Remembrances of Dirty Dancing
In November 2007, the episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, in which I danced with Patrick Swayze, went live on US television. Recently, I wrote down some of my feelings and memories from the experience, so I thought I’d share them with you here.
In 2002, a girl met a boy. In 2005, they got married. In 2007, the video of their first wedding dance went viral on You Tube.
It’s not a story you hear every day, but that’s exactly what happened to my husband, James, and me when we decided to do the dance from Dirty Dancing at our wedding. Eighteen months after our big day, some friends asked us to see the dance, so we put it up onto You Tube, which was relatively new at the time. We had no idea what was going to happen next. Within two days, we were contacted by the Metro for an interview and, when that came out, Richard & Judy gave us a call. It spiraled from there.
Meeting Patrick Swayze
I always joked with James that Oprah hadn’t called yet, so when she did, I almost had a heart attack. Every American’s dream is to go on The Oprah Winfrey Show. In fact, everyone’s dream is to go on Oprah. She’s a legend.
Oprah was doing a show about You Tube and wanted to have us as guests, along with Paul Potts, the founders of You Tube, P Diddy, the Evolution of Dance guy, and Tyson the Skateboarding Dog. The producers flew James and me out to Chicago, where the show is filmed. The day before the recording, we went to the studio to practice the dance on the stage. We had to relearn the dance, as we’d forgotten it. After all, it had been two years since our wedding.
I was so nervous on the day of filming. We were ushered into hair and make-up, where my face was wiped off and painted back on again with a foundation airbrush. As the show was getting ready to record, the producers took us to our seats near the front.
Oprah herself glided into the room looking radiant in yellow. She had such presence and controlled the audience with expert skill. She joked that she was wearing 45-minute shoes, the length of time it takes to film an episode. I could do one better: I was wearing 5-minute shoes, the length of time I expected to be on the stage.
Finally, James and I were invited up to stand next to La Oprah. She chatted to us for a few minutes and then spoke the words I was dreading: show us the dance. Gulp.
James moved into position and the music started. But the music started in the wrong place! Instead of hearing the opening line of “Now I’ve had the time of my life…” with the man singing, the sound technician started it at the female’s line, the next stanza into the song. James and I aren’t professional dancers. We know how to do the steps in a certain order and, if anything happens to screw up that order, then we’re most likely going to screw up, too. Just what you don’t want to happen while taping for The Oprah Winfrey Show.
We did the best we could, hurrying through the first steps to catch up to the song. The audience politely clapped along. As the song continued, we got into it. I even managed a cheeky wink at my dad in the back. Then suddenly, the audience started going ballistic: clapping and hollering like the place was on fire. I remember thinking, “We’re not that good.”
And indeed, we weren’t. The reason they were applauding like maniacs was that Patrick Swayze had just stepped onto the stage. And he was walking towards me.
Over James’ shoulder, I saw somebody approaching in jeans and a white collared shirt. James had no idea what was going on until Patrick tapped him on the shoulder. “May I cut in?”
Dancing with Patrick Swayze was like a dream. His arms were so strong and he was so in control. I felt completely in his power as he twirled me around and dipped me. Afterwards, we got to chat to him off camera and found him to be a genuinely nice man. A few months later, we couldn’t believe it when we heard that he had pancreatic cancer. I think about him often and hope that his wife, Lisa, is living a good life without him.
Sometimes, it feels odd when someone refers to us as a You Tube phenomenon or when we get credited for starting a worldwide craze for choreographed first wedding dances. Being on Oprah and meeting Patrick was one of those “pinch me” moments. Sometimes, I still need to watch it on our You Tube channel to believe that it actually happened.
Back when it was all happening, we were getting phone call after phone call for interview requests. We even appeared on Australian TV while we were out there on a delayed honeymoon. Even now we receive interview requests once in a while. The whole experience was extremely surreal, but magical at the same time.