Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The headlines have all been pretty much the same: DIRTY DANCING STAR PATRICK SWAYZE DIES AT 57.

Honestly, I've never even seen Dirty Dancing, but even if I had, I'm still pretty sure I'd still think of Swayze first ande foremost as Dalton, his iconic character from Road House.

Ah, Road House. That movie has been ironically appreciated by hipsters everywhere ever since its release in 1989, celebrated for its goofy dialogue and outrageous characterizations. But as so many internet chat boards this morning seem to reveal, maybe the joke was on us the whole time, or better yet, maybe our appreciation was never wholly ironic.

Maybe the endlessly quotable, easily mocked dialogue in Road House ("Do you always carry your medical records around with you?" "Saves time.") amounts to its own deconstructive text, even as the philosophical beliefs ("Man's search for faith, that sort of shit") of our mullet-sporting, tai chi-practicing hero are entirely sincere. And after all, as an action movie, it's extraordinarily well-made. And Swayze...dammit, Swayze is great.

In fact, Road House wouldn't be the action movie of choice for Gen Xers everywhere were it not for Swayze's perfectly-judged performance. He's nicely self-aware but perfectly serious, even sincere, and he single-handedly keeps the whole thing from tipping over into parody. No matter how silly the situation, Swayze utters every line as if he means it, and we believe him. Dalton's a man of action anyone would want on their side.

Just as Swayze himself would ultimately become one of the few celebrities anyone could admire. He stayed married to the same woman for decades, a rare feat for a movie star, and he never let fame go to his head. He took his life and his work seriously, and by all accounts was a great guy.

And then, of course, there was his well-documented battle with pancreatic cancer, during which he became--corny as it may sound--a real-life hero. Told he had less than five months to live, he handily outlasted his grim prognosis, determined to fight a battle he ultimately couldn't win, all to enjoy the beauty of one more day, one more sunrise, one more moment on earth.

Dalton himself couldn't have done any better. Pain don't hurt, indeed.