This week's cover: Patrick Swayze, 1952-2009

EW-1067_lThough he was nominated for three golden Globes over the course of his 30-year career, Patrick Swayze measured his success by lives touched, not money made or awards won. “No matter what opinion Hollywood has of you,” Swayze once told Entertainment Weekly, “the fans never forget you if you never forget them.”

On September 14, at the age of 57, Swayze died after an extraordinarily brave and dignified 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer.  Swayze had initially responded well to treatment, and spent four months working 12-hour days on the A&E undercover drama The Beast while undergoing chemotherapy. He refused to take medication that might hinder what would become his final onscreen performance – even though the pain became intense. After he passed away, tributes have poured in from friends and colleagues. “Patrick was a rare and beautiful combination of raw masculinity and amazing grace,” recalled his Dirty Dancing costar Jennifer Grey.

The first hints of Swayze’s stardom emerged in his 1987 breakout film, Dirty Dancing. After that film’s success, Swayze was offered everything from a cologne deal to a record contract.  But he was determined not to be pigeonholed as a gyrating boy toy. He sought cover in action films that let him run in what he called “crazy Swayze adrenaline-junkie mode.” The movies that he chose appealed to the side of him that was a self-proclaimed “searcher.” To Swayze, Road House showcased the beauty of martial arts via a bouncer with a philosophy degree from New York University.

Ghost brought him greater fame and accolades, but these were also years of personal turmoil. Swayze did a stint in rehab for alcohol abuse in 1993, and his sister Vicky committed suicide the following year. By the mid-’90s, he was ready to work again and was focused on playing interesting characters instead of the usual action heroes and dreamboats. The actor made what he later jokingly called “a conscious decision to have a great time screwing up my career.” His next movies were surprising and revealed new colors to his acting. He played the proud and elegant drag queen in To Wong Foo, and a closeted pedophile in the cult hit Donnie Darko. Supporting Darko at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001, he explained, “In my career, when you get offered an absolute fortune for crap, your insides start screaming for some kind of fulfillment. When I started meeting with some of these young filmmakers, the passion was restored in my life…This is the fifth reinvention of Patrick Swayze.”

Swayze’s hard-fought battle may be over, but his story hasn’t ended. On September 29, Atria will publish Swayze’s inspirational memoir, The Time of My Life, co-written with his wife. “Dance is a metaphor for life,” Swayze told EW in 2005. “You’re born. You peak. Your physical body goes downhill, but your spirit stays intact.”

For more on Patrick Swayze, including his essential filmography and a preview of his upcoming memoir, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Sept. 18.

Comments (170 total) Add your comment
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  • hindblogger

    I am from India and way back in 1990 had seen dirty dancing . And it touched my heart. And after so many years- I saw it again and again and second movie which touches my sould was GHOST.

    See Ken ! you have been little off mark..grades do not matter and it seems you rate actors or persona by rating or say popularity index. Some people are beyond this scale- I do not belong to the culture which ENglish movies shows..but I understand the story, what is being shown and how well someone has done. NO doubt…he touches my heart and I am very sad for his demise. May he rest in peace and I am sure he will because billion hearts remembers him. Pain is not for you and me to feel for his departure- this is for his wife and kids.

    Your post went little offbeat…let’s be little compassionate…he was a great actor. And this is an art…dancing is also an art…I do not dance and I feel lack of it.

  • hindblogger

    Sorry- above post was not meant to be here. I was replying to someone who said something offbeat for Patrick.

  • John Davis

    Great move EW. He was an everyman actor who appealed to men and women.

  • Penny

    May he rest in peace. Praying for his family.

  • evryung

    A statement was just posted on Fox news by Patrick Swayze announcing that he did not die. He is alive and well regardless of what a Jacksonville Fl radio station stated.

    • StLgirl

      I also read the article on FOX that you are referring to. If you look closely though, you will see that it is dated May 22, 2009. It’s from this past spring, not today.

    • christy

      why would ya say something that isnt true. believe me i wish he was alive and well but hes not. Dont lie about a good man.

      • emerald

        The Fox article was true, Swayze did comment that rumours of his death were mistaken – but that as someone else has commented was a May item!! Bit tacky to reshow it just after this amazing man has passed away after a long, dignified and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer though hm?!
        I feel for his lovely wife Lisa of 34 years right now, they were true soulmates and her loss has to be unbearable right now. I’m sure he will be watching over her though until it’s time for them to meet again, RIP Patrick you’re free from pain at last.

    • susan lamia

      we lost awonderful person and a very talented man in many areas, rest in peace beautiful soul.

  • JBond

    Cancer treatment has not changed in the last 60 years. The medieval treatment of cancer is not pretty, receives some results, and is more barbaric than medical. The pharmaceuticals spend their time and millions on cancer research and are better equipped, staffed, and experienced then funded cancer research centers that spend millions and neither have resulted in a magic pill. The researchers receive large sums of money, drive expensive cars, and live in big homes while the number of cases increase and the 60 year old process continues. Mental disease: “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” The multi-billion dollar a year business for “cancer treatment” and “cancer research” would be in jeopardy if a cure were found. The chemo drugs change but the sad conclusion, “some results” or “longer expectancies” are not a cure. “False hope” becomes reality when it happens to a loved one or someone in the spot light.

    • crispy

      You are off your rocker.

      • Sophie Ann

        Unfortunately, there are truh to Jbond’s words. Ask any cancer victim going thru Chemo for the 2nd or 3rd time.

      • jules

        I’ve lost a few loved ones to cancer. Watching them suffer through treatments that just prolonged their agonies gave me the same thoughts that jbond has. I have a feeling jbond has been through this, and is NOT “off his rocker.”
        Rest in Peace, Patrick. I’ll remember your beauty and grace, and strength.

    • Marylynn

      I’m sure the millions of Cancer survivors would really agree with you. (please note sarcasm). This is one of the stupidest things that has ever been written.

    • Jonathan

      Sadly, they’re not off their rocker. A lot of what they say about the insurance and medical industry is true. And the thing that makes me so sad is that there’s nothing we can really do about it.

      • Dancergirl

        While some of what JBond posted hints at truth, when you look at the big picture, it’s clearly spiteful rhetoric. So what if the researchers “drive expensive cars, and live in big houses”? Should they not be paid for the work they do?? Why would a researcher WANT to fail? Of course they want to find the cure. You CAN make money off cures, and treatments – it’s not an either or thing. MANY people survive cancer which is either a miracle or because those treatments ARE a cure for some. I only wish it had worked for Patrick Swayze. The world lost a gem when he passed and a I don’t think a positive individual like Patrick would appreciate the pity party put forth by JBond.

      • Mark

        Dancergirl, will all due respect, from someone who works in the medical research field.. I can tell you that often times, our findings are stiffled and shelved for the sake of the bottom dollar. A company isn’t going to produce a cure for something that is extremely lucrative for them – it would take away their profits that they’ve gotten used to.
        As for researchers not wanting to find a cure.. well, some sell their soul for $$ – the same with doctors who push their patients into needless therapy regimens for the pharmaceutical companies that foot the bill for their lavish retreats, conferences, etc.. the rabbit hole goes a lot deeper than you think, this I say as someone who has witnessed some really loathesome, unethical decisions.

    • T


      • Sophie Ann

        Than you are lucky. Others are not. Mark says it best. And that not only goes for cancer, but other diseases as well such as diabetes. It all comes down to money and more money. The FDA knows there are great drugs out there for diseases but will never approve them because….fill in the blanks.

      • john

        if you are a survivor, it is only because you went for treatments before the cancer really enveloped you. in my city 1 in 30 doctors will actually treat the problem and not the symptoms. 29 of the thirty will hand you a perscription,(money in their pockets as well as the drug manufacturers)to treat the SYMPTOMS. THEY DON’T EVEN ASK QUESTIONS AS TO WHAT YOU ARE THERE FOR! got a headache? theres a pill for that. no xrays, no catscan, no followup. did you bump your head, do you feel dizzy? it’s like the guy standing on the corner banging his head against the wall. stranger walks up and asks why are you doing that. because it feels so good when i stop. i quit seeing doctors ten years ago and will never trust one again. physician heal thyself. i’d rather go to my maker than trust another pill pushing dr frankenstein. as for government allowing only certain drugs to be distributed into our society. look at the h1n1 drug, only to be given to those most at risk. and most likely to survive i’ll bet. what kind of a life does a person have that is pressured to ingest a bowl full of pills just, as they say, to survive,at meal time. how can they have a need for real food when they are full of chemicals. each one counteracts the offshoots of the other, and the original problem gets lost somewhere in the past.

    • bob

      Do you honestly think its easy to develop drugs?? It takes thousands of tries just to get one to market.

    • anonymous

      I work in the medical/insurance industry and this is absolutely true…especially the pharmacuetical companies…if a cure were found they would lose so much money that they deliberately hold back known cures to keep making a profit off our pain.

    • talkin’

      It’s true that cancer treatment has become a big business unto itself in North America.


      This true, there is a cure, but, the Doctors and hospitals wouldn’t be so rich, if they cured cancer.
      They want cancer to continue.
      I lost my son to cancer and they do not even do research on the type of cancer he had because it is too rare, I lost him to his terrible cancer at 20 years old.
      Just a baby,

      • Mark

        Jayne… I’m so sorry for your loss. Just know that not all of us in the medical research community think with our pockets in mind. I feel so much grief for your loss and I know that no amount of words I say can ever bring your son back or take away your pain – may god bless you and help you cope with your loss.

    • lynch

      i agree they spend millions on research but never find the cure or better drugs with less side afects if they did they would lose all their funding and big paychecks to many have lost their lives to this please find a cure do your job

    • hindblogger

      Who cares for cancer or HIV, specially in African countries ?

      Today, world’s top five nations are spending so much money on weapons that you can create a another happy world.

      Patrick was a great person, a great performer who touched billions of life through a medium called cinema.

      He deserves to be remembered and we can never forget him.
      My his soul rest in eternal peace and may his love remains !

  • Yolanda

    PS was a true man of class who did not measure success by awards and all the other crap that people like Kanye need to make them feel worthwhile. He will be missed.

  • BB

    evryung, that is the dummest thing I’ve heard! Like PS and Lisa would just sit back and let the public all think he was dead. Please, it’s been 4 days. JBond, I totally agree with you.

  • Paul Terrell

    I started noticing Patrick in the eighties on the miniseries about the civil war. He was one of my favorites. My aunt died of cancer in 68 when they had a new idea to heat her cancer up to kill it. They cooked every organ together as she died terribly. I dont think we know how to stop it. Patrick did admit to smoking a lot. It seems to ad to your chance of cancer. I am sorry Patrick died so young. I hoped to watch him in the future. I will miss him.

    • Sophie Ann

      North & South. Thank you for remembering his really first big break. He was incredible in that miniseries.

      • Joanna

        I was 10 years old when North and South came out. I remember thinking Orry Maine(Patrick) is so awesome that I had to find out his real name. My mother and I have followed Patrick ever since. He was an awesome dancer, actor, loving husband and down to earth person. I have many favorite movies of him but “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything” is one of my most favorites ( second to North & South), he brought it to the screen and wasn’t afraid to try anything. He will be greatly missed but he did leave behind a great legacy for his fans to remember him.

    • Amanda

      Sophie Ann is right, that was North and South. He also did North and South Book 2, but didn’t appear in the third part, Heaven and Hell. You can get all 3 parts in a set, got mine 10 years ago at a warehouse club! Check it out, it’s fabulous with a lot of other big names!

    • Kathy

      hopefully you have many dvd’s of Patrick as I do, so as to watch continuously if you wish. wonderful person, my good wishes to his beloved wife. I’m so sorry for your loss. best for the future Kathy

  • Vicki from Big Apple

    I came to the USA 15 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine. And I remember the 90’s (when I was still in Ukraine) I had a pleasure to see Patrick Swayze in the “North & South” movie. It was just the INTRODUCTION with that GREAT ARTIST. I’m movie-theatre-fashion-dance fan – this is my nature,I like everything beautiful ! And living here, in the United States, I had a great chance to learn a lot more about Patrick Swayze and see his SOUL-TOUCHING PIECES OF ART !! He will live forever in our hearts !!
    I can deeply understand his family because I have my own tragedy: almost three years ago I lost my 22-year old daughter in a car crash….Life is so unfair…


  • sharon

    R.I.P patrick swayze was a great actor, you will be missed, i have been a big fan and seen all his films, life is so so unfair but you will live forever in our hearts x

  • marsha cragg

    May the grace of God be with the family and friends of Patrick Swayze. I have seen his movies and loved all of them. He fought a hard battle and is now wrapped in the arms of our lord. We will all one day be reunited with him..This belief will keep us going each day, we too suffered our own tragedy 8 years ago, our then 3 year old grandaughter drowned. Keep the faith and God bless you.

  • Natalie gaffney

    Patrick, will be missed
    love his films :)


    Natalie xxx

    • Mark

      How can you not miss him, but enjoy what he has done in his life. You always have his movies.

    • ruby

      yup he will b truly missed by thousands of people and especially his FANS!! MAY HE REST IN PEACE.

  • Andy Gonzales

    I loved his movie Black Dog. He was a wonderful acter. He will be greatly missed in my family. My mother loved Dirty Dancing. He wil be missed. Rest in Peace Patrick Swazyne.

  • christy

    I been a huge fan of Patrick Swayze since he did the film The Outsiders. He was my favorite actor of all time. I wish his family well. He was a true role model for all, and he will be deeply missed. R.I.P.

    • MW

      I was happy to see someone mention The Outsiders. That is tied with Dirty Dancing for my favorite Patrick Swayze performance! Although it is a small role, there are so many subtle layers to the character and I think he nailed it.

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