Patrick Swayze has died. Like Farrah, we all knew it was coming and like Farrah, death was a welcome relief from a terrible disease. There are several parallels with Farrah Fawcett's death earlier this year. Both enjoyed (endured?) enormous fame - but arguably more so for being beautiful than for being talented actors, both were diagnosed with types of cancer which are virtual death sentences, both outlived expectations, and both left my generation with vivid memories.
We all watched as, despite defying the odds and living almost two years after being diagnosed, the strong, handsome Swayze deteriorated into a man who looked decades older than his 57 years. In my mind's eye, however, he'll always look like Johnny Castle from "Dirty Dancing" (above) or Sam Wheat from "Ghost".
I smile as I write this because it takes me back to a Saturday night in 1987 - I was 24 years old - and for some reason all the girls from my group of friends were dateless, so we all got together for dinner and to see "Dirty Dancing". I remember sitting there and watching Swayze - who I was aware of from previous movies but who hadn't really registered with me - oh my God he was beautiful! Like, painful beautiful. And the dancing, his body, the music, all of it right there on the huge screen. We all followed the sweet and simple rich girl falls for boy from the wrong side of the tracks story, we thrilled to the dancing and swooned to the love scenes.
One love scene in particular - the one where Baby goes to a shirtless Johnny's cabin and they wind up making love. Remember? We don't really see anything other than him taking her shirt off to reveal a chaste white bra and then running his fingers along her body as they dance. To this day, I find that to be one of the sexiest movie scenes I've ever seen. Nothing graphic, just sensual and romantic and...sigh. And then the ending, his redemption in her father's eyes, their triumphant final dance where Baby finally gets the lift right! At some level we knew they probably wouldn't go on to get married, but they - and we - will always have that summer in the Catskills.
As we left the movie, one of my friends, usually very straight-laced and conservative, looking quite flushed cried out..."Ay! I need a Slurpee!" We all did...
And a couple of years later "Ghost" - plot-wise a better movie than "Dirty Dancing" - with equally memorable scenes by two ridiculously beautiful people - Swayze and Demi Moore. I mean really...who cries better than Demi Moore in "Ghost" with that lone tear streaming down her perfect cheek? And remember the pottery scene - again, incredibly sensual and we really see nothing? And then of course the final kiss where Swayze is all glowy.
From all reports Swayze was a kind, decent man. Loyal to his wife to whom he was married for 34 years - nary a scandal about him, despite being People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive in 1991. So I guess the last line Sam says to his wife Molly in "Ghost" just as his spirit is set free to go to heaven truly applies to the actor who so memorably portrayed him:
I hope he in fact takes his love with him as he joins the constellation of bright stars who have left us this year.
"It's amazing, Molly. The love inside, you take it with you."
Rest in peace Patrick Swayze, thank you for giving so many of us "the time of our lives"...