Thanks for everything, Patrick Swayze


There was this coworker. I didn’t know him that well, but I worked with him roughly four times a year for two years. He helped me set up the audio/visual equipment for big employee meetings. He seemed like a nice guy, always helpful and professional. And then two weeks ago when I was planning logistics for upcoming meetings, I got an out of office message. Long story short: he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few weeks before, quite unexpectedly, and had taken medical leave. The day after I got that out of office message, he died.

It’s a nasty, fast cancer with a less than 5% survival rate, with complete remission extremely rare. It’s a testament to Swayze’s strength that he held on as long as he did.

In celebration of Swayze’s career, I’d like to revisit and deconstruct one of my absolute favorite movies starring Swayze, and it’s not “Dirty Dancing.”

There are so many fantastic, quotable lines in this film, and the cast is full of gems (Swayze, John Leguizamo, Stockard Channing, Blythe Danner). Yes, there are also some issues with the film: drag queens are depicted as sexless clowns who wear their outfits and a complete face of makeup 24/7 — even when going to bed. And, yes, in addition to that, there are many cliche’s about homosexuals.

But it’s comedy. And I laugh.

Also: Have you noticed how similar “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” is to “The Music Man”? Some examples (warning: spoilers!):

– A group of fancy, “big-city” ladies, who aren’t exactly what they seem, happen upon a sleepy small town unexpectedly and shake things up.
– Professor Harold Hill, a con man, unexpectedly comes to a sleepy Iowa town and shakes things up.

– Marian (the librarian) is suspicious, but eventually steps away from her buttoned-up prissiness when she falls in love with Harold’s charms.
– Carol Ann (Channing) has a very suspicious (read: abusive) husband who doesn’t let her leave her house, forcing her to make spaghetti sauce. Vida (Swayze) takes her under her wing and helps Carol Ann grow a backbone and leave her husband.

– Vida helps young, shy Bobby Lee find her voice through style and fashion.
– Harold Hill helps young, shy Winthrop find his voice through his coronet.

– Noxeema (Wesley Snipes) helps curmudgeonly, seemingly senile Merna (Melinda Dillon) come out of her shell when she asks her about her old movie poster collection.
– Harold Hill helps curmudgeonly members of he school board come out of their shells when he shows them the wonder of barber shop singing.

– Charlie Cowell seeks out to expose Harold Hill as a fraud at the ice cream social, but the townspeople of River City, led by Marian, support Harold Hill and celebrate the way he helped them discover the community they have among each other. They then pretend their kids are suddenly musicians.
– Sheriff Dollard (Chris Penn) seeks out to expose Vida, Noxeema and Chi-Chi as frauds (read: men) at the strawberry social, but the townspeople, led by Carol Ann, support the trio of drag queens and celebrate the way they helped them discover the community they have among each other. They then pretend they are all drag queens.

See? It’s practically the same movie. That is, without the boas, glitter and falsies.

Anyway – rest in peace, Patrick Swayze.

2 thoughts on “Thanks for everything, Patrick Swayze

  1. Nice work recognizing Swayze’s pretty amazing struggle with a brutal cancer as well as his surprisingly meaningful body of work. He won me over in The Outsiders (as the oldest brother) and held my admiration through Dirty Dancing, Road House, Point Break, and To Wong Foo. Definitely a loss…

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