Few fans know that in 1997, at the very height of his glory years, Patrick Swayze suddenly vanished from the spotlight. His exit from Hollywood was actually caused by a devastating injury. While filming a horseback scene for Letters From A Killer, the actor fell and hit a tree. He would shatter both of his legs. The extent of his injuries would prevent him from taking on roles for almost five years.
Anyone who considers themselves a Swayze fan will know that the actor is an incredible dancer. Most would assume that he underwent weeks of intense training for his iconic role in Dirty Dancing, but surprisingly, this just isn’t true. Patrick actually had years of extensive dance training. His mother was a major dance figure back in his hometown of Houston, Texas and naturally, he followed in her toe-tapping footsteps.
In 1987, Dirty Dancing was released. The film became an instant-classic and a worldwide sensation. The movie also topped the music charts with a hit soundtrack that spawned a long list of top 40 hits. The many top tracks included She’s Like The Wind, a song written and performed by the lead actor himself. Swayze’s ballad was a massive hit. This would launch Swayze’s thriving musical career. Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, he’d continue to write anthems for movie soundtracks, including Cliff’s Edge, When You Dance and Finding My Way Back.
One Woman Man
In 1972, at the tender age of 20, Swayze would head back home to visit his mother at her prestigious dance studio, the actor would meet the love of his life. Her name was Lisa Niemi and she was just 16-years-old at the time of their first meeting. The young lovers were instantly head over heels for one another, in 1975, they would make their way down the aisle, committing to a marriage that would last 34 happy years. They did split in 2004 due to some controversial personal issues on Swayze’s part but would eventually reunite in 2004.
The Near Crash
It was June of 2000 and Patrick Swayze was flying his personal jet from California to New Mexico. Due to technical issues, the actor was forced to make a sudden emergency landing. As the oxygen levels plummeted Swayze passed out while flying. Astonishingly, the actor regained consciousness just as the plane was about to hurdle into the earth, he luckily was able to make an emergency landing. Records showed that the plane almost crashed eight times when he was passed out and the plane somehow avoid hitting the surrounding mountains.
In the 1970’s, tragedy struck the blossoming actor. His father suddenly passed away and as a method of dealing with the painful loss, he turned to alcohol. He eventually overcame his problem, but when City of Joy, a movie he thought would offer the actor a much-needed break flopped with critics and audiences, Swayze turned back to drinking to cope. The actor has since shared the details of his personal battle. He shared the most embarrassing moment he faced during the period, he actually passed out while filming a scene for the movie Father Hood.
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” is one of the most iconic quotes in cinematic history. Much to our surprise, the actor actually hated the memorable line. Upon reading it in the Dirty Dancing script, Swayze thought it was cheesy and out of character. That said, after the movie came out and the quote became a pop culture reference, he admitted that it worked well.
Patrick Swayze took a lot of risky chances on a string of movies that weren’t expected to be big hits. Surprisingly, two of the actor’s biggest hits were expected to be major flops. Ghost and Dirty Dancing weren’t expected to do well with audiences, but Swayze signed on and turned them into smash-hit successes. These strokes of luck eventually led him to garner the title of King of the Sleepers.
It’s no secret that Swayze had a deep and enduring passion for horses and horse riding. He was actually the owner of multiple horses. While he was undergoing recovery from the injuries he sustained while filming Letters From a Killer, he took a much-needed break from Hollywood and spent his days breeding Arabian horses. His most treasured horse was a breath-taking Arabian horse named Tammen.
2004 Saw moviegoers take a nostalgic look back to the glory days of the 80’s with the release of the Dirty Dancing prequel, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. While Swayze only made a minor appearance, he did a memorable and spectacular cameo as a dance instructor. While it the film wasn’t a major success, fans were thrilled to glimpse the icon back on the dance floor.
Working Til the End
Swayze was a true entertainer at heart and he continued to act and bring joy to audiences until the very end of his life. His last role came in January of 2009 in the A&E series The Beast. Due to his increasingly frail health, Swayze was unable to join the rest of the cast in promoting the new series, but he did act in it until it was cancelled in June of the same year.
Swayze was a man of great talent and many passions. One his great sporting loves was gymnastics. During his years of training as a child, the future star actually had dreams of competing in the Olympic Games. He managed to even get training from a coach on the Olympic committee. Sadly, he never made it to the sporting event, but he did participate in multiple international competitions.
High School Tough Guy
Though it may be difficult to believe, Patrick Swayze was actually brutally bullied in high school. He would often return home covered in bumps and bruises from a particularly vicious group of five boys. Patrick’s father soon stepped in had a talk with the school gym teacher. He convinced him to let Patrick fight each bully one on one. The teacher agreed and the future acting legend beat all five of them with ease. Word eventually got around and Swayze soon became known as the toughest guy in school.
The Swayze Family
Patrick was actually one of four siblings. He came in second to his older sister, Vickie Lynn. After Swayze was welcomed into the family, his brother Don, another brother named Sean Kyle and a little sister named Bambi soon followed. His younger brother Don also caught the acting bug and appeared alongside Patrick in 2009’s Powder Blue.
Fighting for his Life
In 2007 Patrick was filming the pilot for The Beast. While on set he was suddenly struck with a searing pain in his stomach. Little did he know this was actually due to a severe blockage of his bile ducts. He was soon diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. With the hopes of getting better, Swayze traveled to Stanford University Medical Center for extensive chemotherapy treatment. He seemed to be responding well…
Acting Through the Pain
To those who knew him, Patrick was said to have a fearless fighting spirit. While filming The Beast, the actor refused to take any painkillers because he didn’t want the medication to affect his character. The choice was not easy on Swayze. He was reportedly in immense pain, but would immediately battle through when he had to shoot a scene. Many were awed by his dedication in his final days.
Impact on Hip Hop
Swayze had a surprising and unintended impact on the genre of Hip Hop. Many rappers have uttered the line, “I’m like Swayze.” It is a direct reference to the iconic film Ghost, supposedly meaning that the rapper can disappear. The phrase has been used by rap stars like 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., EMPD, Black Sheep, CL Smooth, Mobb Deep, Ja Rule and many more.
The star had a life-long love affair with nicotine. He picked up smoking in his youth and at the height of his stardom it was said that he smoked up to 60 cigarettes each day. Sadly, the habit caught up with him and he even said during his final days, “I will go so far as to say probably smoking had something to do with my pancreatic cancer.” Shockingly, the actor smoked until his last days.
Swayze was born far from the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Before turning to acting, Swayze seemed destined for a life on a ranch. His father introduced him as a child. “My dad was raised on a ranch. At one point, he was the state champion calf roper. Needless to say, he got me into that stuff from the time I was little. My dad was a really organic, kind of earthy man. He was one of those men that was full of loving energy and had a sweet, gentle nature, but he was also one of those men that you didn’t want to cross,” shared the actor. Luckily for his fans, life had other plans for the actor.
Dreams of Football
Before he found his love for gymnastics and ballet dancing, Patrick wanted to undertake a life on the football pitch. His sporting dreams ended before they had a chance to flourish. He injured his knee during a match and his future football dreams were quickly dashed. Luckily, his knee would make a full recovery.
In 1987, Swayze had just celebrated his 34th birthday and casting directors were concerned the actor was too old to play Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing. But it appeared that was the least of the actor’s worries. Jennifer Grey, the lead actress who had previously acted opposite Swayze in Red Dawn, didn’t like him. Fortunately, he won the lead role and the two worked together with beautiful chemistry.
It was the late 1970’s and disco was all the rage, fueled by the recent release of the smash hit Saturday Night Fever. Many brands didn’t hesitate to capitalize on the genre’s wild popularity. Pabst Blue Ribbon was inspired by Saturday Night Fever to produce a commercial which featured a young Patrick Swayze. It shows the actor wearing a ridiculous white scarf heading to the disco hand in hand with his girlfriend. It’s definitely worth a Youtube search!
Patrick the Prankster
While he always appeared to be a well-meaning and compassionate man there was a completely different side to the well-known actor. Behind his respected exterior was a major prankster. This side of Swayze was best documented during the production of the film Red Dawn. He would sneakily hide M60 explosives in John Milius, the director’s toilet and would activate them whenever he was using it!
Patrick the Believer
Patrick Swayze was a spiritual man and is quoted saying, “I believe in a higher power. I’ve studied Eastern philosophies, and I’ve studied the Koran. We’ve devalued everything worth believing in. Now we’re tearing into religion. A line should be drawn.” He has also stated that if you have enough faith, all obstacles can be conquered.
One of Swayze’s most-loved movies is Point Break. The surf flick made quite the impact with ocean-loving audiences. Patrick Swayze wasn’t born on the coast and he had almost no surfing experience when he landed the lead role. Producers sought the help of Dennis Jarvis, a professional surfer, to train the leading man. Jarvis later said, “Patrick said he’d been on a board a couple of times, Keanu definitely had not surfed before, and Lori had never been in the ocean in her life.”
Only at the height of the 1980’s would it be possible for the movie industry to release a successful movie about the world’s best bouncer. In 1989’s Road House we see Patrick Swayze strut around what appears to be the world’s toughest bar. He wasn’t a trained fighter before landing the part. Producers got kickboxing champion Benny Urquidez to train the actor for his fight scenes. The champion even made a cameo appearance in the movie alongside the actor.
The Final Year
For a short period while the actor was fearlessly fighting for his life, he appeared to be getting better. Tragically, it eventually became apparent to him and his loved ones that the actor wasn’t going to be around much longer. After a lengthy and brave battle, the star passed away on September 14, 2009. One has to remember one of his lines from his iconic film Ghost., “The love inside, you take it with you.”
After Swayze’s passing, a young man named Jason Wittle came forward and claimed to be the son of the late actor. Apparently, his mom was a former girlfriend of the star who had kept his birth a secret. Angered that he was excluded from Swayze’s will, Wittle came out of the woodwork and demanded he share of the actor’s estate. A DNA test was taken, but the results were inconclusive and the legal battle is still yet to be decided.
By the early 1990’s, Swayze was a sought-after and desirable leading man. One of the films he is most famous for is the film Ghost. Interestingly enough, Patrick’s role came with a particularly stern demand. Upon nabbing the role, the actor insisted that Whoopi Goldberg be put into the movie. According to her, Patrick stated, “I’m not making this movie unless you put Whoopi Goldberg in there. She then said, “I won an Oscar because of Patrick Swayze.”