Friday, September 18, 2009

"I Carried a Watermelon!"

Hello, everybody- I am hoppin' mad because I had an awesome post all set to go for you yesterday, and then right as I was about to hit "Publish Post," the power went out in my whole bloody building (actually the whole city block) and my beautiful post was lost forever. Lame! So then this morning I set out to re-create it as best as I can. It was actually starting to turn out even better than the first one, and Internet Explorer "unexpectedly quit," as the dialog box so charmingly informed me. So, ARRRGH! Third time's the charm, I hope, because this is going to be a good one. How can it not when it's about...


Earlier this week, America lost a Hollywood icon. I'm talking, of course, about Patrick Swayze. Sure, he was never as bankable as, say, a young Tom Cruise or pre-gubernatorial Schwarzenegger back in the 80s. But there is a legacy The Swayze left us that is not only a deeply-embedded fiber in the fabric of beloved 80s pop culture, but also a movie so influential in the majority of 20-and-30-something women's lives that we quote it like men quote The Godfather. Seriously, who among us ladies born between the late 70s and early 80s don't know what someone is talking about when they say, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner?" (I opted, however, to go with a more obscure line from the movie for the title of this post because, well, I always loved it more.)

Yes, Dirty Dancing is what all my friends and I were watching on Repeat in our VCRs while you boys were off geeking out about Top Gun and calling each other Maverick and Goose. Every time I'm channel-surfing and find Dirty Dancing somewhere on cable, I stop whatever I am doing and watch it straight through to the end. No matter that I own the deluxe remastered version on DVD-it is still better when you unexpectedly find it on TV. Even though they always seem to cut out that really awesome sex scene when it's on VH1. But what are you gonna do?

OK, so for anyone who has never seen Dirty Dancing- wow, REALLY??? Even Jay Willy has seen it (not willingly, but I think he's sat through it with me a time or two- don't worry, I sat through Alien vs. Predator, so we're even.) Let me give you a quick synopsis: It's the summer of '63, and Frances "Baby" Houseman is on her way to vacation with her square but sweet parents and her bonehead sister, who would totally be an awesome reality TV star if this was present-day instead of the 60s (as evidenced by this clip) to a mountain resort in the Catskills (I think) called Kellerman's. A word about Kellerman's- it is like a fancy sleep-away camp for rich old people, complete with daft activities like Trying On Cleopatra and Jackie Kennedy Wigs and Potato Sack Races, and even a lame-ass magic show emceed by Wayne Knight ("Newman" of Seinfeld fame). It is what I fear the "onboard activities" are going to resemble on the cruise we're taking this week. So yeah, not exactly the type of place you want to be trapped for an indeterminate amount of time (2 weeks? A whole summer? It's sort of hard to tell in the movie) with a bunch of old farts, your sister, and a nebbish little troll whose grandfather owns the resort, and who is sweet on you. Even though Baby is quite obviously kind of a dork herself (she wears huge bulky cardigans and those little canvas Mary Janes favored by elderly Asian ladies on the city bus) you have to feel sorry for her being trapped at Kellerman's. But have no fear, for there is a bright spot in all of this: Johnny Castle, the resident hot, hunky dance instructor!! Johnny is a dream come true for many adolescent gals out there: buff, blue-collar sexy in a Bruce Springsteen-back-in-the-early-80s way, AND he can dance!! AND he's straight!!!! Baby first sees him on the stuffy ballroom floor at Kellerman's, but then meets his off-duty bad-ass self when she accidentally stumbles onto a wild staff party. (I say "wild," but all they're really doing is dancing in a srt of suggestive way. There don't seem to be any drugs or anything. I mean, my God, watermelon's on the menu- how hard-core a party can it be??) So Baby meets him and he has a laugh trying to teach her to "dirty-dance," since she really sort of looks like a prudish librarian compared to all the awesomely whorish-looking staff chicks. But then he seems to want nothing more to do with her, because he doesn't have any time for a (possibly underage) rich girl with a nickname like Baby.

But does that stop Baby? Hell no!! The very next night she spots Johnny's dance-instructor partner Penny crying and shaking in the dark Kellerman's pantry, and runs to Johnny for help. Apparently Penny has gotten herself "in trouble," which for some reason makes her unable to get up and walk out of the pantry by herself so Johnny has to pick her up and carry her out. (Just go with it.) Anyway, Baby naturally assumes that Johnny's the baby-daddy, which really pisses him off because it was actually Robby, the snobby Ivy League tool who is waiting tables and apparently seeing how many Kellerman's chicks he can score with before school starts back up (he has now moved on to Lisa, Baby's brain-dead sister who looks a little like Freddie Mercury back in the 70s when he had long hair). Anyway, Baby, altruistic buttinsky that she is, decides to get some cash from Daddy so Penny can have an illegal-in-the-60s abortion and continue her lucrative mountain-resort-dance-instructor career. Oh, no! The sleazy illegal-abortion doctor only rolls through Kellerman's on one day a week and it is the EXACT SAME DAY Penny and Johnny have to go perform their "Mambo Magic" number at the Shelldrake Hotel. What to do?? Obviously the only solution is for Baby, who has the rhythm of Steve Martin in The Jerk before he learns how to snap his fingers, to learn the routine and perform it with Johnny as Penny's stand-in while she's having her, um, procedure. CUE THE SPORTS TRAINING MONTAGE!!! (I tried so hard to find a clip of the montage, but for some reason it is apparently the one thing that is NOT on the Internet, so you'll just have to trust me- Best. Montage. Ever.) It's actually a two-part montage- the first part, set to Wipeout, is the tender beginnings of Baby's dance career where she keeps stepping on Johnny's foot and we learn such important lessons as "Don't put your heel down," and "Stay in your dance space." Then, as the lessons progress, we get a sexier montage, set to Hungry Eyes, where we get to see Johnny use his heartbeat as a rhythm tool (and an excuse to get Baby to put her hand on his chest) and learn that Baby has ticklish armpits. Also, this second montage features a quasi-erotic scene of Baby and Penny mambo-ing together in matching leotards while Johnny sits on the floor, watching their, er, form. Also, it is important to note that as this particular montage goes on, Baby and Johnny seem to lose more and more clothing- she starts out in capri pants and Keds, and by the end of it all she's wearing a little midriff-baring gingham number and he's got his shirt off. Hmm, foreshadowing???

It's the day before the big Shelldrake mambo routine, and though Baby's come a long way, she still sort of sucks at it because Johnny is being kind of a d-bag and won't teach her the lifts. So she yells at him and he decides to take her to the lake in the rain. Oh yeah, and to cement his rep as the James Dean of the Catskills, he busts out his own car window with a fence post because he locked his keys in the car!! He's WILD!!!!

The lake is very important because that is where a) Baby and Johnny mambo on a log, b) Johnny tells the story of how he became a dance instructor, c) Baby learns The Famous Lift at the End of the Movie in a lake, and d) we almost see Baby's nipples through the ree-hee-HEE-ally see-through white top she elected to wear on a swimming trip. (See? -->)

OOH, it's the big night! Shelldrake time!! After Baby goes and tries on Penny's red mambo dress (and reveals to us that, at age 17-ish she already owns an old-lady Playtex bra in Industrial White), and after Penny tearfully admits she's scared for the "procedure," Baby's on her way to the Shelldrake in Johnny's car! They do their "Mambo Magic" and Baby totally screws up one part, resulting in her doing a fun little panic-infused time-filler dance reminiscent of the weird hoedown thing Ashlee Simpson did that time she lip-synched on SNL, but it turns out well enough for the lame Shelldrake audience. Speaking of which, who should walk in at the end of Mambo Magic but the Schumachers, a little old couple with a bizarre penchant for collecting lots of wallets (that will be useful info later!). Lucky for Baby, they don't recognize her with all the mambo makeup on her face, and her secret is safe!! They drive back to Kellerman's, with Baby changing in the backseat and Johnny totally trying to peek. They get back to find out that-big surprise!- the sleazy doctor who performs illegal abortions once weekly at mountain resorts was less than reputable, and Penny is now basically bleeding to death in her cabin. Baby springs into action and grabs her dad, the doctor (did I mention that he is the lovable Jerry Orbach from Law and Order? Well, he is... and Baby's mom is Rory's grandma on Gilmore Girls!!) Well, Dr. Houseman saves Penny, but he's all kinds of pissed at Baby (he seems more irritated that she's wearing makeup than that she just got back from mambo-ing with a guy who is at least 27) and he won't talk to Johnny since he assumed he was the baby-daddy too. Baby goes over to Johnny's cabin to apologize for her dad acting like such a wanker, to find a shirtless Johnny listening to old soul music (which I guess was current soul music at the time) and being sort of self-loathing. She confesses that she is afraid of oh, so many things, including walking out of the room and "never feeling again the way I feel when I'm with you!" So they start to dance, of course, and the next thing you know, Johnny's teaching Baby the Mattress Mambo, if you know what I mean...

I'll just sum up the next bit, as it's not as important as the first half- Baby's dad wants to go home, Lisa wants to be in the end-of-season talent show (oh, Lord), Baby and Johnny sneak around getting all kinds of freaky (though they never really show it in the spirit of PG-ness; see adjacent picture), Johnny gets peeved at Baby for sneaking around with him instead of being open about their relationship. Lisa decides to "go all the way" with Snobby Robby, only to find that he's already getting it on with the ho-bag desperate housewife who used to get it on with Johnny, pre-Baby. Which brings us to the last day of the big Kellerman's season- Mr. Kellerman mentions oh-so-professionally to his guests the Housemans that he's about to go fire Johnny for stealing some dude's wallet during poker night. Baby gets in a mad tizzy and sacrifices her daddy's-girl status for her boyf's "career" by confessiong to Kellerman that there's no way he could have taken the wallet because she was with him ALL NIGHT LONG!!! WOOOOOOO!!!!!! Dr. Kellerman is quite disgusted with his daughter, needless to say, and refuses to speak to her. Baby runs and does what I always do when I'm in big trouble with my parents and my boyfriend is about to get fired- takes a nap in the dance studio. Johnny finds her and regales her with the news that they found the wallet-snatcher and it was the Schumachers!! Remember? The old people with the wallets?? Yay!!! But, awww....bad news, they fired him anyway, basically for "fraternizing" with the guests, especially one who may or may not be underage, as it is still ambiguous. Baby throws a fit, then calms down when Johnny tells her he'll never regret anything and that nobody's ever stood up like that for him before. They drive out to the Kellerman's boundaries and tearfully part, and here is my only problem with this, my favorite movie ever- It is the LAST DAY OF SUMMER!! They would have had to leave each other that day anyway...Johnny would have presumably lost his job, at least seasonally, that day anyway... why so sad? Also, I never figured out why Baby and Johnny didn't just exchange numbers so she could get back with him as soon as she went away to college in, oh I don't know, 2 weeks??? One minor hole in the plot, but for the love of the movie, let's just go with it.

So Baby's all kinds of depressed because she has to be without Johnny at Kellerman's for the next, hmm, 3 or 4 hours, so she does what I always do when I'm depressed and missing my man- put on a gorgeous dress that is like 47 times nicer than any of the other crap she wore all summer long so she can go sit in a corner and watch The Kellerman's End-Of-Season Craptacular!!!! The talent show goes on, complete with Lisa's horrific hula song and what appears to be a pirate number by the man whose wallet got snatched, and then begins THE MOST HORRIBLE YET STRANGELY ADDICTIVE SONG IN MOVIE HISTORY- the Kellerman's farewell number. Well, I say "farewell," but the song is so freakin' long that I wouldn't be surprised if it was already NEXT summer by the time it ended. The song mercifully peters out, though, when Johnny, in all his black-leather-clad rebel glory, marches up to the Housemans' table, record in hand, and delivers his uber-famous line that STILL makes my friends and me squeal with delight when we get to hear it. He then snatches Baby by the hand and leads her up to the big stage, where she is then forced to stand there awkwardly and alone whilst Johnny goes and cues up the music. And...well, there are just no words for what happens next, so I will just put the clip here and you can enjoy it yourselves.
Oh, and happy ending! Dr. Houseman goes to give that nice, upstanding boy Robby his end-of-summer tip in a big fat envelope, and Idiot Robby totally screws the pooch by letting it slip that he was the father of Penny's baby, not Johnny. Hooray!! Johnny's good name has been restored!! And...scene.


Seriously? Have you not been paying attention to anything I just said?? Dirty Dancing is awesome simply for being awesome. I will outline a couple examples of awesomeness for you, though:

- Baby is just an average-looking girl, thus making all of us out there think this can happen to us, too. I think it was her sort of every-girl likeability that really sold the movie for so many of us.

-Patrick Swayze's character Johnny seems to be equally adept at kicking the crap out of privileged preppies and performing knee-spins. Not many people can be that versatile.

-The soundtrack is killer! If you love old 60s R&B as much as I do, then you should get this CD without delay. If that wasn't reason enough to purchase the soundtrack, it also contains "She's Like the Wind," an absolutely hideous track that is a cliche of every awful 80s power-ballad that was ever written. And it's performed by The Swayze himself!!!

-Penny's monkey face in the scene where Baby carries the watermelon into the wild staff party. Seriously, check out the weird thing she does with her mouth when she's dancing to "Do You Love Me?" It makes the whole movie!

Well, that's all for now, folks. Go rent Dirty Dancing this week!!

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