It’s been coming for awhile now but I think we’ve all done our best not to think about it. Today though, Patrick Swayze lost his nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He’s dead at 57.
A few weeks ago I sat down to watch Road House for the first time. That’s right, I’d never seen Road House. I was only twelve when it hit theaters in 1989 and movies about shirtless bar security weren’t exactly my thing. But what’s interesting about Road House, and for that matter all of Swayze’s movies, is the way he stood out, no matter was going on around him. Road House is a ridiculous movie, the epitome of cheese. Every moment of it’s ridiculous and so is Swayze’s character, Dalton. But Patrick just goes with it, rides it, embraces how ridiculous it is and in his own way makes it even more ridiculous, until there’s this point when it’s gone so far it’s like he laps himself and suddenly it all makes sense.
Alright, maybe that doesn’t quite sound like the ringing endorsement I was going for.
Was Patrick Swayze a great actor? I don’t know. Probably not. But who really cares? The guy was an icon of the 80s variety, bigger than life and better than whatever you might envision him as. He was the kind of actor Matthew McConaughey wishes he could be. When Patrick Swayze whipped off his shirt it meant something. In later years he became almost a punchline, but even when you made fun of Swayze there was always this strange tinge of respect behind it.
He’ll probably be most remembered for Ghost or Point Break, but pick a genre and Patrick Swayze has done it. I’ve always loved him best in Donnie Darko as the town’s motivational speaker and pedophile, a subtle subversion of his own legendary persona. Or maybe I’ll remember him most for that genius Saturday Night Live Chippendales sketch he did with Chris Farley. Farley got all the laughs, but Swayze was the perfect straight man. Strange to think that now both of those wonderfully talented performers are now gone.
He was last seen in his own television show, The Beast. Swayze worked right up till the end, stayed relevant right up till the end. How many other 80s names can say they’ve done better? How many other actors could have still pulled off a mullet? Almost none. There will only ever be one Patrick Swayze.