Dirty dancing: Johnny, I kept my watermelon for you

News of Patrick Swayze's battle with cancer reawakened some very steamy memories for Helen Georghiou

Sunday 09 March 2008 01:00

I was 12. He was 35. Looking back, I'm not sure that my mum would have approved had she known that I was thinking about him nearly ALL OF THE TIME. But then, it was all quite harmless. Patrick Swayze, or should I say Johnny Castle, had that effect on girls of a certain age.

I don't know how many times I've watched Dirty Dancing. I could probably recite the film line by line. But back in 1987 it was more than just a film. Maybe this is because it came out at a point when I was growing up and beginning to think about boys, romance and love without really knowing what it all meant. And as there was no way I could ask my mum such things, Dirty Dancing provided the insight into what I thought adult life was all about.

Johnny had it all, in my eyes. He was good looking, he had muscles, he was popular with everyone. And he could dance. Boy, could he dance. To a 12-year-old girl it didn't matter that he was just a working-class part-time dancer living in a one-room shack with no money. The social status of my fantasy partner never crossed my mind.

No. Because if you want to feel the magic, you only have to watch the scene in which Johnny and Penny, his dancing partner, get down and dirty with some mambo late into the night. How I wanted to be her. She was tall and beautiful, wearing this busty pink dress with a cinched waist and she and Johnny were gyrating on the dancefloor. Johnny loved Penny, protected her, looked after her. It was as simple as that.

But then Baby came along. Did I like Baby? Did I want to be Baby? Not really. She was a bit wet. A bit of a Miss Goody Two Shoes with her whiny drawl and wonky looks, but slowly, slowly, Johnny brought out the rebel in her. They made hot, steamy love in his unmade bed with the rain crashing down on the metal roof and suddenly, against all my better judgement, I found myself longing to be her. Me? I wanted to be Baby. Johnny's Baby. The Baby he would never put in the corner.

Hearing last week about Patrick Swayze's battle with cancer brought all the memories flooding back. Ultimately, it was Swayze's magnetic performance that made Dirty Dancing so memorable for so many girls who grew up with Johnny and Baby. We owe him the time of our lives, and the least we can do is wish him well and let him know that we'll always be there for him. Carrying a watermelon, of course.

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