International Writers Magazine:Memories
my daughter visited us a few months back, as my wife and I were
watching a video of Dirty Dancing her first remark
was, arent you a bit old for that kind of movie?
I didnt know whether to burst out laughing, cry or simply
tell her to go fly a kite. Typical remark from an offspring that
has no idea what their parents life is or was all about, I
All I could utter
was yes, and continued watching one of my favourite musicals
for the umpteenth time since it was first released in video (DVDs
werent around yet). How could I explain to her that the time period
of the film was part of my own life during my mid-twenties? Not only
the music, the dancing and the puppy love theme that eats
into your heart at such a tender age, but the whole scenario and time
period reminded me of my youth. Kellermans holiday camp to start
with brought back memories of the days when Butlins holiday camps
in the United Kingdom where most English young studs would spent a couple
of weeks chasing the birds was no different to the goings
on of similar guys in the movie. Then there was the mention of
the Peace Corps that young Baby was hell bent
I remember a colleague of mine during my stint in the USA in the mid-eighties
who had spent three years with one of John F. Kennedys brainchild
organizations in Central America. There was no doubt that his attitude
to life was quite different to the rest of us hard core
executives trying to set targets and goals in an emerging cut-throat
competitive business world. He was calmer, cooler and certainly spot
on in dealing with the locals as we tried to break
into the Latin American scene with our products.
How about old man Kellermans parting words in the final dance
scene, This isnt what the kids want today! Its trips
to Europe! How true! Doing the mambo and the cha-cha-cha died
as soon as Elvis Presley was born and Rock and Roll was here to stay.
But fortunately Johnny Castles music and dirty dancing
was a preview of the future and we can thank our lucky stars that it
is still around to remind us of those magnificent sixties. Hey, hold
on, am I going to fast? Maybe you readers dont even know what
Im talking about. Maybe youve never heard of Dirty Dancing
or even what the movie was all about and why Im so chocked up
at this moment in time. OK; back to the beginning.
Heres the storyline.
Its the early sixties of the last century. A middle aged couple
from the Bing Crosby era with two young daughters take a holiday in
what was a typical all inclusive holiday resort in the New
York mountain area known as Catskill. The father is tired, the wife
is complacent and whilst the eldest daughter is ready for fun, the younger
is simply bored stiff. But fate is ready to change her life. She meets
the head of the music entertainment section and falls in love.
Its a pretty simple love story with exceptional music except for
one thing. Like Casablanca its a work of cinematic
art where everything fits. All the actors and dancers, the score, the
dance scenes, the plot, the boy-meets-girl-but-dad-doesnt-approve
script and above all the two main characters, Baby (Jennifer
Gray who happens to be the daughter of Joel Gray who played the Master
of Ceremonies in Cabaret) and Johnny (Patrick Swayze)
are perfect. Tears flow as you watch the final reconciliation scene
between family and boyfriend after a fantastic musical number. No wonder
it has become a classic. But the tears didnt stop at the fiction.
Its turned into a real life drama.
In March 2008, Patrick Swayze, whose whole career took a flying leap
after the film, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At age 55 he is
now suffering from the worst type of this evil illness that has and
affects millions of beings of the human race. When the news broke out
I just could not believe it. I forgot about Dirty Dancing and
began to reminisce about some of the other great films in which he took
part such as Ghost (within the best 20 love stories every produced
on film) and To Wong Foo thanks for everything, Julie Newmar,
all about three drag queens who get stranded in a small town in the
middle of nowhere. I also recall an interview on CNN with commentator
Richard Quest who brought us viewers into his home and his horse raising
farm and showed us the simple and satisfied lifestyle of one of Hollywoods
most respectable stars. I recall how he said during the interview that
he just loved dancing. It was a whole part of his life.
There is not much more to say except that this small tribute goes out
to assist him in his fight against time, plus a prayer for him and Lisa
Niemi, his wife of thirty years.
Patrick, Jennifer and Dirty Dancing all have a place in my private
movie Hall of Fame.
© James G. Skinner. June 2008.
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