Interview with Sue Tabashnik
What do your fans mean to you?
The fans of Patrick Swayze and Dirty Dancing mean everything to me, as I think all of us fans share some type of positive, humanistic, energy connection that is special to find in this day and age. I really believe that Patrick Swayze was such a unique, talented, wonderful man who continues to influence so many people all over the world. I know that his entertainment work and the way he lived his life; ie his spirit and character, continue to be such an inspiration to me. I was very lucky to have met him four times.
You clearly like and admire Patrick Swayze as well as the movie Dirty Dancing. How do you separate Patrick Swayze from his character in Dirty Dancing?
First of all, there are many similarities between Patrick and the character of Johnny in Dirty Dancing. Patrick told Barbara Walters, in that ever-so-famous television interview in 1988, that he really related to the character of Johnny in terms of fighting to like himself and to believe in himself. I do think that Patrick had a life-long battle in believing that he was good enough. Obviously, both Patrick and Johnny had dance in their souls and were just naturally so gifted and talented. I think that both Patrick and Johnny were tremendously loyal and sensitive people. Finally, Patrick played a hero as Johnny in Dirty Dancing and in real life remains a hero to many, many folks around the world.
Additionally, regarding separating out Patrick from his portrayal of Johnny, I think that Patrick was more worldly, more educated, more spiritual, and more talented than Johnny; especially notable was that Patrick was a classically trained ballet dancer and a singer/songwriter. Patrick commented that he had to hold back his dancing skills in Dirty Dancing. Patrick also had a more solid family background and a huge connection with nature and animals.
When I think of the incredibly wide range of roles that Patrick played so brilliantly in his career in the movies and television, it just blows me away. He was so versatile and believable as Sam in Ghost, Vida in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Bodhi in Point Break, Jack in Three Wishes, and on and on. So even though I think he struggled with self-worth sometimes, I think he did connect with the truth within himself (which he spoke of many times) and seemed physically fearless.
Speaking of courage, I have to, of course, discuss his brave, strong battle against pancreatic cancer. I mean filming a full television series in the midst of such a horrible illness, giving that inspirational speech at Stand Up to Cancer, and conducting himself with dignity and grace and still being passionate about life during his illness, just made Patrick even more of a hero to me.
Do you consider yourself an expert on Patrick Swayze? Did you research his history and childhood? Or is his adult work more important to you?
I consider myself a big fan, along with many other hardcore fans. I think that he has this hardcore group of fans that still cannot get enough of him, and also, of course, millions of fans of various degrees throughout the world. By belonging to the Official Patrick Swayze International Fan Club, I and the other members had access to a lot of information about Patrick; as he was really good at keeping us posted about what was going on in his career and sending photos. I met Patrick four times—two as a result of the fan club—and I was very fortunate to have those unique experiences.
I have always read whatever I could about Patrick, whether it was about his childhood or his adult work; whatever I could find about Patrick. I just found him to be so talented, fascinating, and inspirational. I, of course, watched most of his work (I even saw him in the stage production of Guys and Dolls in California) and many of his interviews, and he did give a multitude of interviews in all of the media—television, magazines (including his fan club magazine), newspapers, etc. I have read his book and his wife Lisa’s book many times, as well as several other books about Patrick.
Thus, I am not sure that I would say I am an expert on Patrick, but I would say that I know a lot about Patrick’s work and background, and I formed my own impressions of Patrick from my experiences interacting with him and watching him interact with others.
What do you think Patrick Swayze would have contributed to the world or to acting if he were still alive today? What is your biggest regret about his death?
I think that Patrick would have had another comeback. I believe that he would have had a starring role in another iconic movie and also been in many more movies. I also think that he would have been more involved with his songwriting and singing and would have been very successful with it.
I think that he would have continued and increased his work on the environment, especially his work with the forests on his own land. I also believe that if he had beaten pancreatic cancer, he would have been very active in advocating for more research for early detection and treatment of that horrible disease.
My biggest regret is that, by Patrick dying too soon, he missed time with his family and just enjoying life. I would have obviously loved to continue to follow his career and enjoy his new projects, and probably would have met up with him at other events.
I once read an article in which the author stated that Patrick’s fan club was like a cult. In my opinion, it was like a big family, of which Patrick was the head. Many friendships and bonds formed and still continue between people all over the world who would never have met if it had not been for Patrick. I think that Patrick created a whirlwind of good energy among many, many people that is still going on.
What was it you first noticed about Patrick Swayze that made you feel he was special?
While viewing Dirty Dancing, I noticed that Patrick had this amazing combination of: (1) being an incredible fireball of energy, (2) being a sizzling, sensual dancer, and (3) giving quite a bravissimo performance, and yet at the same time showing a strong vulnerability. Then while watching the Barbara Walters 1988 interview, I was struck by Patrick being so genuine, humble, and down-to-earth.
If you had the chance to sit down today with Patrick and do an interview, what would you want to tell him about the ways he has inspired you in your writing and your life?
I would have to say that going to Houston in 2003 to see the screening of One Last Dance and having the experience of meeting Patrick several times there and seeing the passion put forth in the movie was totally life-changing. I came away thinking and feeling that I could make my dreams come true—which, of course, was the theme of One Last Dance and was the reality of Patrick and Lisa making one of their dreams come true by completion of that movie. I found it very inspiring that Patrick and Lisa stuck with their project for so many years, worked so hard, and succeeded to make such a brilliant dance film.
I never thought that I would ever have a chance to meet Patrick once (which occurred in Detroit), let alone meeting him in Houston for a second time, and once again finding him to be a wonderful, kind, giving man. And then I met him at the Nashville Film Festival and during his second trip to Detroit. So I had four in-person encounters with him.
As I have already stated in reply to an earlier question, I find Patrick’s heroic battle with pancreatic cancer to be extremely inspirational. I draw on his example of fighting his battle to fight my own battles. He strived and achieved living life to its fullest when he was so ill. He seemed to transcend his physical illness and become even more spiritual.
What, in your life, has changed, for better or worse, by having met Patrick, and by having seen his films?
Meeting Patrick and viewing his films has had a tremendous positive impact on my life; including having some good times, being inspired, having the movies and songs to always enjoy, meeting people I would never have met if it wasn’t for him, writing two books, being inspired to continue my search for meaning, and on and on.
I do still feel an incredible sadness that Patrick had to go through pancreatic cancer and is no longer physically here on Earth. To deal with this, I, of course, once again enjoy his legacy of his work as an artist and his legacy of character.
Many times I think to myself, “If Patrick could do this while having cancer, (film a TV show, keep a positive attitude, etc.) I can certainly do what I have to do.” When meeting with his doctor after getting the pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Patrick looked the doctor in the eye and stated, “Show me the enemy, and I will fight it.” I think that says it all. I try to remember his bravery and tenacity when I am fighting my battles.
Patrick has had a huge positive influence on my life. I think that having a hero, and actually getting to meet him, has been very life-changing.
You went to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum to see the wax likeness of Patrick. What was that like for you? And what do you think Patrick would have said about being honored in wax?
I am not someone who usually enjoys a wax museum. Thus, I did everything I could to be open to the experience. Actually, it turned out to be a very special and bittersweet event to visit Patrick’s wax figure at Madame Tussauds Hollywood in December 2012. In a way, it was a chance to pay respect to Patrick and to celebrate Patrick’s wonderful talent with multitudes of other people. The visit came at a tough time in my life where it really made a difference in coping with what was going on.
I think that Patrick would have been very proud and would have found a way to be playful about it.
Just wondering if Patrick knew about your book, The Fans' Love Story. If he did, what thoughts did he have about the book?
Unfortunately, I do not think Patrick knew about the book. He was quite ill by the time I contacted his management/publicity office, and he died before I finished the book. I really wish I would have had the chance to send him a copy.
To the best of my knowledge, Patrick never played a villain in a movie. However, his character in The Beast was borderline. Did you watch The Beast? If so, what did you think of Patrick's performance as someone who was not a clear-cut hero?
I watched many of The Beast episodes. I found it very inspirational that Patrick was working during his cancer battle, and I wanted to support him. I think that Patrick did an excellent job portraying a character with many nuances. I think that in real life, people and situations are not always either good or bad, and Patrick’s portrayal was very gritty and real.
Thank you to Nicole Klungle for questions 2 through 4, and 10, Holly Tuell for questions 5 through 8, and Jane Brazier for question 9.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your wriitng?
I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. This was a wonderful experience because creativity was emphasized and neighbors were really neighbors back then. There was a sense of adventure and connection.
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Books by This Author
The Fan's Love Story Encore
by Sue Tabashnik
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