The passing of time can lead to the growth of regrets. Paul Anka famously wrote (and perhaps more famously sung by Sid Vicious [or Frank Sinatra]), “regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention” when he penned the English version of the song that turned out to be My Way. I don’t have many regrets in life. Mind you, my philosophy, or ethos if you will, kind of laughs in the face of regret and tells me to “suck it up, Princess” on a regular basis. All things happen for a reason. We make the decisions we make in life because at that precise moment, that is the decision we need to make. Saying “If I could do it again …” is bullshit. If you could do it again under the same circumstances you’d make the same decision. But I’m not here to get into a philosophical debate about actions, reactions, why things happen, why they don’t. For the record, one of my regrets, without getting too personal, is that I didn’t appreciate and in turn use, the guitar my parents bought me for my 13th birthday. I thought it was a stupid gift. Now I wish I could play an instrument. At 13 though, I guess I didn’t see the endless supply of “tail” a guitar would bring me. Nudge nudge, wink wink.
So, let’s get back to Patrick Swayze, shall we? Back in May 2007 I was awaiting my new passport so I could head out and start my new job in Saudi Arabia. I was working in a plumbing warehouse at the time as they said I could just work there until I needed to go. It was a pretty good deal really. Above average pay, not too taxing. I could shut my brain off and do the job blindfolded. I had gone straight from work to West Edmonton Mall, at one time the largest indoor shopping centre in the world, and currently still the largest in North America (by grossable lease size – or something silly like that). Inside the mall you’ll find Galaxyland, an indoor amusement park complete with triple-loop rollercoaster (it famously crashed in June 1986 – killing 3 people). It has an indoor waterpark, a full-size Spanish galleon, sea life caverns, and well over 800 stores to choose from. And a casino!
I stroll into the mall this day in May, and I see Christmas decorations up. I know people get into the Christmas spirit earlier these days – but May? Turns out, they’re filming the straight-to-DVD movie, Christmas in Wonderland at the mall. It is easy to spot the extras walking around the mall in their long trousers and parkas. I had heard rumors about this movie beforehand. I knew that Chris Kattan from Saturday Night Live was in it, and had heard that Carmen Electra, the former Playboy Playmate was in it as well. On my journey around the mall I ran into Chris Kattan, who took the time to say hello and have a brief chat about comedy. Very down to Earth. Sadly, the elusive Miss Electra kept avoiding me, even though I went into two shops after she had been in them.
So I’m walking around and notice a huge crowd of people, predominantly women, waiting outside a shoe shop (here’s where I’d normally throw in a great joke but won’t). As I approached I could see in the store, which had been closed to the public so the lone shopper (with 3 bodyguards) could browse some mid-range shoes. Looking a little too fake-tanned and leathery, but still recognizable, stood Patrick Swayze. Gone was the feathered hair that made women swoon in Dirty Dancing, Ghost, and even Point Break, replaced by a tidier, more new-Millennium cut. Notepads and pens were out in full force waiting for his exit. All around us, the movie crew was tearing down cameras, filming over for the day. And then the door opened.
The first two bodyguards came out first, carving a hole through the big but behaved crowd. Swayze followed with another guard behind him. He didn’t look at a single person as he passed them, just slowly shaking his head that he wasn’t going to give any autographs. You could hear the disappointment spew from his fans. His entourage walked my way. And then, “Dude, you used to be famous!” It was out of my mouth before I realized it. One of the bodyguards looked at me before leading Swayze off. A few of the women turned to me and smiled, probably in thanks for saying what they were thinking. I don’t know for sure though.
I don’t know what it is like to be famous. I don’t know what it is like to have pens thrust in my face all the time. I do know that one of the side-effects of cashing million dollar paychecks is that you will have days where people want your autograph. This wasn’t an unruly mob. This was a bunch of women (who probably later became Twilight Moms – don’t get me started) who wanted an autograph from a guy they all probably secretly, and some not-so-secretly used to fantasize over back when he was People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive (1991 for those who care). His top-billing days were as gone as his mullet. And he just brushed his way past these fans without a single glance. Well, I just wanted to let him know where he stood in my books! Not that my books count.
I was telling this story to friends here, and the wife, who can quote Dirty Dancing backwards and forwards (including the worst line ever said on film), asked me if I feel guilty now because of what happened afterwards. I don’t. Not for that. Maybe I was judgmental and didn’t take into consideration other events of his day, his week, his life. But at that moment, I just felt like he had turned his back on the people who gave him his lifestyle.
What happened afterwards, for those who don’t know, was quite simple and tragic; and sadly, life. Before the end of 2007, Swayze was diagnosed with cancer. Within a few months he was given only weeks to live. He held on, getting better in the process. Swayze himself would smile and say “he was a miracle.” Respect for staying strong and fighting rather than just letting things play out. Less than two years after the initial diagnosis, Swayze died. Cancer sucks. Sometimes life sucks. I’m not sad because Patrick Swayze got cancer. I’m sad because we still have cancer and another person succumbed to it. Him being an actor has nothing to do it.
Maybe he knew before December that something wasn’t right with him and that’s why he avoided his fans. I don’t and won’t know. Doesn’t change the fact I love the Outsiders. Red Dawn was pretty cool too. And as far as sports movies go, Youngblood could have been a lot worse. But would it change what I’d say if the same events happened again? Knowing what I know about me – no.
As a side note, I hear they’re making a Point Break remake with Gerard Butler in the role of Bodhi, played in the original by Swayze. Ladies, care to comment on that?