Patrick Swayze: A Tribute To An Amazing Career

Contributed by Eric Ditzian

Few ’80s stars are easier to make fun of than Patrick Swayze. From his absurd half-pompadour, half-mullet hairdo to his “Dirty Dancing” character Johnny Castle sincerely insisting that nobody puts Jennifer Grey in the corner, ripping on Swayze is almost unfair — not least because the guy is in the midst of fighting pancreatic cancer. But come on! Badass bouncer flick “Road House”? The classic Chippendales dance-off with Chris Farley on “SNL”? That’s some Grade-A pop culture tastiness.

Now, with a prime time interview with Barbara Walters set to air tonight and his A&E crime procedural “The Beast” premiering next Thursday, MTV News takes a look back at Swayze’s career and comes away frickin’ psyched he’s on the comeback trail.

Darrel Curtis in “The Outsiders” (1983):
“If the fuzz show, you beat it out of there,” Darrel says to his boys in the Greasers gang, which sounds beyond silly until you hear Swayze deliver the line in this inaugural Brat Pack movie. The doe-eyed, clench-jawed voice of maturity, he comes off as a believable father figure to a future generation of Hollywood stars in Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon and others.

Sam Wheat in “Ghost” (1990):
Dear Patrick Swayze: On behalf of every adolescent boy in 1990, thank you for feeling up Demi Moore while she was working on that pottery wheel. You could have let her finish that vase, you could have let her put on some pants. But no! Mr. Swayze, you rubbed her with wet clay, you picked her up in the hazy twilight and well, our dreams — and our art classes — would never be the same.

Bodhi in “Point Break” (1991):
This ranks as perhaps Swayze’s finest film simply for the scene in which Keanu Reeves’ character jumps out of a plane without a parachute to wrestle Bodhi in mid-air. Yet that splendid, logic-defying sequence is just one gem in a sparkling thrill fest that should have spawned a long line of copycat undercover FBI/surfer dude crime flicks.

Vida Boheme in “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” (1995):
Okay, terrible title, even worse movie. But Swayze deserves much credit for playing against sexual preference long before it was mainstream. That the choice to portray a drag queen may have come more out of career desperation (it’d been four years since his last hit) than artistic courage doesn’t diminish the striking sight of Swayze in high heels, sequined dress and talk-to-the-hand sauciness.

Jim Cunningham in “Donnie Darko” (2001):
In one of those “Is that really him? Where has that guy been?” cameos, Swayze ends up stealing scenes in this twisty, time-traveling cult fav. His Cunningham is an impeccably coifed motivational speaker who delivers his inane coinages — Anger Prisoner! Fear Instrument! — with equal parts unwavering certainty and goosebump-inducing creepiness. Who was surprised when he turned out to have a dungeon full of kiddie porn?

Obviously there’s “Red Dawn” and “Road House” in addition to the above, so which Swayze roles count among your favorite? Chime in below.