I didn’t realize it, but I was a fan.
In my novel, Rorschach’s Ribs, one of the characters, Phil Callaway, finds himself sitting behind an old typewriter he rescued from the dumpster behind his flat attempting to write a life-changing book for generations to come. The book he writes is Nobody Puts Swayze in the Corner: the Tao of Swayze.
This small part of the plot was devised long before Mr. Swayze was diagnosed with Cancer.
Originally, the dialogue went something like this:
“So I’m writing a new book called Nobody Puts Swayze in the Corner: the Tao of Swayze”
“Swayze? As in Patrick Swayze?” I asked, stirring my lukewarm coffee. “Isn’t he dead?”
“Only his career.”
Shortly after I finished writing my book I reconnected with an old, dear friend I hadn’t seen in close to five years. I didn’t think much about her request to meet in a non-smoking environment until she arrived with a scarf on her head, looking thin and tired. She was the first person I knew and cared about that had to fight Cancer. It broke my heart to see her feeling so sick, but it also inspired me. She was fighting. And when she wasn’t dealing with her own treatments she was mentoring troubled teens, and helping her fellow patients. She was doing good in a world that had essentially done her wrong.
I wanted to do something to help, I just didn’t know what
We were months away from releasing Rorschach’s Ribs, when I heard the sad news about Swayze. I had to go back and revise the whole Swayze subplot.
I was going to cut it from the book completely, but then I got an idea; rather than remove it, I decided to make it an even bigger concept. Bigger than the book itself.
That’s how my book was born.
To make it a reality, I had to watch every Swayze movie I could get my hands on.
I’d seen them all before, we all have.
As I watched classics like Road House, Red Dawn and Point Break, I began to realize something–something I hadn’t noticed until then; I’m a Patrick Swayze fan.
I always have been. I love his movies, and I always have. Even those that would fall under the category of “chick-flick”.
Growing up, I had an older sister (still do, as a matter of fact). She loved Dirty Dancing. And by loved, I mean obsessively watched it again and again and again. At the time, she could still take me. I hadn’t taken any karate classes, and my growth spurt was still a few years away. So that meant I obsessively watched Dirty Dancing again and again and again, lest suffer the wrath of a hormone fueled teenage girl with a decisive reach advantage.
I never really minded though.
When she went through her Girls Just Want to Have Fun phase, it was a different story, but then, I’m neither a fan of Sarah Jessica Parker nor Helen Hunt.
But I digress.
Swayze was incredible. He could play any role, cheesy or obscure, and he always put everything in. Whether he was a child molesting self help guru, a drag queen, or the matriarch of an orphaned family, it was believable. It was true.
But what’s even more incredible, he was a good man off the screen. He loved his wife, he loved his life. He had humility. He was a normal person.
We all fell witness to his strength and courage as he battled on. He showed fear and anger he showed determination. He inspired us all to fight our fights with dignity.
He also filmed an entire season of a hardcore show doing many of his own stunts without pain killers.
I’d like to see Chuck Norris do that.
And now, his battle has ended.
I knew this would happen. We all knew his time was limited, Swayze included. But it doesn’t change the numbness I felt when I heard the news, and the loss I still feel now.
Working on Nobody Puts Swayze in the Corner: the Tao of Swayze somehow brought me a lot closer to Mr. Swayze and his career, though we never met. Having spent so much time with his movies, reliving my youth to a certain extent, I realized just how much of my life has been filled with his work–his presence.
They don’t make many like Mr. Swayze in Hollywood these days.
Few are the passionate and true. Fewer still will ever be as genuine.
Mr. Swayze, you will be missed, but not forgotten.