Patrick Swayze’s not dead…or is he? He could be. I don’t know him personally, so I can’t risk a guess. There is a rumor creeping around the tabloids that, indeed, Patrick Swayze has passed on. And furthermore that his death is a secret kept by friends and family and his agent, I suppose.
I’m not suggesting Patrick Swayze has faked his own death. You don’t have to fake your own death anymore. The public will fake it for you.
The evolution of the celebrity death hoax is a curious matter. Here are more than a few choice examples:
1.Paul McCartney supposedly dies in a car crash back in 1966. He is promptly replaced with a look-alike. Fans scour every album from Sgt. Pepper’s on for clues.
2.In the same year, Walt Disney “dies” from lung cancer and is cryogenically frozen—still awaiting a cure.
3.Little Mikey, the finicky lad from the Life cereal commercials of the ‘70s, ingests Pop Rocks and soda pop, resulting in instant death.
4.In the summer of 1977, Elvis Presley’s heart stops while reading on the toilet. Some fans insist that the King has faked his own death and remains alive, a chubby pill-pawing recluse no less. How do they know this? For starters, Elvis’ middle name—Aron—has been mistakenly spelled “Aaron” on his gravestone. What’s more, in several drug-induced rages prior to his death, Elvis exorcises demons by punching brick walls. Yet, his knuckles appear smooth and flawless in his open casket.
5.Eddie Wilson, singer for fictional New Jersey rock ‘n roll group Eddie & The Cruisers, dies when he crashes his car over the Stainton Memorial Causeway. His body is never found, but he re-emerges in 1989, in the aptly titled Eddie & The Crusiers II: Eddie Lives!
6. Eddie and Laura’s little sister, in the TV sitcom Family Matters. I forget her name. One episode she’s there, the next she’s gone. No explanation given.
7.Kim Jong Il. Some people believe he is dead, due to his dwindling visual presence in the news media. This one is creepy and weird and pleasantly amusing, as all celebrity death hoaxes should be.
8.Paris Hilton. Bloggers fabricate news articles, reporting that Paris has died in jail. This may very well be the only celebrity death hoax that seems apt—a natural knee-jerk reaction to the nauseating overexposure of Ms. Hilton.
Let us not forget those celebrities who we mistakenly think are dead but are not: Mickey Rooney, Billy Squire, and Rue McClanahan, to name a few.
But back to Patrick Swayze, the center of my current death-hoax-obsessed universe. For some reason, unlike most celebrities, his impending death matters to me. I don’t know why. It just does. I’ve always rooted for Patrick Swayze.
The fact that Swayze’s death is imminent is affecting me more than I suspect his actual death will. This is a curious thing. Knowing an admired artist is going to die and consequently having time to mull it over. Make no mistake, Patrick Swayze was-er-is an artist.
I did some mulling and came up with three Patrick Swayze works that left an indelible impression on me.
Released in 1987, Dirty Dancing might very well be the first chick-flick I ever saw. It’s categorized as a romantic comedy, but I don’t remember laughing, and the film didn’t inspire me to dance dirtily. Still, it’s classic camp. Swayze does his thing. Which is, playing a rebel with a good heart.
This is no small feat, starring in a chick-flick and maintaining full badass quotient.
The Chippendale’s Sketch
Patrick Swayze hosted Saturday Night Live riding on the success of 1990’s Ghost. For those who have not seen the sketch, a well-tanned and muscular Patrick Swayze is competing against the lovably huge Chris Farley for a chance to be a Chippendale’s dancer. This is one of the funniest, warmest sketches SNL has ever produced.
The purpose of the sketch is not to showcase how pathetic and hopelessly naïve Chris Farley’s character is. In this strange universe, Chris and Patrick are friends competing for the same job. The judges are not cruel to Chris Farley. They explain to him, sympathetically, that his figure may not be the best fit for the job. The sketch ends exactly as it should, and everybody feels happy about what just happened. Tour de force performances from both Swayze and Chris Farley.
I must admit, I did not see this movie until well after the fact. Road House is infamously regarded by critics as one of the worst movies ever made. If not the worst. But you have to take filmmaking really, really seriously to not be entertained by Road House. Case in point: I avoided watching Road House throughout most of my twenties because I thought I had taste.
Regardless, Patrick Swayze performs his ass off. Just like Dirty Dancing, he single-handedly transforms a banal idea into a completely engrossing cult-classic. You watch Road House and forget how ludicrous it is because Swayze is brilliant. Anytime AMC airs Road House (and they do, a lot) I am unable to leave the couch. That’s entertainment.
The truth is, Patrick Swayze did not star in many good movies. I don’t know why this happened. Some have a bone to pick with his movies, but not him. It’s hard to dislike Patrick Swayze. In everything he did, no matter how bad, Swayze brought a warmth and depth unparalleled by most A-list Hollywood bozos.
I’ll leave you with a quote from James Dalton, the philosopher-cum-bouncer Patrick Swayze portrays in Road House:
“All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.”
Words to live by, indeed. Thanks for the good times, Patrick.