Remembering Patrick Swayze

September 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hollywood is mourning the death of actor Patrick Swayze. The star of "Dirty Dancing" lost his battle with cancer. Patrick Swayze started his long-standing acting career in the late 1970s. He appeared in films like "Red Dawn," and the Francis Ford Coppola film "The Outsiders." But it was the role of dance instructor Johnny Castle in 1987s "Dirty Dancing" that helped propel him to stardom.

Swayze wasn't one of those actors who learned how to dance just for the role. The actor grew up a dancer, because of his mother. "My mother's a choreographer. So, um, I sort of had no choice in it. I came out of the womb dancing."

But Swayze would later feel too identified with the part of Johnny Castle. "There was a time in my life when 'god, am I ever gonna get out of this dance dude thing.' That's part of the reason why I've gone off and done you know so many different types of characters."

Among those characters were brawlers in "Road House" and "Next Of Kin", the thrill-seeking bank robber in "Point Break" and a drag queen in "Too Wong Foo."

His career peaked in 1990, with the romantic thriller "Ghost." He played a murder victim whose ghost returns to protect his widow, a part that showcased his ability to play masculine characters with a sensitive side.

But Swayze never lost his love of dancing, even making a 2003 film on the subject with his wife fellow dancer and actress Lisa Niemi. "We all respond to music. There are rhythms that exist in us that only we can hear. Something happens, where I just get tingly. I get short of breath."

In March 2008, Swayze's publicist confirmed the actor was suffering from pancreatic cancer. Swayze battled the disease and even rumors of his death, while playing the part of an F.B.I. veteran on A&E's "The Beast."

Through the challenges, Swayze never forgot what an honor it was to be in his position. "You have a voice that people listen to and I think it gives you a responsibility. You're a role model whether you like it or not, and I like to take that seriously."

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