Swayze was romantic superstar with charm, swagger (Obituary)

September 15th, 2009 - 11:43 am ICT by IANS  

By Andy Goldberg
Los Angeles, Sep 15 (DPA) Patrick Swayze, whose smashing success in the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing” turned him into a romantic and rebellious icon for millions of young American women died Monday after a prolonged and brave battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

Born in 1952 in Houston, Texas, Swayze combined the macho, country-boy swagger with the dancing charm of an old-fashioned romantic hero to propel “Dirty Dancing” from a low budget, made-for-video flick into a box-office sensation that earned more than $300 million worldwide.

It was by far Swayze’s greatest hit, but the actor kept working hard even through a debilitating battle with cancer.

As late as December 2008 he was refusing to take powerful painkillers so as not to blur the edge that he felt he needed to play the lead character in the TV series The Beast.

“When you’re shooting you can’t do drugs,” he said on a US chat show. “What winning is to me is not giving up, is no matter what’s thrown at me, I can take it, and I can keep going.”

That mental toughness that helped the trained ballet dancer deal with the challenges of becoming an overnight sex symbol. In “Dirty Dancing”, he played a dance teacher whose private mambo lessons to a teenage girl inevitably led to an erotically charged relationship.

But even as he retained a special place in American pop culture, most of his following projects sank into box-office oblivion, and Swayze sought refuge in the bottle.

He did experience several high points with Golden Globe nominations in 1990 for the box-office smash “Ghost”, another romantic classic, and in 1995 for “To Won Foo”, but he got an equal number of Razzie Awards for worst actor.

Determined to beat his alcohol addiction, he removed himself from Hollywood to the ranches he owned outside Los Angeles and near Las Vegas to raise thoroughbred horses.

Through it all, his wife, Lisa Niemi, was by his side. The couple had one of the strongest marriages in Hollywood. They met in 1970 when she was just 16 and took a dance class given by his mother. They married in 1975 and remained together until his death.

After conquering his addiction, Swayze returned to Hollywood in 2000 to film a small role in the cult classic Donnie Darko. But he really made a splash when he earned $5 million for a cameo appearance in a prequel to his greatest hit “Dirty Dancing - Havana Nights”.

He was diagnosed with cancer in late January 2008 and was treated at the Stanford University Medical Centre outside San Francisco. His condition sparked a regular flurry of rumours of his imminent death, most of which he took with his customary grit and good humour.

“I am alive and plan on continuing to stay that way,” he said in January 2009, after he denied reports that he had stopped treatment.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Entertainment |