RSS
Losing Patrick Swayze
Why the versatile actor never fit in Hollywood, and why he’ll be missed
P

atrick Swayze “danced into hearts, then broke them,” said Andrew Dansby in the San Francisco Chronicle. The “hunky actor” died Monday of pancreatic cancer, at age 57. From his first lead role, in Red Dawn (1984), through his “first role as an icon,” in Dirty Dancing (1987), to his biggest hit, the “prototypical date-flick romance” Ghost (1990), Swayze was “among the biggest movie stars in the world” (watch Swayze’s dance finale in Dirty Dancing and pottery scene in Ghost).

Still, he “just never fit the Hollywood hunk mold,” said Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. He had the looks, the “body and grace of a panther,” and the “chiseled” cheeks and abs, but the Houston native also had a “decency and dignity”—“no strange eccentricities, no sex tapes to be leaked”—that didn’t fit Hollywood’s tabloid culture. Until his January 2008 cancer diagnosis, tabloids “had no taste for him”—then, shamefully, they wouldn’t leave him alone.

Patrick Swayze will be remembered most for Dirty Dancing and Ghost, said Peter Suderman in Reason. But for me he’ll always be the “beer-chugging, mullet-coiffed, naked-martial-arts-practicing bouncer in Road House.” It’s not a great flick, but “Swayze’s delightfully vacant Zen-thuggery” made you not care. “Here’s hoping there are bar fights in the afterlife; if so, they just got a little more awesome.”

Sure, Swayze played “many tough guys,” said Bob Tourtellotte in Reuters, and he was tough in real life, working through the pain of chemotherapy. But he also disproved the old saw that “tough guys don’t dance.” He danced, he “could turn a head or two,” and he loved, staying married to Lisa Niemi for more than 30 years—“now, that’s tough, and classy.”

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week