If you were a teenager in the 1980’s, then Dirty Dancing is a staple of your pubescent years. If you didn’t see it then, like me, then you probably did later. A few years following Dirty Dancing was the romantic fantasy, Ghost. That was the film where I discovered Patrick Swayze. Who doesn’t love that movie? He’s buff, he’s graceful, he’s sensitive, he’s masculine–all of those qualities that make for a hero. So when Patrick died in 2009 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 57, it was one of those celebrity deaths that really hurt. He was a good guy who still had a lot more to give.
His autobiography, The Time of My Life, written in his last months with Lisa Niemi, his wife of over 30 years, has been on my radar for a while. Movie star autobiographies can be tricky. I’ve read several. They’re usually either really satisfying or truly terrible. Often they are peppered with profanity (Carrie Fisher, Judy Greer, Mara Wilson) or just feel like one long brag (Anjelica Huston.) Fortunately, this is one of the better books with language coming in at a mild “PG” rating. With just the right balance talking about his early years, family, the struggle to achieve success, and his final illness, I was quite impressed. The reader is left knowing a decent, driven man with a great sense of humility who adores his wife and loves animals and nature. Kind of an old-fashioned dancing cowboy.
Lisa, his wife, is really the unsung hero of the book. What a supportive spouse, never showing any jealousy that his star was rising faster than hers. When Patrick’s alcoholism started to become a real problem, she expressed her concern and extreme disapproval, but she hung in there. Twelve years after his death and now remarried, Lisa still maintains his legacy with love and dignity. A very admirable lady.
Whatever your favorite Patrick Swayze movie may be, you’ll find this book an interesting, in depth look at a talent gone too soon.
Here’s a great 1995 interview with Patrick on 60 Minutes Australia. BTW…Australia’s news shows are so good!