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Monday, April 23, 2012

Dirty Dancing

Here’s a little bit of an admission for all of you.  I can’t dance to save my life.

“Wait a minute”, I hear some of you saying.  Today’s not Thursday!  You’re three days early for the Thursday Confession!

Note that I used the word “admission”.

It’s true though.  I don’t have any sort of fancy footwork on the dance floor whatsoever, and I reckon that in order to get me on a dance floor, you’re going to have to loosen me up with lots and lots of liquor.  I think part of the reason why I avoided school dances the way that a germaphobic person avoids public restrooms was because of my dancing skills, or lack of them.  School dances were supposed to be fun where nobody really cared what you looked like on the dance floor, but I really did care.

I stunk on the dance floor.  Why bring attention to it?

I doubt that I would even be considered a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”.  For one, I’m not a celebrity, and secondly, I don’t think the judges on that show could give a mark less than a zero on that show.

But do you want to know who COULD dance?  Patrick Swayze.

Patrick Swayze was always one of those stars who seemed as if they could do it all.  A real Renaissance man if ever there was one.

Dancing was just one of the many things that Patrick excelled in, which really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as his mother was a dance instructor and choreographer.  In his youth, Patrick took up ballet dancing, ice skating, gymnastics, and played high school football.  Patrick’s plan in high school was to win a football scholarship to get into college, but an injury prevented that plan from going forward.  So, Patrick decided to turn to an alternate plan.


Little did Patrick know that the completion of his studies at the Harkness and Joffrey ballet schools in New York would lead to the beginning of his acting career.

Shortly after appearing as a dancer for Disney on Parade, he got a job as a replacement playing the role of Danny Zuko in the Broadway production of Grease.  Following that was his first role in a motion picture, the low-budget 1979 film “Skatetown U.S.A.”

Fortunately, Swayze managed to net better parts over the years.  Some of his most memorable movies included “Ghost”, “Red Dawn”, “The Outsiders”, “Road House”, “Donnie Darko”, and “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar”.

Patrick Swayze really did do it all.  He danced, he acted, he even dressed in drag!  And, would you believe that he also sang, and had a hit song in early 1988?  Here it is below.

ARTIST:  Patrick Swayze (f. Wendy Fraser)
SONG:  She’s Like The Wind
ALBUM:  Dirty Dancing Soundtrack
DATE RELEASED:  September 24, 1987

Considering that this was Patrick’s debut single, peaking at #3 on the charts was a huge deal!  And, here’s a bit of trivia for you.  Swayze initially co-wrote the song with Stacy Widelitz for the soundtrack for “Grandview, U.S.A.”.

Sadly, Patrick Swayze passed away on September 14, 2009 after a battle with cancer.  He was survived by his mother, three siblings, and his wife of nearly twenty-five years, Lisa Niemi.  But his work continues to live on through his movies, television projects, and song releases.

And today’s blog topic deals with one of Patrick Swayze’s most memorable movies.  The song you just heard happens to be on the soundtrack of this film, which was so popular that it ended up being the most rented video of 1988!

Today’s Monday Matinee is featuring the film “Dirty Dancing”, which was released on August 21, 1987.  The film starred Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach, and Cynthia Rhodes.  As of 2009, the film has made well over $214 million, and has spawned a prequel (2004’s “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights”), and several stage productions worldwide.

The film also spawned a successful soundtrack album, which was quite unique in that the majority of the songs were recorded two decades earlier.  Songs by Otis Redding, The Shirelles, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, The Ronettes, and Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons were heavily featured in the movie, which made sense, given that it took place in the summer of 1963.

The beginning of the movie introduces us to Frances “Baby” Houseman (Grey).  She’s seventeen, and on a vacation with her family, staying at a Catskills resort named Kellerman’s.  Baby’s plans for the future include attending college, and from there, entering the Peace Corps.  The reason why she is vacationing at Kellerman’s is because her father, Jake (Orbach) is friends with the physician who owns the resort.

At first, Baby’s not exactly sure what she is going to do for fun at the resort...that is until she happens to cross paths with Johnny Castle (Swayze), a member of the staff of the resort.  Johnny is the resort’s dance instructor, and during the day, Johnny teaches his students relatively safe and standard dance moves.

Oh, but when the night fell, things heated up in a big way.  While carrying a watermelon one day, Baby is invited to one of the resort’s after-hours parties, and when she arrives, she’s shocked to find the partygoers indulging in some rather sultry, sexy dance moves.

It was the phenomenon known as “Dirty Dancing”.  And Johnny was right smack dab in the middle of all the excitement, even giving Baby a couple of dance lessons on the spur of the moment. 

Later, Baby discovers a secret about Johnny’s dance partner, Penny Johnson (Rhodes).  Penny has gotten pregnant by a man named Robbie Gould.  Robbie Gould is a piece of work.  He’s a womanizer, a cheater, and Baby wasn’t impressed.  Of course, part of that could have been because Robbie had dated Baby’s sister while he was sowing his wild oats with Penny and others.

The problem was that Robbie didn’t even seem to want to help Penny out once he knew that she was expecting.  He really acted like a first-class jerk.  So the only solution that Baby could come up with was for her to borrow money from her father so she could help Penny pay the cost for an illegal abortion.

Of course, she couldn’t let Jake know the REAL reason why she needed the money.  Regardless, Jake, who had always trusted his daughter, gave her the money, no questions asked.  In the meantime, while Penny is sidelined from the after-effects of the abortion, Baby agrees to stand-in for Penny for a performance at the Sheldrake, which Johnny and Penny performed in annually.

Over the next few weeks, Johnny teaches Baby everything that he knows about dancing (both clean and dirty), and while their relationship is a bit prickly at first, sparks soon fly between the two.  The performance at the Sheldrake goes well, but Baby is a bit too nervous to attempt the lift at the end of the performance.  Either way, Johnny grows more impressed with Baby each day, and Baby and Johnny soon fall head over heels for each other.

Hmmm...I think another song is in order from the soundtrack, courtesy of Eric Carmen.

Anyway, Johnny and Baby arrive back at Kellerman’s on a high from the performance, but are crestfallen to hear that Penny’s abortion did not go according to plan, and she is left in excruciating pain.  Baby’s instincts tell her to get help from her father, who is a physician, but Jake jumps to the wrong conclusion, believing that JOHNNY fathered Penny’s child.  Jake is furious, and forbids Baby from seeing him again, and is hurt that she betrayed his trust in her. 

But Baby wasn’t quite ready to give up on Johnny.  She snuck out of her cabin to see Johnny again, and the two of them share a wonderful night together.

Unfortunately, secret relationships don’t seem to stay secret for long in Kellerman’s, and when Johnny is accused of stealing a wallet from a guest, and is unable to come up with an alibi, Baby is forced to admit that she was Johnny’s alibi to clear his name so that he wouldn’t be arrested.  Baby’s selfless act succeeds in proving Johnny’s innocence in the wallet theft, but he still ends up getting fired from the resort for his affair with Baby.

But, if you think the movie ends there, think again.  I won’t spoil it for those who have not yet seen the film yet, but it involves redemption, forgiveness, dancing, and the famous “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” line.

All in all, I enjoyed “Dirty Dancing”.  Some may refer to the film as a “chick flick”, but I honestly don’t see it as such.  I think that it’s a wonderful movie for anybody at any age to enjoy.  It’s got a fantastic story, great actor chemistry (seriously, Grey and Swayze really clicked with each other on screen), and a great life lesson.

“There are people willing to stand up for other people, no matter what it costs them.”

In a little bit of an epilogue, Jennifer Grey went on to compete on the eleventh season of Dancing with the Stars, and ended up winning the coveted mirror ball trophy that year along with her partner Derek Hough.  And, well...I found a clip of one of the performances which might seem a bit familiar to those who watched “Dirty Dancing”.

I think that had Patrick Swayze been alive to see the performance, I’m sure he would have been proud of his “Baby”.  As for Grey, I’m sure that she “had the time of her life” in that moment.

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