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Patrick Swayze
Patrick Swayze - 1990 Grammy Awards (cropped).jpg
Swayze in 1990
Patrick Wayne Swayze

(1952-08-18)August 18, 1952
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Died September 14, 2009(2009-09-14) (aged 57)
Los Angeles, California U.S.
  • Actor
  • dancer
  • singer
  • choreographer
Years active 1976–2009
(m. 1975)
  • Patsy Swayze (mother)
Relatives Don Swayze (brother)

Patrick Wayne Swayze (/ˈswzi/ SWAY-zee; August 18, 1952 – September 14, 2009) was an American actor, dancer, and singer known for playing distinctive lead roles, particularly romantic, tough, and comedic characters.

Swayze received three nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, for his roles in the romance film Dirty Dancing (1987), the thriller film Ghost (1990), and the road comedy film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995). He also acted in famous action films, such as Road House (1989) and Point Break (1991). He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1997.

Swayze co-wrote and recorded the popular song "She's Like the Wind" and was posthumously awarded the Rolex Dance Award in 2012. In 2009, Swayze died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 57.

Early life

Patrick Wayne Swayze was born on August 18, 1952, in Houston, Texas, the second child of Patsy Swayze (née Karnes; 1927–2013), a dancer, choreographer, and dance instructor, and Jesse Wayne Swayze (1925–1982), an engineering draftsman. He had an older sister, Vickie (1949–1994), two younger brothers, actor Don (born 1958) and Sean (born 1962), and a younger sister, Bambi (born 1966). Swayze's paternal ancestor was Englishman John Swasey (1619–1706) from Bridport in Dorset. During the Puritan migration to New England between 1620 and 1640, Swasey traveled aboard The Recovery, ultimately arriving in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He married Katherine Kinge from Essex and eventually had seven children. Their grandson Samuel, a judge, was among the first to use the Swayze spelling.

Until age 20, Swayze lived in the Oak Forest neighborhood of Houston, where he attended St. Rose of Lima Catholic School, Oak Forest Elementary School, Black Middle School, Waltrip High School, and San Jacinto College Central. During this time, he pursued multiple artistic and athletic skills, such as ice skating, classical ballet, and acting in school plays. He also played football during high school, hoping to receive a football scholarship for college, until a knee injury ended his career. He concurrently practiced martial arts such as Wushu, Taekwondo, and Aikido, which he used to channel his "self-deprecating rage." In 1972, he moved to New York City to complete his formal dance training at the Harkness Ballet and Joffrey Ballet schools.



Patrick Swayze
Swayze at the Academy Awards

Patrick Swayze's first professional appearance was as a dancer for the Disney Theatrical Group in a show called Disney on Parade. He then starred in the role of Danny Zuko in one of the replacement casts for the long-running Broadway production of Grease. In 1979, he made his film debut as Ace in Skatetown, U.S.A.. At the height of the popularity of disco, he starred in a Pabst Blue Ribbon commercial of him going on a date at a disco-themed nightclub with Pabst's then-jingle set to disco music. He appeared in the M*A*S*H episode "Blood Brothers" in 1981 as Private Sturgis, whose wounds are minor, but who is found to be terminally ill with cancer. That same year, he appeared in the TV movie Return of the Rebels with Barbara Eden, and then in 1983, had a brief stint on the short-lived TV series The Renegades, playing a gang leader named Bandit.

Swayze became better known to the film industry after appearing in The Outsiders in 1983 as the older brother of C. Thomas Howell and Rob Lowe. In the same year, Swayze played a Marine Corps trainer in Vietnam rescue film Uncommon Valor with Gene Hackman. The following year, Swayze, Howell, and Howell's friend and fellow The Outsiders actor Darren Dalton reunited in Red Dawn, along with Jennifer Grey. In 1986, Lowe and Swayze reunited in Youngblood. Swayze's first major dramatic success was in the 1985 television miniseries North and South, set during the American Civil War.

Swayze starred in 1987's Dirty Dancing, a low-budget movie, planned for only a one-week release, after which it was to go to video. Swayze played resort dance instructor Johnny Castle, alongside his frequent co-star Jennifer Grey. The story enabled Swayze to dance and romance Grey, and showcase his professional dance training. In addition to acting and dancing, Swayze co-composed and sang one of the songs on the soundtrack for Dirty Dancing, "She's Like the Wind." The song became a top-10 hit that has since been covered by other artists. Swayze had originally co-written the song with Stacy Widelitz for the film Grandview, U.S.A. in 1984. Dirty Dancing's coming-of-age story first became a surprise hit, and then achieved enormous international success. It was the first film to sell one million copies on video, and as of 2009, it had earned over $214 million worldwide. The film also generated several alternative, or derivative, versions, ranging from a television series to stage productions to a computer game. Swayze received a Golden Globe Award nomination for the role. After Dirty Dancing, Swayze found himself in great demand and appeared in several films, including Road House in 1989 with Sam Elliott, Ben Gazzara, and Kelly Lynch.


Swayze next starred as Sam Wheat in the 1990 romance-thriller film Ghost opposite Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, and Tony Goldwyn. Ghost was the highest-grossing film of the year and earned positive reviews from critics. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Swayze earned another Golden Globe nomination for his acting. It was also Swayze who convinced the producers to hire Goldberg, who thanked Swayze in her acceptance speech when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The scene where he and Moore use a pottery wheel has become an iconic moment. In the following year, he starred alongside Youngblood castmate Keanu Reeves in another major action hit, Point Break.

For his contributions to the film industry, Swayze was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1997. Swayze was injured in May 1997 while filming HBO's Letters from a Killer near Ione, California, when he fell from a horse and hit a tree. Both of his legs were broken, and he suffered four detached tendons in his shoulder. Filming was suspended for two months. The film aired in 1998, and Swayze slowly recovered from his injuries, but he had trouble resuming his career until 2000, when he co-starred in Forever Lulu, with Melanie Griffith.

In 1995, Swayze appeared in the movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, starring alongside Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo as three drag queens whose car breaks down on a cross-country trip, leaving them stranded in a small town.


Paula Abdul & Patrick Swayze (cropped)
Swayze and Paula Abdul at the 1990 Grammy Awards

In 2001, he appeared in Donnie Darko. The film later obtained a cult following. After this, he co-starred with Billy Bob Thornton and Charlize Theron in Waking Up in Reno, which focuses on two redneck couples taking a road trip from Little Rock to Reno to see a monster truck rally. In 2004, he played Allan Quatermain in King Solomon's Mines and had a cameo appearance in the Dirty Dancing prequel Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights as an unnamed dance instructor.

In 2003, Swayze co-produced and also starred in the fictional dance film One Last Dance, along with his real-life wife Lisa Niemi. The story revolves around an actual dance production, Without a Word, which was choreographed by Alonzo King. Swayze and Niemi also produced the film, starred in it, and composed some of the music.

Swayze made his debut in London's West End in the musical Guys and Dolls as Nathan Detroit on July 27, 2006, alongside Neil Jerzak and Jordan McGhee, and remained in the role until November 25, 2006. His previous appearances on the Broadway stage included productions of Goodtime Charley in 1975 and Chicago. Swayze also provided the voice for Cash the country music band dog in The Fox and the Hound 2 (2006), and in 2007 he starred in the film Christmas in Wonderland. Swayze played an aging rock star in Powder Blue (2008), co-starring his younger brother Don in their first film together.

In his final role, Swayze starred as FBI agent Charles Barker in the A&E drama The Beast, which was filmed in Chicago. Swayze was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer shortly after filming the pilot episode, but continued working on the show while receiving treatment. The Beast premiered on January 15, 2009, and ran for one season. Reviewer Alan Sepinwall wrote: "[When] you watch Swayze in The Beast, [you] realize that this is the best performance of his career—that the opportunity to play a part like this, and to play it as well as he is, may be fueling his ability to keep fighting against the cancer. And you realize, in an odd silver lining, that the cancer may, in turn, be fueling the performance."

Personal life

Relationships and mental health

Alan Light - Patrick Swayze - 1990 Grammy Awards (cropped)
Swayze and his wife, Lisa Niemi, at the 1990 Grammy Awards

Swayze was married to Lisa Niemi for 34 years from June 12, 1975, until his death. They had no children, but Lisa had suffered one miscarriage. They met in 1970 when Swayze was 18 years old. Niemi, 14 at the time, was taking dance lessons from Swayze's mother. In a 2008 interview, Swayze stated that Niemi was the inspiration for his song "She's Like the Wind" (1987).

In 1989, Swayze said, "I've always felt there was something different in there (my personality), but I was scared to look. For I fear I wouldn't find anything. That's the reason I got into Soka Gakkai Buddhism, and earlier in life took EST training, was into therapy, into transcendental meditation. I was trying to support that side of myself. But, you know, in Texas, there isn't much support for that part of you. I finally found what I was looking for in the Soka Gakkai tradition of Buddhist practice." Swayze said he loved looking into various belief systems and faiths, how it matters to other people, and how respecting other religious teachings is important to him.

Swayze, who was an FAA-licensed pilot with an instrument rating, made the news on June 1, 2000, while flying with his dogs in his twin-engined Cessna 414 N414PS, from Van Nuys, California, to Las Vegas, New Mexico. His plane developed a pressurization problem, causing Swayze to make a precautionary landing on a dirt road in a housing complex in Prescott Valley, Arizona. The plane's right wing struck a light pole, but Swayze was unharmed.

On December 27, 2006, Swayze and Niemi, who was also a licensed pilot, experienced a second incident while flying N414PS together en route to their New Mexico ranch. During the climb from their origin airport, they experienced a loss of power followed by a total failure of their right engine. Niemi, who was in the pilot's seat for the flight, successfully landed the plane in Van Nuys. After this second incident, the couple decided to sell it in favor of a Beechcraft Super King Air, N400KW, which they purchased through their company Prop Jocks Inc. in June 2007.

Illness and death

In late December 2007, just after filming the pilot episode for The Beast, Swayze began to suffer a burning feeling in his stomach caused by a blockage of his bile ducts. Three weeks later, in mid-January 2008, he was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He traveled to the Stanford University Medical Center for chemotherapy and treatment with the experimental drug vatalanib, which doctors hoped would cut off the blood supply to the tumor.

On March 5, 2008, a Reuters article reported that Swayze "has a very limited amount of disease, and he appears to be responding well to treatment thus far." Swayze's doctor confirmed that the actor was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but insisted he was not as close to death as reports suggested. Despite repeated tabloid claims that his death was imminent, Swayze continued to actively pursue his career.

In early May 2008, a number of tabloids reported that Swayze underwent surgery to remove part of his stomach after the cancer spread. Reports also stated that he rewrote his will, transferring his property to his wife. In a statement made on May 28, Swayze said he continued to respond well to treatment at Stanford University Medical Center. In late May 2008, he was seen at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game, his first public appearance since his diagnosis. In June 2008, he reportedly said, "My treatments are working and I am winning the battle."

Swayze appeared on the ABC, NBC, and CBS simulcast of Stand Up to Cancer in September 2008 to appeal to the general public for donations for the initiative. Swayze said to a standing ovation, "I dream that the word 'cure' will no longer be followed by the words 'it's impossible.' Together, we can make a world where cancer no longer means living with fear, without hope, or worse." After the show ended, Swayze remained onstage and talked to other cancer patients; executive producer Laura Ziskin (herself battling advanced breast cancer, which claimed her own life) said, "He said a beautiful thing: 'I'm just an individual living with cancer.' That's how he wants to be thought of. He's in a fight, but he's a fighter." On December 2, 2008, Swayze denied claims made by tabloids that the cancer had spread to his liver.

In an interview with Barbara Walters, which aired in January 2009, Swayze admitted that he had "a tiny little mass" in his liver, but told Walters that he wanted the media to report that he was "kicking it." When Walters asked him if he was using any holistic or alternative methods of treatment besides chemotherapy, Swayze said he was using some Chinese herbs. He then voiced his opposition to the unsupported claims made by proponents of alternative therapies.

2012-04-21; Mountain Lake Hotel, Giles Co., Virginia - 7099092655
Memorial stone for Patrick Swayze dedicated in November 2009, at Mountain Lake Hotel where Dirty Dancing was filmed

On January 9, 2009, Swayze was hospitalized with pneumonia, which was said to be a complication of chemotherapy for his cancer. On January 16, he was released from the hospital to rest at home with his wife. On April 19, 2009, doctors informed Swayze that the cancer had again metastasized to his liver. Swayze was a smoker for 40 years, and he once made reference to smoking 60 cigarettes a day. He stated that his chain smoking probably "had something to do with" the development of his disease, and continued to smoke cigarettes while undergoing treatment for cancer.

Swayze died with family at his side on September 14, 2009, at the age of 57. Swayze's death occurred 20 months after his cancer diagnosis. Swayze's publicist confirmed to CNN that he had died of pancreatic cancer. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered over his New Mexico ranch.


In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring the film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the character Crow T. Robot writes a Christmas carol centered around Swayze's movie Road House titled "Let's Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas". In the Canadian TV series Trailer Park Boys, the character Julian is sometimes called Patrick Swayze due to the former dressing up almost similar to Swayze's character in Road House. In the MCU film The Avengers, Tony Stark gives Thor the nickname "Point Break" due to the latter's similarity to Swayze in his film. In the TV series Cobra Kai, the character Robby Keene reveals that his middle name is Swayze, named due to his mother's love of the actor.



Year Title Role Notes
1979 Skatetown, U.S.A. Ace Johnson Film debut
1983 The Outsiders Darrel "Darry" Curtis
Uncommon Valor Kevin Scott
1984 Grandview, U.S.A. Ernie "Slam" Webster
Red Dawn Jed Eckert
1986 Youngblood Derek Sutton
1987 Dirty Dancing Johnny Castle
Steel Dawn Nomad
1988 Tiger Warsaw Chuck "Tiger" Warsaw
1989 Road House James Dalton
Next of Kin Truman Gates
1990 Ghost Sam Wheat
1991 Point Break Bodhi
1992 The Player Himself Uncredited
City of Joy Max Lowe
1993 Father Hood Jack Charles
1995 Tall Tale Pecos Bill Alternate title: Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar Vida Boheme
Three Wishes Jack McCloud
1998 Black Dog Jack Crews
Letters from a Killer Race Darnell
2000 Forever Lulu Ben Clifton
2001 Green Dragon Gunner Sergeant Jim Lance
Donnie Darko Jim Cunningham
2002 Waking Up in Reno Roy Kirkendall
2003 One Last Dance Travis MacPhearson Also producer
11:14 Frank
2004 Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights Dance Class Instructor
George and the Dragon Garth Alternate title: Dragon Sword
2005 Keeping Mum Lance
2006 The Fox and the Hound 2 Cash Voice
2007 Christmas in Wonderland Wayne Saunders
2008 Jump! Richard Pressburger
2009 Powder Blue Velvet Larry Filmed in 2007; final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1980 The Comeback Kid Chuck Television debut; television movie
1981 M*A*S*H Private Gary Sturgis Episode: "Blood Brothers"
Return of the Rebels K.C. Barnes Television movie
1983 The Renegades Bandit Series regular; 6 episodes
1984 Pigs vs. Freaks Doug Zimmer Television movie
1985–1986 North and South Orry Main Miniseries; 6 episodes
1985 Amazing Stories Eric David Peterson Episode: "Life on Death Row"
1990 Saturday Night Live Himself (Host) Episode: "Patrick Swayze/Mariah Carey"
Notable comedy sketch "Chippendales Audition" performance with comedian Chris Farley
2004 King Solomon's Mines Allan Quartermain Miniseries; 2 episodes
Whoopi Tony Episode: "One Last Dance"
2005 Icon Jason Monk Television movie
2009 The Beast Charles Barker / Apache Series regular; 13 episodes
Filmed in 2008; final acting appearance


Soundtrack appearances

Year Title Artist(s) Album
1987 "She's Like the Wind" Patrick Swayze, Wendy Fraser Dirty Dancing
1989 "Raising Heaven (in Hell) Tonight" Patrick Swayze Road House
"Cliff's Edge"
"Brothers" Patrick Swayze, Larry Gatlin Next of Kin
2003 "When You Dance" Patrick Swayze, Lisa Niemi One Last Dance
"Finding My Way Back" Patrick Swayze

Awards and nominations

Swayze received multiple awards and nominations throughout his career for his work both film and television. During his film career he received three Golden Globe award nominations for Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical for his roles in Dirty Dancing, Ghost and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything!, Julie Newmar. In 1996, he was immortalized when Swayze received his star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to Motion Picture, located at 7018 Hollywood, Blvd.

Year Work Award Category Results
1987 North and South: Book II Bravo Otto Award Best Male TV Star Nominated
1988 Aftonbladet TV Prize Award Best Foreign Television Personality – Male Won
Tiger Warsaw Bravo Otto Award Best Actor Won
Dirty Dancing Golden Globe Award Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical Nominated
Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Award Favorite Movie Actor Nominated
1989 BMI Film & TV Award Most Performed Song from a Film Won
Road House Bravo Otto Award Best Actor Nominated
1990 Ghost Best Actor Nominated
Next of Kin
Road House
Golden Raspberry Award Worst Lead Actor Nominated
1991 Point Break Bravo Otto Award Best Actor Nominated
Ghost Golden Globe Award Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical Nominated
Saturn Award Best Lead Actor Nominated
Next of Kin
Road House
Yoga Award Worst Foreign Actor Won
1992 Point Break MTV Movie + TV Award Most Desirable Male Nominated
N/A ShoWest Convention Award Male Star of the Year Won
1996 To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything!, Julie Newmar Golden Globe Award Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical Nominated
2009 N/A Houston Film Critics Society Lifetime Achievement Award Won

See also

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