Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Time of My Life - Book Review

The Time of my Life
By Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi
Atria Books - Division of Simon & Schuster

We all know who Patrick Swayze was. He died of cancer last year at age 57.

Below is an obituary for Patrick Swayze. Everything in this obituary is also in the book except that the book is from Patrick and Lisa's points of view.

There are also other stories in the book that go into more details. Patrick's ongoing knee injury, his alcoholism, his one year separation from his wife Lisa, why he and Lisa never had children, and how he coped (or didnt cope) with the fans and the paparazzi.

Swayze Obituary

Patrick Swayze was in his mid-thirties when he became an overnight sensation for his performance in the dance and romance movie Dirty Dancing (1987). In it he played the dance instructor Johnny Castle, and Jennifer Grey was his pupil, Baby. The film cost $5 million and was intended primarily for video, but it grossed more than $200 million worldwide and was one of the biggest hits of the year.

Swayze came from a dance background himself, though by the time he made the film his dancing career was almost over. He was afflicted with an old injury and needed further surgery during shooting. His physical problems and advancing years had motivated him to attempt to expand himself as an actor, and he had already appeared as part of Francis Ford Coppola’s Brat Pack ensemble in The Outsiders (1983), along with Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise — though Swayze was rather elderly for the label brat.

On the back of Dirty Dancing he was not short of offers for other starring roles. He made a couple of films that suggested he might slip back into obscurity as quickly as he had emerged from it. Then came his second blockbuster hit, the weepie romantic drama Ghost (1990), which was an even bigger hit than Dirty Dancing. Swayze was briefly ranked among Hollywood’s most bankable stars and was acclaimed in People magazine in the US as the sexiest man in the world (ie, the US).

Ghost was a cinema landmark, regularly included in polls of the most romantic films ever. Swayze, the hunky Texan good ole boy, played a New York banker who is murdered and comes back as the ghost of the title. The scene in which his former lover, played by Demi Moore, feels his presence while making a clay pot, with Unchained Melody dipping and soaring on the soundtrack, was one of the most memorable (and, in time, mocked) cinema moments of the decade.

Swayze’s character in Ghost seemed to crystallise the contradictions in him between the American footballer and the ballet dancer, tough but sensitive, hellraiser and loyal mate, and commentators might argue that Swayze himself embodied the contradictions within modern American Man, torn between traditional macho values and his place in a new world and new gender politics.

Swayze struggled with celebrity and with alcoholism. He tried determinedly to move on from the image of beefcake in a vest, appearing in several “independent” movies and notably exploiting and undermining his good looks and healthy image as a charming self-help guru, with a hidden stash of child porn, in the cult classic Donnie Darko (2001).

There were well-publicised incidents to underline his personal difficulties and setbacks, including one bizarre escapade in which he landed, and parked, his light aircraft in a housing estate in Arizona, after it seemingly developed a fault. There were suggestions that he was drunk, but his erratic behaviour was attributed to the fearsome experience and the sudden descent.

He remained married to his Texan teenage sweetheart, Lisa Niemi, and they worked together and lived together on a spread called Rancho Bizarro, 30 miles outside Los Angeles, surrounded by horses, chickens and hi-tech recording equipment.

Patrick Wayne Swayze was born in Houston, Texas, in 1952, one of four children. His mother, Patsy Swayze, was a successful choreographer and ran a ballet school, and his brother Don would also become an actor. He studied ballet from an early age but also excelled at sports and went to San Jacinto College, Houston, on a sports scholarship.

He was an accomplished gymnast, diver, athlete and American footballer, though football was responsible for the lingering knee injury that cut short his dancing career.

One of his first professional dancing and acting jobs was as Prince Charming in a Disney parade, which toured North and Central America. He attended Harkness and Joffrey ballet schools in New York, was principal dancer with the Eliot Feld company and appeared on Broadway with Joel Grey (Jennifer’s father) in the musical Goodtime Charley in 1975. That same year he married Niemi, whom he met when she was a 15-year-old dance student at his mother’s school.

He joined the long-running Broadway production of Grease in the lead role of Danny Zuko and made his film debut in 1979 in the roller-disco movie Shakedown, USA. He played a soldier dying of leukaemia in an episode of M*A*S*H in 1981 and began appearing fairly regularly in films, including The Outsiders, Uncommon Valor (1983), Grandview, USA (1984), on which he was also choreographer, and the silly Red Dawn (1984), in which the Soviet Union invades America, but a group of small-town teenagers reckon they can take them on.

It was a starring role as a Confederate officer in the Civil War mini-series North and South (1985) that established him as a dashing leading man, who could appeal to both men and women. Dirty Dancing accelerated the process, though it appealed largely to a female audience.

He played a dance instructor at a mountain resort in upstate New York in the 1960s, and Grey was the privileged girl, Baby, whom he teaches about dance, life and love.

It gave him not only a hit film, but the memorable, much-imitated line “Nobody puts Baby in a corner", and an international hit single with She’s Like the Wind, which he had co-written for Grandview, USA, though it was not used on that film.

Despite Dirty Dancing’s phenomenal success, he struggled a little with his next few films. Only Road House (1989), in which he played a bouncer, made much impression on audiences or critics. Hollywood experts never expected him to repeat the success of Dirty Dancing with Ghost, which opened in a summer of big-budget event movies. Swayze was the banker Sam Wheat, Demi Moore the artist Molly Jensen. He is killed by a mugger but finds he can still communicate with the world via a medium, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg).

The film gave him another memorable bit of dialogue — the word “Ditto”, which he uses when Moore’s character says she loves him.

His famous lines would be thrown back at him in one of the funniest of the series of cinema adverts for Orange mobile phones — “Nobody puts Swayze in a corner.”

In Point Break (1991) he played a character whose wide range of interests include Buddhism, surfing and crime, with Keanu Reeves as the FBI undercover agent out to bring him down. Swayze grew up as a Catholic, but later studied Buddhism and other religions. He pushed himself as an American doctor working in the slums of Calcutta in Roland Joffe’s City of Joy (1992), an early indication of his refusal to be typecast.

Years later he said: “I had been sucked into the blockbuster, box-office mentality and it was destroying my sense of purpose in life. The loneliness of fame was messing with my head. I made a conscious decision to break away from big films when I got alcohol out of my life.”

He played one of three drag queens on a cross-country trip in the comedy To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995), but was seriously injured when he fell from his horse during the filming of Letters from a Killer (1998). He was a US soldier trying to help Vietnamese refugees in Green Dragon (2001) and an Arkansas redneck in Waking Up in Reno (2002). In 2003 he co-starred with his wife in One Last Dance, an adaptation of a play they had written about ageing dancers. Niemi also directed it, but it did not get a cinema release.

Swayze never again scaled the heights of popularity he had enjoyed, or endured, with Dirty Dancing and Ghost. He did not turn his back completely on purely commercial projects — he played Allan Quatermain in a TV production of King Solomon’s Mines (2004), made a cameo appearance in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004) and voiced one of the characters in the Disney video The Fox and the Hound 2 (2006), but they were hardly blockbusters.

He also returned to the theatre. He joined the Broadway cast of Chicago as Billy Flynn in 2003 and spent four months in the West End of London as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls in 2006. He continued to work steadily on a range of projects, while also breeding horses on his ranch, but in early 2008 he was found to be suffering from pancreatic cancer.

This year he starred in a TV series The Beast, about an FBI agent who is assigned a new partner, not knowing that he is a double agent. The show was cancelled due to Swayze’s illness.

Swayze is survived by his wife, Lisa Niemi, whom he married in 1975.

Patrick Swayze, actor, was born on August 18, 1952. He died of cancer on September 14, 2009, aged 57

This has a very detailed filmography.

Selected Filmography

The Outsiders (1983)
In the drama based on S.E. Hinton's popular novel, Swayze plays Dallas Winston, a father figure of sorts to a band of 1960s Tulsa street toughs. It's often thought of as the first Brat Pack movie, as it costars a litany of future stars, including Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Tom Cruise and Diane Lane. Patrick Swayze played Darrel Curtis.

Red Dawn (1984)
Jed Eckert (Swayze) leads the Wolverines, an underground resistance movement in Michigan when the Soviet Union invades the United States in an alternate 1980s timeline. C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen (pictured) and Jennifer Grey co-star.

North and South and North and South, Book II (1985 and 1986)
Orry Main (Swayze) a West Point Cadet from Charleston, S.C., and his classmate, George Hazard (James Read), negotiate a friendship across the Mason-Dixon line in ABC's miniseries and its sequel, based on the blockbuster novels by John Jakes.

Dirty Dancing (1987)
In this iconic 1980s film, Swayze plays Johnny Castle, a hardscrabble dancing instructor who teaches naive teen Baby Houseman (Jennifer Grey) how to dance — and assert herself as a young woman.

Road House (1989)
James Dalton (Swayze) is a philosophy-spouting bouncer whose attempts to clean up a violent nightclub in Jasper, Missouri, landing him in the hospital and in love — with co-star Kelly Lynch. Sam Elliott also co-stars as Dalton's mentor.

Ghost (1990)
Sam Wheat (Swayze), the recently departed husband of Molly (Demi Moore), communes with the living with the help of a wacky medium (Whoopi Goldberg) and one sexy pottery wheel in this romantic drama.

Point Break (1991)
As Bodhi, the leader of a gang of surfers, Swayze taught Keanu Reeves, who played undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah, the dudespeak that later made him a star.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
Drag queen Vida Bohemme (yes, Swayze) and her cohorts Chi-Chi Rodriguez (John Leguizamo) and Noxeema Jones (Wesley Snipes) break down in a podunk town on a cross-country road trip, where they teach lessons of tolerance and make things all the more fabulous for their presence.

Donnie Darko (2001)
In a dramatic departure from his romantic and action roles, Swayze plays Jim Cunningham, a motivational speaker with a cache of child pornography in his basement in this time-space-continuum-bending head-tripper.

The Beast (2009)
This A&E series, which ran for one season, will be remembered as the show that Swayze, as rule-bending FBI agent Charles Barker, continued to work on even after his pancreatic-cancer diagnosis. Travis Fimmel co-stars as Ellis Dove, Barker's unwitting partner.


Admin said...

I really admire Jennifer Grey's tribute to Patrick Swayze. She's doing Dancing with the Stars for him, class.

Historia said...

September 14, 2010

Already one year since Patrick Swayze passed away, and Jennifer Grey, who is now 50, has agreed to participate in the 2010 edition of "Dancing with the Stars" a reality TV show very popular in the United States and in which celebrities are confronted in dance events.

Jennifer Grey refused to participate in the past, but this year, to honor the memory of her Dirty dancing co-Star, she decided to return to the dance floor.

Read more: