Patrick Swayze and the Tao of Dalton

by Michael Brett

30 July 2009


The Tao of Dalton is a Road to Enlightenment

Who else could pull off a Gandhi bad-ass who managed to buy a Beemer on bouncer money?

The Swayze hit the the jackpot with Dirty Dancing, the female version of Road House. What ‘80s teen girl didn’t dream of being swept off her feet by Johnny Castle? The Swayze rode his Dirty Dancing buzz into the pop charts with the god-awful ‘She’s Like The Wind’. The man was a true cross-medium superstar. Steel Dawn and Tiger Warsaw followed. Never heard of them? Neither did anyone back then, either.

The Swayze needed a hit. He needed Road House.

It’s nearly impossible to imagine anyone else in the role of Dalton. Who else could pull off a Gandhi bad-ass who managed to buy a Beemer on bouncer money? Only a performer who could project as vast a blank canvas as the Swayze. There are moments in Road House when you want to check the man’s pulse. He only moves his eyes. The Swayze’s self-aware sleepwalk through this wild carnival of ‘80s clichés is the magic of the film.I believe that the Dalton Swayze aims for a higher path.

You think I’m full of it? Well, what about the three rules? If you don’t know them, ask most males in their 30s. They are:

1) Never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected.

2) Take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary.

3) Be nice.

That’s some deep stuff, right there. And you doubted he was a philosophy major? The Tao of Dalton is a road to enlightenment. One should always prepare themselves for the obstacles that lay ahead. One should always place their best foot forward. Things about to get out of hand? Best take it elsewhere. Finally, the most important rule: be nice. Turn the other cheek. And if these rules don’t work, if whatever you encounter is much bigger than you, simple: Look for help.

You may exhale.

Other important rules we can gain from this film:

1) Any place that needs to employ more than two bouncers is most likely not the place you want to stage an evening of intoxication.

2) If you own a car dealership, and the town megalomaniac shows up with a freakin’ Big Foot, call the police.

3) When you’re the Swayze and you’re alone with a woman, a radio will always, always play a steamy slice of ‘60s pop.

Road House has an even deeper meaning for me because I bounced for four years. You will never meet a more unlikely skullcracker than me- mostly because I never attempted to crack a skull. I followed the three rules. All bouncers know the three rules. And yes, not one night passed without me folding my arms and doing my Dalton in my black shirt. Yeah, I was in my mid-20s. So what? Dalton’s that cool.

For the last year or so, we have all become aware of the Swayze’s battle with pancreatic cancer. The tabloid media doesn’t miss one of his hospital entrances. The man in these photos is but a ghost of the physical specimen in Road House. For my generation, this is an incredibly sobering reminder of our shared mortality. One day he will die, as will we all. But before that, before the inundation of tributes and Academy Award silent moments, and we should take an opportunity to celebrate a performer who gave us the films I’ve mentioned, plus Next of Kin and Point Break.  The Swayze’s best work translates perfectly into our 300-channel world. I consider them good friends.

Here’s to you, Swayze. You were always big enough. And we hope you remain that way for many more years.

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

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