Associated Press is reporting that actor Patrick Swayze has died following a very public battle with pancreatic Cancer. The son of a choreographer, Swayze studied dance at the Harkness and Joffrey ballet schools before pursuing a career as an actor. Like many of his peers, Swayze received his big break as part of the large, future-star-studded ensemble of 1983's The Outsiders, Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of S.E Hinton's classic young adult novel. He went on to play one of the leads in the 1984 Cold War semi-classic Red Dawn.
But it was 1987's Dirty Dancing that catapulted the actor-dancer to super-stardom. Blessed with romance-novel good looks and a dancer's grace, Swayze went on to even greater fame as a lovestruck spook in the 1990 mega-smash Ghost. If Ghost made Swayze a major movie star, memorable roles as philosophical men of action in Road House and Point Break made him a cult icon. Swayze made an indelible mark on pop culture; his surname even became a hip hop slang term for leaving (as in "this party is lame, I'm Swayze"). As a singer, Swayze scored a top ten hit with the Adult Contemporary favorite "She's Like The Wind" (if you're of my generation, you probably have more of that song committed to memory than you care to admit), one of many hit songs off the blockbuster Dirty Dancing soundtracks. That's right: soundtracks. The soundtrack did so well they put out a sequel. There was also a Dirty Dancing tour featuring acts from the multi-platinum spin-off albums.
Swayze's career experienced more downs than ups in the intervening years but a key supporting role as a creepy inspirational speaker in Richard Kelly's cult classic Donnie Darko introduced him to a new generation of fans. A starring role in the television drama The Beast and a high-profile battle with pancreatic cancer brought him back into the spotlight and made him a ubiquitous presence in tabloids.
The actor is survived by wife Lisa Niemi, an actress and dancer who co-starred with her husband of thirty-four years in films like One Last Dance and Steel Dawn.
On a personal note, I'll always remember how besotted my step-mother was with Swayze after Dirty Dancing. Swayze belonged to everyone. He was a pin-up, a major movie star, a teen heartthrob, camp superstar and ultimately a tragic figure who died before his time. He will be missed.
What are your favorite Patrick Swayze memories? I'll always have a soft spot for the legendary SNL sketch where he battled Chris Farley for a spot with Chippendales. Who could have guessed that less than twenty years later both principals would be gone?