in the height of the Reagan era cold war. There was a clear line between good and evil. Rocky IV was the most popular in that series and in 1984 Red Dawn was a clear battle of Swayze versus the communist enemy. Spoiler: everyone dies. Swayze, as bad guy Bodhi in Point Break, never loses perspective of the enemy Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), even after Utah seemingly falls in love with Bodhi and his girl Tyler (Lori Petty). Spoiler: They tried to remake this 90s classic.
“It’s amazing, the love inside, you take it with you.” Currently crying as I listen to “Unchained Melody” and write this, that the ending of Ghost is literally simple elegance, the definition of grace. Swayze brought a philosophical element to a lot of his characters.
From Bodhi (Point Break) “It’s not tragic to die doing what you love”, to Dalton’s (Roadhouse) more literal take.
Doc: Your file says you've got a degree from NYU. What in?
Doc: Any particular discipline?
Dalton: No. Not really. Man's search for faith. That sort of shit.
And in The Outsiders oldest brother Darrel (Swayze) redeems himself holding the Curtis family together for conflicted youngest brother Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell).
Patrick Swayze, in real life, was given months to live when diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, He battled for well over a year before he died on September 14, 2009
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