It's been a few weeks since I listened to The Time of My Life, an audio book narrated by its author, Patrick Swayze, with audio contributions from his wife and co-author Lisa Niemi.
With Jennifer Grey's recent appearance on Dancing With the Stars, Patrick has been in my thoughts again lately, so it seemed timely to offer my review of the audio version of the book.
Since Patrick had died a few months before I listened to the book, I wasn't sure how I might respond to listening to him tell his story. It is not a sad book - far from it. It's a celebration of Patrick's life - in his own words.
Patrick Swayze actually showed up on my radar screen before Dirty Dancing - he caught my eye in the film Red Dawn, coincidentally, also with Jennifer Grey.
Patrick's story presents the two sides of his personality - the tough athlete and cowboy - and the kid who took ballet lessons. He shares stories of the bullies who picked on him and beat him up for being a dancer. Then his father taught him how to box, then went to school, had the bullies pulled out of class so they could fight with Patrick fair and square. And Patrick proceeded to beat up each one - with the boxing gloves. After that, he was still targeted by guys who wanted to pick a fight with the tough guy.
Patrick's father was called Buddy, and growing up, Patrick was known as Little Buddy. I enjoyed hearing him tell the stories about growing up in Texas, dancing, meeting and falling in love with Lisa. But what I enjoyed the most was his chronological recollections of his film roles, and many of the back stories about making those films.
Not many actors are willing to talk about the roles they never got, but one of the best stories in the book is when Patrick talks about a role that was custom made for him, that had his name written all over it. And it was going to be filming in his neck of the woods - Houston. It couldn't get any better than that. He shares his disappointment in learning that John Travolta got the lead role in Urban Cowboy. Travolta was just coming off the success of Saturday Night Fever, so Patrick was passed over for the role. However, Patrick's mother, Patsy Swayze, a noted dance teacher and choreographer, worked on the film, as did Patrick's wife Lisa. Patrick was working in L.A., but flew home to Houston each weekend. He, Lisa and John became lifelong friends during the filming of that movie.
Patrick addresses the false stories that came about following an airplane accident in which it was reported that he was ditching a bunch of booze on the plane and was piloting the plane while drunk. Tabloid reporting, plain and simple. The truth that never seemed to come out is that Swayze had carbon monoxide poisoning and hypoxia which caused his disorientation upon landing. One of the investigators of the accident told Swayze that he was the only person to have ever suffered hypoxia and lived to tell about it. Very interesting story.
Patrick addresses his fight against pancreatic cancer, the illness that eventually took his life. He fought the illness with everything he had in him.
This is not a sad story - but one of perseverance, hard work and determination. And it's also a love story. Anyone who loved Patrick's work on film will love this book - especially the audio version told in his own voice.