R.I.P. Patrick Swayze 1952 – 2009

Patrick Swayze on the red carpet at the 1989 A...
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Pancreatic cancer has taken a fine actor at a young age, 57.

Patrick Swayze, the hunky actor who danced his way into viewers’ hearts with “Dirty Dancing” and then broke them with “Ghost,” died Monday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months,” said a statement released Monday evening by his publicist, Annett Wolf. No other details were given.

Fans of the actor were saddened to learn in March 2008 that Swayze was suffering from a particularly deadly form of cancer.

He had kept working despite the diagnosis, putting together a memoir with his wife and shooting “The Beast,” an A&E drama series for which he had already made the pilot. It drew a respectable 1.3 million viewers when the 13 episodes ran in 2009, but A&E said it had reluctantly decided not to renew it for a second season.

Swayze said he opted not to use painkilling drugs while making “The Beast” because they would have taken the edge off his performance. He acknowledged that time might be running out given the grim nature of the disease.

When he first went public with the illness, some reports gave him only weeks to live, but his doctor said his situation was “considerably more optimistic” than that.

“I’d say five years is pretty wishful thinking,” Swayze told ABC’s Barbara Walters in early 2009. “Two years seems likely if you’re going to believe statistics. I want to last until they find a cure, which means I’d better get a fire under it.”

A three-time Golden Globe nominee, Swayze became a star with his performance as the misunderstood bad-boy Johnny Castle in “Dirty Dancing.” As the son of a choreographer who began his career in musical theater, he seemed a natural to play the role.

“Ghost” provided yet another indelible musical moment: Swayze and Moore sensually molding pottery together to the strains of the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.” It also earned a best-picture nomination and a supporting-actress Oscar for Goldberg, who said she wouldn’t have won if it weren’t for Swayze.

“When I won my Academy Award, the only person I really thanked was Patrick,” Goldberg said in March 2008 on the ABC daytime talk show “The View.”

Swayze himself earned three Golden Globe nominations, for “Dirty Dancing,” “Ghost” and 1995’s “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar,” which further allowed him to toy with his masculine image.

Swayze was born in 1952 in Houston, the son of Jesse Swayze and choreographer Patsy Swayze, whose films include “Urban Cowboy.”

He played football but also was drawn to dance and theater, performing with the Feld, Joffrey and Harkness Ballets and appearing on Broadway as Danny Zuko in “Grease.” But he turned to acting in 1978 after a series of injuries.

Within a couple years of moving to Los Angeles, he made his debut in the roller-disco movie “Skatetown, U.S.A.” The eclectic cast included Scott Baio, Flip Wilson, Maureen McCormack and Billy Barty.

Swayze had a couple of movies in the works when his diagnosis was announced, including the drama “Powder Blue,” starring Jessica Biel, Forest Whitaker and his younger brother, Don, which was scheduled for release this year.

Off-screen, he was an avid conservationist who was moved by his time in Africa to shine a light on “man’s greed and absolute unwillingness to operate according to Mother Nature’s laws,” he told the AP in 2004.

Swayze was married since 1975 to Niemi, a fellow dancer who took lessons with his mother; they met when he was 19 and she was 15. A licensed pilot, Niemi would fly her husband from Los Angeles to Northern California for treatment at Stanford University Medical Center, People magazine reported in a cover story. (Source: “Dirty Dancing” star Patrick Swayze dies at 57 – AP)

Here’s Swayze performing the song he co-wrote for “Dirty Dancing.”

Just remember – “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

Condolences to the Swayze family.

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