Swayze goes Swayze

Even the legendary Dalton loses a fight once in a while.

The air grew a bit chill around me when I fired up the laptop last evening and read the news that Patrick Swayze had passed away at age 57. We all knew the moment was coming — we probably knew it more than a year and a half ago, when Swayze revealed that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer — but while not unexpected, it was nevertheless sad.

Swayze went down battling. In the midst of life circumstances that would have cause many of us to cocoon at home to await the inevitable, Swayze completed an entire season of a physically demanding TV series. He appeared in public when his health permitted. He gave interviews. He talked openly about his fight, and his determination to win.

You think Chuck Norris is tough? Patrick Swayze smacked Chuck Norris in the mouth and stole his lunch money every day for 20 months.

If Swayze had made only three films — Road House, Dirty Dancing, and Ghost — he would have had a career that ninety percent of Hollywood would have gladly sacrificed their own pancreases (pancreii?) for. Most actors would kill for a single role that defined them as pop-cultural icons. Swayze had three.

Road House may be the most frequently broadcast movie in the history of basic cable. (Is there a night during the week when you can’t find it somewhere on the dial?) Dirty Dancing garnered Swayze an enduring image, an endlessly repeated tagline — “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!” — and even a hit single… although the less said about “She’s Like the Wind,” the better. Ghost made Swayze’s name a hip-hop catchphrase. I doubt he collected a royalty every time some rapper said, “I’m Swayze,” but he should have.

Of course, Swayze made a ton of other films as well, in addition to his television work. But he’ll be remembered for this immortal trio.

Personally, I think Road House is one of cinema’s great disposable classics. It’s beyond ridiculous (come on… a heroic bouncer with a ludicrous hairdo? that only worked for Mr. T.), horrifically acted (from the expression-challenged Kelly Lynch to the scenery-gobbling Ben Gazzara to the host of bit players embodying every white trash stereotype known to man), and as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise, but doggoned if it isn’t entertaining. How can a movie that features Jeff Healey’s incendiary blues guitar, a singing spotlight for the always delightful Kathleen Wilhoite, Sam Elliott being Sam Elliott, and a shirtless Swayze ripping out a man’s trachea with his bare hands not be entertaining?

I always liked the fact that Swayze — a serious and thoughtful man, by all accounts — maintained a sense of humor about himself. He famously poked fun at his own image in a Saturday Night Live sketch with Chris Farley, in which the unlikely duo played Chippendales wannabes. Swayze even popped up in an uncredited cameo in the dreadful Dirty Dancing sequel, Havana Nights.

Like the great Dalton, Patrick Swayze kept being nice until it was time to not be nice.

Unfortunately, the bad guys sometimes win.

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One Comment on “Swayze goes Swayze”


  1. […] SwanShadow Thinks Out Loud Just another WordPress.com weblog « Swayze goes Swayze […]


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