Before he made it big as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze was just a boy from Oak Forest in Houston, a running back for the Waltrip High School Rams in 1971. But considering the fact that his mother was a well-known choreographer and dancer, maybe it wasn’t a big surprise that Swayze would go on to acting and dancing and singing himself.
When I was thirteen years old, I remember watching Swayze as conflicted confederate Orry Main in the Civil War TV miniseries, North and South. Around the same time, the painfully bad hockey movie Youngblood came out, starring Tiger Beat pin-up boy, Rob Lowe. My best friend and I, however, were obsessed with Derek Sutton, the bad boy mentor to Lowe, played by Swayze, who almost gets killed by some ill-mannered Canadian.
Then, in 1987, our little high school lives changed forever, when Baby decided to carry that fated watermelon up to the Kellerman’s underground staff party. This is where the working-class entertainers went to blow off steam, drink beer, dance, sweat, and rub up against each other in ways that my innocent mind could never have imagined. As Johnny Castle, Swayze could do the grind like nobody’s business. I sat there with my friends, my jaw dropped, as we watched him work the room, bumping up against every woman he passed in those tight black pants. Scandalous! Our cheerleading routines were never like that. We didn’t even know how to shake our hips.
There are lines from that movie that I can still recite off the top of my head. Oh, sure. The one everybody knows is “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” But how about, “Last month, I’m eating Jujubes to keep alive, this month women are stuffing diamonds in my pockets.” Don’t forget the heartbreaking line from Baby where she whines, “Me? I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you!” You just can’t fake angst like that.
The music quickly became the soundtrack of my formative years. How can you do better than such classics as (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, Do You Love Me?, and that aching ballad, Hungry Eyes? Don’t even get me started on Cry to Me. Best scene in the movie.
Without Patrick Swayze, there would have been no Dirty Dancing. And the world would’ve been stuck with the pachanga.