Sixty-one years ago today, Patrick Swayze entered the world. Four years ago this September, he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and left his wife of 34 years lonely for the first time. That man was my idol, my first real love man crush, and someone I will always aspire to emulate, in my personal & love life as well as professionally. He chased his dreams and stayed by his woman's side for over three decades, about three decades longer than most Hollywood marriages last. In the spring of 2009, just months before his death, I wrote a research paper about that marvelously talented man, and I have studiously copied it here below for your reading pleasure. Rest in peace, sweet man.
He stepped into millions of lives as a handsome bouncer in a rinky-dink town who sure knew how to throw a punch. He was the passionate lover, killed by a colleague, who saved his girlfriend from the same fate. He was the irresistible dance instructor who entranced an innocent daddy’s girl at the Catskills and taught us that “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” From a bad-boy greaser to a teenage freedom fighter, Patrick Swayze has been soaring, dancing, and fighting his way into our hearts for years, never ceasing to make women everywhere “Crazy for Swayze.”
Patrick Wayne Swayze was born on August 18, 1952, in Houston, Texas. He had four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, and his parents, Patsy and Jesse. His mother was director of the Houston Jazz Ballet Company, while his father was a dancer and choreographer. Because of his parents’ involvement in dance, Patrick was introduced to it at an early age, and developed a love for ballet. In school, however, he took heat for it, and was teased by the kids in his class.
After middle school, Patrick enrolled in Waltrip High School, where he continued to take part in artistic activities, such as ice skating, classical ballet, and acting in school plays (Patrick Swayze Bio Profile). However, he also put more of a focus on his athletics, participating in sports such as football, swimming, and gymnastics. When graduation rolled around, Patrick was offered both dance and athletic scholarships, but pursued athletics; He enrolled at San Jacinto College in Houston, focusing on gymnastics.
After two years in college, Patrick left school to tour with the Disney on Parade ice show, playing Snow White’s Prince Charming. Following the Disney tour, Patrick returned to his home in Texas. While there, Patrick fell in love with one of his mother’s ballet students, sixteen-year-old Lisa Neimi. In 1972, after spending two years at home, Patrick traveled to New York City to pursue a career in dance. After graduating high school, Lisa joined him in New York; there, they both trained with the Harkness & Joffrey Ballet Companies. On June 2, 1975, Patrick and Lisa sealed their love through marriage, a love that would last for over thirty years.
Shortly after getting married, Patrick was hired as a principal dancer with the Eliot Field Ballet Company. However, an old football injury caused Patrick to undergo surgery on his knee. Unfortunately, his surgery kept him away from dance for a while, and eventually caused him to permanently leave the ballet company. In 1976, Patrick changed courses with his Broadway debut in “Goodtime Charley”. Later, he also appeared in West Side Story, but his biggest role was yet to come. In 1978, Patrick won his first main role, playing Danny Zuko in “Grease”. His success from the musical led to many offers for roles in television and movies.
In 1979, Patrick began his new career, one which would lead to much future success. That year Patrick made his movie debut in Skatetown, U.S.A. Following his first movie, Patrick landed his first television debut as well, portraying a dying leukemia patient on the show M*A*S*H. Later, in 1983, Swayze was cast as Darryl Curtis in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie the Outsiders, where he played alongside several future stars, such as Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, and Diane Lane.
Throughout the mid-80s, Patrick continued making films, such as Red Dawn and Grandview, U.S.A. Patrick also scored a recurring role on the miniseries “North and South” in 1985 and its sequel in 1986. While the mid-80s didn’t hold many huge hits for Patrick, 1987 brought him the fame he deserved. His breakthrough role as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing established him as an actor and won him titles such as “Hollywood’s Newest Heartthrob.” He also received his first Golden Globe nomination, and even recorded a song for the soundtrack, entitled “She’s Like the Wind.”
Despite his unforgettable role in Dirty Dancing, several flops followed Patrick’s overnight stardom. In 1989, Patrick starred in Roadhouse and Next of Kin, two action-packed films that were most successful. Next, however, came Patrick’s biggest hit and most memorable claim to fame. In 1990, he won the lead role of Sam Wheat in Jerry Zucker’s film Ghost, where he starred alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Demi Moore. The movie grossed over $200,000,000 in the box office and earned Swayze his second Golden Globe nomination. The following year in 1991, Patrick appeared on the cover of People Magazine as “Sexiest Man Alive,” solidifying his fame in the hearts of women everywhere.
Sadly, after so much success, things seemed to take a turn for the worst in Patrick’s family life and career. In 1994, Patrick’s sister Vicky died of a drug overdose, having suffered depression throughout her life. “Her death changed my life,” Swayze said in an interview. “It was hard not to feel responsible, that I could’ve done something to prevent it” (Middlehurst). In 1997, Patrick returned to work. However, while filming Letters From a Killer, Patrick broke his right leg during a horse-riding accident. Severe drinking problems and a line of unsuccessful movies in the late ‘90s soon followed and greatly hindered his career. Following his drinking escapades, Swayze checked himself into rehab to fix his alcoholic ways. After leaving rehab, he and Lisa retreated to their ranch in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountain range in California.
After letting his career spiral downward for so long, Patrick decided to take control again. With movies like Forever Lulu(2000) and Waking Up in Reno(2002), he made a comeback in the film industry. In 2001, Patrick also starred in the film Donnie Darko, an independent film that didn’t take well in theatres. However, in DVD sales the film made more than $10,000,000 and was publicized by critics as “the best independent film of 2001”. He also amazed audiences with his omnipresent dancing skills in One Last Dance (2003) and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004), a sequel to his 1987 original.
Now fifty-six, Patrick has been acting for more than thirty years, and continues to appear in film and television today. Recently, Patrick has starred in movies such as the2007 thriller Jump! and Powder Blue, set for release this year. He has also started filming for his new TV show, called “The Beast”. In the series, Swayze portrays an FBI veteran named Charles Barker who trains his new partner in a hard-edged approach to undercover work. The show aired January 15, 2009 on A&E (Olsson).
While Patrick’s career seemed to be taking off, December of 2007 brought new problems¾life-threatening ones. While attending a New Year’s Eve Party, Patrick drank some wine, but after only a sip, he knew something was wrong. Only that little bit of wine made it hard for him to breathe and made his throat sting and burn. He went to see a doctor several weeks later, and in March of 2008 was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a very serious cancer. To make matters worse, he was told that the cancer was at Stage IV, the most advanced level, meaning that the cancer had already spread to other parts of the body. Doctors who treated him gave him months to live.
Despite warnings from doctors and friends, Patrick has continued filming for “The Beast”. In early 2009, Patrick was admitted to the hospital when he contracted pneumonia. As if pancreatic cancer wasn’t enough, adding pneumonia to it could’ve been incredibly fatal, killing him in a matter of days. One year after diagnosis, however, Swayze is alive, optimistic, and ready for anything. While he’s not as physically healthy as he once was, he’s not giving up without a fight. Swayze refuses to give up doing what he loves and stop enjoying life because of cancer. When asked by Barbara Walters how he responds to people claiming he’s on the verge of death, he had one reply. “Watch me!” he said, “You watch what I pull off.”