by Willa A. Cmiel

“What’s your favorite Patrick Swayze movie?…Whatever your answer, it reveals a lot more about you than about Patrick Swayze.”

So wisely states Barrelhouse in yesterday’s “The Swayze Question.” It’s true, everyone’s got a Swayze story, and Barrelhouse manages to ask it to a ton of people including Chuck Klosterman (Road House), Emmylou Harris (Ghost), and Malcolm Gladwell (Road House), among many others.

Since I can remember, whenever the Swayze’s name has come up in conversation, I nearly always tell the story of how my best friend from high school took a dance class with him when she apprenticed with New York City Ballet.  (I’m not even sure if that’s the correct story, but I tell it anyway.)  Because Swayze used to be a dancer–a pro ballerino!

What I’m always thinking about, though, when I brag for my dancer-friend Jenny is secretly watching Dirty Dancing as an adolescent at my friend M’s house.  I say I did this secretly because I really thought it was soft-core porn, I guess because it has the word “dirty” in the title, and because they talked and alluded to sex a lot, even if there wasn’t much of it onscreen (and in the only real “sex scene,” Jennifer Gray’s underpants peak out when the sheet slides too low.  She’s not even naked!).  I would watch Dirty Dancing every time I went over to M’s house for a sleepover. I mean, her parents let us do whatever we wanted, practically.  Including watching dirty movies right there in the front room.  I was so bad.

Eventually I realized the film was in fact the opposite of taboo, and one could talk about it openly as if it were Sleepless in Seattle. Wow!  You might think that this new understanding would have tainted my enjoyment of the romance, and frankly I’m still surprised it didn’t.  But, a classic is a classic, and Dirty Dancing holds it’s own.

R.I.P.  Patrick Swayze

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