Patrick Swayze: The PopWatch YouTube appreciation

Just because we all knew that his death was imminent, it didn’t make it any less painful when Patrick Swayze finally lost his battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday at age 57. Today, you’ll no doubt read a slew of tributes to the tough-but-tender Texan’s 30-year career, ticking off his steely star turn in 1983’s The Outsiders, the smoldering, Astaire-like grace he wielded on the dance floor in 1987’s Dirty Dancing, and the heart-breaking longing from beyond that he brought to 1990’s Ghost. And don’t get me wrong, those are all great films. Any actor would love to have just one film resonate in the culture like any of those did. But to me his career was always more interesting than that trio of hit films suggested. If you dig a little deeper and look beyond the obvious, you’ll find several more indelible moments (sometimes serious, sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes deliciously cheesy) that helped Swayze forge a significant and singular career over the past 30 years. Because if there’s anything we learned from a certain fiery Catskills dance instructor who could be both balletic and bareknuckle, it was this: You don’t put anyone in a corner.

Here’s a video tribute to some of our favorite Swayze moments:

In 1979, Swayze landed his first major film role in the unspectacular Skatetown, U.S.A. opposite a strange star-studded cast that included Scott Baio, Flip Wilson, Billy Barty, Marcia from The Brady Bunch, and Welcome Back, Kotter‘s Horshack. Looking way younger than his 27 years, Swayze delighted in the chance to show off his dance moves long before Dirty Dancing in this roller-disco number.

After a few TV movies and a memorable guest-star turn on M*A*S*H, Swayze got his big break by joining Francis Ford Coppola and a Who’s Who cast of young Hollywood up-and-comers in 1983’s The Outsiders.

Swayze parlayed his early success as the elder statesman of the Brat Pack into the 1984 Cold War cult classic, Red Dawn, which is currently being remade in Hollywood. Take a look at this clip and see why. Wolverines!

1987, of course, brought the biggest hit of Swayze’s career, Dirty Dancing, and its infectious “Time of My Life” finale. Even if you’ve watched the scene a million times, watch it again. Seriously. You won’t be disappointed.

Swayze followed Dirty Dancing with a string of action movies like 1989’s post-apocalyptic Steel Dawn and the always-welcome-on-cable-at-2-a.m. classic Road House. Nowadays, it seems odd that anyone in Hollywood thought that it would be a good idea to bankroll a film about a philosophical brute bar bouncer. But Swayze’s zen badass Dalton was iconic — mythic — delivering such brawny bon mots as “pain don’t hurt”.

In 1990, of course, we all loved him in Ghost. But for my money, his best performance that year was in this send-up of his own soon-to-be-Sexiest Man Alive persona from his guest-hosting stint on Saturday Night Live.

Charismatic bad guys? Swayze could do that too, of course. Exhibit A: 1991’s Point Break, as the surfing, skydiving bank robber, Bodhi.

Swayze could be fearless off screen, too. Especially when it came to the projects he chose. Again, bucking against his tough guy-ladykiller image, he memorably went drag in 1995’s To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar (and looked pretty good while he was at it).

After a brief dry spell at the box office, Swayze rebounded in 2001 with a small, but scene-stealing turn as an infomercial spiritual huckster in the indie sensation, Donnie Darko.

Finaly, earlier this year, after he received his grim diagnosis, Swayze was battled to continue acting. And the result was both brave and riveting in the A&E series, The Beast. As anyone who followed Swayze’s long and brilliant career already knew, he was a fighter with grace and humility — traits that his final role reinforced for his fans one last time.

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Comments (28 total) Add your comment
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  • paige

    I thought he was brilliant in To Wong foo

  • Melba

    My favourite Patrick Swayze – him and Chris Farley on SNL competing for a spot with the Chippendale dancers – classic!

    • Anne

      One of my favorites as well. How he pulled that off with a straight face I will never know. I must say, I sat thru two showings of Pointe Break. The first time for Keanu, the second time for Swayze. And Roadhouse? Come on, that movie was awesome!!

    • Brandi

      My favorite was the SNL skit to. So funny! I have to say my favorite movie of his is Dirty Dancing. Way obvious I know, but my next would have been The Outsiders. I have always loved that movie. If you haven’t read the book, you should.

  • Kay

    dirty dancing, to wong foo, outsiders, red dawn are my faves I never liked ghost it was to sappy for me

  • Mike

    A brilliant actor who wasn’t truly appreciated for the range of characters he portrayed.

  • Lee

    Nobody puts baby in a corner!

  • ♪SPARkZ♪

    I Belive That Patrick Was an Inspiring Man To Many People.
    I Saw “Dirty Dancing” over and over.
    It’s One Of My Fav. Movies Of All Time. Forever In Our ♥’s RiP Patrick Swayze. Gone But Never Forgotten.

  • Allison

    The first time I really noticed him was in the mini series “North and South”…he was amazing in it!!

  • Denny

    I’ve got to say that though I’ve seen a ton of his movies, My favorite is Point Break. He was great in it as the charismatic bank robber, and between him and Gary Busey, Keanu was good in this, too. Swayze kicked ass, though, and took chances, as in his performance in Donnie Darko. You’ve got to respect the man.

  • Brenda

    RIP Patrick!I lost my Mom 8years ago to Pancreatic Cancer.You both went way too early. We need to fight for a cure. You were my FAVORITE!
    Keep Dancing!!!

  • becky

    I fell in love with him in Dirty Dancing. I could watch that over and over. He was awesome in Too Wong Foo!!! He was not only a teriffic actor but he was a awesome man that was very dedicated to his wife and his acting. He will be missed very much. Nobody should have to suffer with cancer of any kind!!!! He is no longer suffering Amen

  • Jen

    I loved him in everything he did. Dirty Dancing, the SNL Chippendales skit, and Ghost were my favorites. He was an extremely talented actor and dancer, and he was an extraordinary human being. He will be missed by so many.
    Rest in Peace, Patrick.

  • jj11

    Along with the Chippendales bit with Chris Farley, my favorite was the skit with Hanz and Franz where one of them starts dreaming of riding horseback with PS, while he is giving them pointers on working out. I still crack up at that. That whole episode was great. Remember the Ghost bit with Victoria Jackson? He is a ghost watching her pick her teeth with her knawed off tone nails and blowing her nose on the couch cusions. CLASSIC!!

  • Penny

    Patrick will be missed. I loved him in the North and South series. It is one of my favorites. Just as good as Gone With The Wind.

  • JustOne Comment

    One of the best actors in the business who did it because it was his calling and he did it with humility. He did alot of great roles but Point Break was my favorite. I was waiting for a sequel with him surviving, getting washed up on a beach and getting nurtured back to life by natives. Then he hooks back up with Johnny Utah (after diving and finding his rusted FBI Badge) for another adventure. Okay, that’s hokey but Energy never dies. God Bless Brother!

  • Tausha

    I loved him in Dirty Dancing and my fave all all times is Ghost. I could watch it everyday. Pat you will be sadly missed by all.Keep Dancing….

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