Monday, September 14, 2009

And I Owe It All To You

Sorry 'bout the distruption, folks. But I always do the last dance of the season. This year, somebody told me not to. So this year, I'm gonna do my kind of dancin' with a great partner, who's not only a terrific dancer; somebody who's taught me that there are people willing to stand up for other people no matter what it costs them; somebody who's taught me about the kind of person I wanna be.

I just got home from The Happiest Place in the Mall, after a hard night of providing magic and pixie dust to the masses, and sat down to do my usual flip-through on the interweb.

Typically, here's my routine... I check my email, then go through my bookmark buttons on my Google Toolbar--that being, sites I have saved... ESPN... Fox News... The Drudge Report... The He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Re-Elected Channel... Entertainment Weekly... E-Wrestling News (I kid not)... then finally, flip on over to Facebook, which I save for last because I typically leave the tab up for a while as I do other stuff on the interweb.

Tonight, for whatever reason, I just went to Facebook. And saw that Erin the Marine Wife had said something about "Patrick" and how she hates cancer. Well, she's had someone near and dear to her pass away from the dreaded Big C (even help start a foundation... check out the site), so I thought "hmm... she must know a Patrick who died. Sad."

Then, as I scrolled down the page, I figured out what was going on... the great Patrick Swayze, the great Bodhie, the great Sam Wheat, the great Dalton had lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. And I know it sounds stupid, I know it sounds idiotic... but somewhere down deep inside of me, a little piece of my heart died too.

Patrick Swayze is in an elite group of actors that define my youth. My youth, in this context, starts in about 1984 when I was 9, just about old enough to remember most things I'd seen and heard, until about 1990, when the 80s where over, and I was not quite driving, but at least riding with my friends who could drive.

When I was little, I had a television in my room starting around 1986, an old Sears clunker that you had to actually set the channels on the television by flipping a little dial. The remote had three buttons... two of them turned the channels, the third was a larger square that raised the volume three times then turned it off. Push it again, it turns on at a low volume.

The next year, I got a VCR, and since we had HBO and Sho-time, and since I wasn't the most popular kid in the school and stayed home most weekends, void of party invitations, I watched movies. And listened to Open House Party on WKMX. And watched more movies. I learned how the VCR worked, and learned that if you tape it just right, you could put 3 full length films on a single tape under Lengthened Play. This allowed me to collect over 100 films in my little library.

Films of my youth, films that I watched over and over and loved and remembered (and perhaps I watch now and wince, but then in my naivety and easy-to-please-ness) include "Wall Street", and "Working Girl" and "Full Metal Jacket" and "Coming to America" and "Ghost" and "Next of Kin" and "Red Dawn" and had actors like Harrison Ford and Lea Thompson and Michael Douglas and Elizabeth Shue and... Patrick Swazye.

He was married to the same woman, Lisa Niemi for about 34 years, an unheard of amount of time compared to today's standards. I daresay you could take all the marriages of Britney, Angelina, Leann Rimes and anything Lindsay and Paris will ever do, put them all together and you'd probably never get the length and happiness that Patrick and Lisa probably had. 34 years.

He had his share of troubles to be sure, most Hollywood stars do... he did a stint for alcohol abuse, and he watched his career dry up in the 90s, forced to do silly things like "Waking Up In Reno" and guest spots on "Whoopi"... but you never, ever saw a news story where he was caught in the act with a hooker, or was found with five pounds of blow on him or was accused of assault or rape or decided that at age 57, he was going to get an earring in his ear, divorce his wife and hook up with a piece of re-bar with boobies (hello, Harrison Ford).

No, he kept at it. And he spent the last part of his life doing "The Beast" on A&E, and was such a professional that he refused painkillers when filming so as not to affect his work. It didn't garner huge ratings but, you know, it was enough for renewal--but it wasn't renewed, because A&E had to make the business decision based on the fact that... well, the end was coming. They knew it. I think Swayze knew it. For anyone who was paying attention, we all knew it. But we weren't ready for it.

I wasn't.

My Nine Favorite Patrick Swayze Performances...
I was going to do 10, but looking at his IMDB page, I actually struggled to find 10. I kinda struggled to find 5. I mean, let's face it, the man was not DeNiro or Cary Grant... he really did some crappy stuff... but he good stuff he did was really, really good. And its not necessarily Oscar caliber stuff--but its entertaining, re-watchable, flippin' channels and wow, there it is okay i'm putting down the remote good. And that's really all we need from most movies, ain't it?

9. "To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar"
Dressed in drag, Swayze has a blast as Vida Bohemme, teamed with a young Wesley Snipes (who plays the wonderfully named Noxeema Jackson), ending up stranded in the conservative, well-to-do town of Snydersville.

8. "Red Dawn"
He plays a smaller part in this film, but I had to mention it.

7. "Next of Kin"
If you had Swayze play Truman Gates, toss in Bill Paxton as his younger brother, toss in Liam Neeson as his older brother Briar, add some Chicago mafia, put in death-by-compound-bow and mix in some very very young and very, very unintentionally hilarious Ben Stiller, what do you think you would end up with? The glory known as "Next of Kin".

6. "Saturday Night Live"
Sadly, both the main stars in this are now gone... to use a cliche, too soon.

5. "Black Dog"
There is nothing about this movie I don't like. I couldn't bear to list it any higher than five on this list, only because I want some credibility, but really, Patrick Swayze driving a big rig, on the run from a Scripture quoting Meat Loaf... you just have to like it. You do. I do. Its on TheDave 100.

4. "Road House"
You don't watch "Road House". You experience "Road House". Experience it for all its glory, for all its bad acting, for all of its terrible plot, for Kelly Lynch and the fact that when you were a kid she was a total babe but you look at her now and think "Really?", for old school cool Sam Elliot, for The Jeff Healey Band singing "Angel Eyes" back when it was a great song (still is), for the fact the director's first name is Rowdy, for the fact the main character is a bouncer who does Tai Chi and smokes cigerettes and... for the fact its James Dalton.
"Do you enjoy pain?" the doc asks.
"Pain don't hurt," Dalton smiles.

Dalton takes out the trash

3. "Ghost"
Man I love this movie. I'm not kidding. I love everything about this movie. Demi Moore is totally gorgeous, but in a girl-next-door sort of way, Whoopi Goldberg is likeable for one of the few times in her career, and Patrick Swayze is just cool. Even that creepy scene where you see the image of Sam Wheat making out with Molly, but if you think about it, its actually Swazye's ghost in Oda Mae Brown's body, which means that Oda Mae is making out with Molly and... eew. I'll stop before I move this movie down the list.

More comical now, back then, hell's demons were absolutely terrifying. Seriously.

2. "Point Break"
As I sat here and stared at the words "Point" and "Break", I laughed out loud. I mean, where to even begin? This movie is terrible. Every thing about it is just terrible... but thats why I'm not a professional movie critic, I'm an average d$ who loves movies, and I love this film. When you have Swayze playing a surfer named Bodhi who robs banks using masks of presidents as a cover, how can it get any better? Well, I'll tell you... you throw in Keanu Reeves, in this "I want more serious roles! I'm more than just Ted and those stupid adventures!" phase of his career, and you name him Johnny Utah, and you make him say, "I AM A EFF BEE EYE AY-GENT!!!" That's how you make it better.

1. "Dirty Dancing"
This isn't one of my favorite films. Oh, I like it, no question, but I'd probably watch "Point Break", "Black Dog" or "Road House" before I watched this... but you cannot deny the impact that this movie had on cinematic history. Its colossal, and as the years go by, it will only grow in stature. From Jennifer Grey's weird face that still looked hot, to the awesome soundtrack full of old and new classics (and "She's Like the Wind... through my trees... she rides the night... next to me...") to the infamous Lift to that song that no one admits liking but EVERYONE likes, "I've Had the Time of My Life" to "Nobody puts baby in a corner"... its classic. And not just that, but its a really good film. The acting is stellar, the storyline is great, the music is fantastic, and Swayze had possibly--and Grey had definately--never been better before or since.

And that part where he's dancing in the aisle, and he does the side-to-side step with all of his entourage dancing behind him? That looks soooooo easy to do, doesn't it? And you can't do it. I never could. Looked like a total moron. No joke. That's the Magic of Swayze.


By the way, I went to about fifteen different links on YouTube to find the last scene, and the links have all been removed. So click here and see the full "Had the Time of My Life" scene. You know you want to. You know you do. I just did. And it made me smile.

I tip my hat to you, Patrick Swayze. I know not your beliefs, but if you are walking the streets of gold showing Ruth and Mary Magdelene the Lift, then rest in peace, my friend.



  1. He was a man who fought bravely and humbly. I also think he must have been a man of great strength and character, not only because of his career, but to uphold 34 years of marriage vows. Ya just don't see that in Hollywood anymore. I didn't shed a tear when MJ died (I just didn't feel connected altough I felt for his kids), but last night I did cry a little. I just hope that someone will write his story (and do it incredible justice) and that kids of today's generation will learn more about him. An honest to goodness decent man.

    Rest in Peace Patrick. God Bless your family...

    Erin the Marine Wife

  2. Isn't it sad that both Jerry Orbach and Patrick Swayze are now gone? Loved them both in Dirty Dancing. Always felt that they both always gave their best in every performance.


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