I’m sad to report that Patrick Swayze has died at the age of 57 from the pancreatic cancer he announced to the world two years ago.
After playing Danny in a Broadway run of Grease, Swayze first came to widespread notice in the early ’80s in the well regarded TV mini-series North and South, and as a member of the so-called Brat Pack, with roles in The Outsiders and Red Dawn. But it was Dirty Dancing in 1987 that made him a household name, allowing him to put his classical training as a dancer to good use as Jennifer Gray’s heartthrob dance instructor Johnny Castle.
Roles of varying quality followed (best of which was the glorious tosh that is Road House) until the 1990 smash hit supernatural romance Ghost, where he played the deceased Sam Wheat to Demi Moore’s Molly Jensen and Whoopi Goldberg’s medium Oda Mae Brown. The following year he played the zen skydiving bank-robbing surfer Bodhi in Katherine Bigelow’s Point Break, and was awesome. No man in the world watched that film and wished they were Keanu.
The rest of the ’90s weren’t so kind to him (although he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his uncannily convincing role in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar) as he battled alcoholism and broke both legs in a horse-riding accident. But he made a superb comeback in 2000 as the paedophile life guru Jim Cunningham in Donnie Darko, and enjoyed a successful West-End run in Guys and Dolls beginning in 2006.
He announced his illness to the world in the spring of 2008, and battled it determinedly, whilst always remaining up-front about its gravity. He is survived by his wife of 34 years Lisa Niemi, whom he met aged 18 when she was taking dance classes with his mother. The two never had children.
His Outsiders co-star Rob Lowe said last night that he’d “lost a brother”. Jennifer Grey said in a statement “Patrick was a rare and beautiful combination of raw masculinity and amazing grace. It was not surprising to me that the war he waged on his cancer was so courageous and dignified.”