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To Patrick Swayze, Thanks for Everything! BWB

Let me just say right off the bat: I adore drag queens. Adore them. I adore men who appreciate the difficulty women go through trying to embody the idea of what femininity is, what with all the hair removal, foundational undergarments, hair gyrations, makeup application, etc., and not only embrace these tribulations but make them art and take them to a higher level. They make me feel like I have no excuse for being the beauty slacker that I am, except that they seem to enjoy all that preparation way more than I do. RuPaul, The Lady Chablis, Miss J. Alexander, God bless 'em.

I am reminded of drag queens because of the passing of Patrick Swayze. Most remember him for his turns in "Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost," but, being the drag queen fan that I am, I remember him most for his role of Vida Boheme in "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar." In it, Swayze portrayed one of the most stunning drag queens I'd ever seen, even to this day. It wasn't that his makeup or hair were stunning -- they were -- it was his mannerisms. He seemed to capture femininity in a way that wasn't campy or overdone. It was like he understood women -- how we walk, how we hold our hands when we're talking, how we move. Like he got us.

And I'd like to think the part of Vida Boheme was in some way representative of the kind of person he was: Someone who stands up for others when he has little to gain for doing so. In "Wong Foo," Vida Boheme, along with her drag queen pal Noxeema (played by Wesley Snipes), and drag princess Chi-Chi (played by John Leguizamo), are stranded in a rural town waiting for a car part to arrive for their broken-down old-school Cadillac convertible. At the climax of the movie, the proprietress of the bed and breakfast where the drag queens are staying (played by Stockard Channing, who has the most beautiful eyes in the business second to Liz Taylor and just above Terrence Howard), is yet again being beaten by her abusive spouse. Vida, who herself had been abused, is no longer able to stand hearing the beating, intervenes on the woman's half, drops her voice into a manly range, and beats the crap out of the abusive husband. I'd like to think there are more people out there who would intervene when a man is beating the crap out of his wife. My heroes are people who reach out and help others, especially folks who can't stand up for themselves, when there's nothing for them to gain but the glory of giving. I don't own many movies, but "Wong Foo" is one of them for that reason. Oh, and the costumes.

Whoopi Goldberg credits Swazye for her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress in "Ghost." I don't doubt it. Swayze could have easily gone all Hollywood and said and did nothing in support of Goldberg getting the part of Oda May in "Ghost" and getting the Oscar nomination. In what I would like to believe was his true nature, he stood up for and behind her even though he had absolutely nothing to gain. We all know that Whoopi should have won the Oscar for "The Color Purple." But the fact that this fellow actor threw the weight of his celebrity behind an actor he obviously felt was deserving of the movie industry's highest accolade when he had nothing to gain is what put Swayze in the hero category for me.

It might have been in his DNA. I was watching "Good Morning America" this week, and Debbie Allen appeared to publicize the remake of "Fame." She mentioned the loss of Patrick Swayze and how his mother gave her dance classes as a child when she couldn't afford them. I can't perfectly recall the story, but it was something to the effect of Allen staring in the window at Mrs. Swayze's dance studio in Houston and Mrs. Swayze asking Allen, "Little girl, what are you doing?" Allen replied that she couldn't take dance classes. "Little girl, can you dance?" Patrick's mother asked. "Yes, ma'am, I can dance." Patrick's mother told Allen to come back with her dance shoes for dance classes.

People who extend themselves to others with no hope of gain whatsoever. What a wonderful gene pool to be part of.

I enjoyed "Ghost" and "Dirty Dancing," but "Wong Foo" is the movie I want to remember Patrick Swayze by because I'd like to think that, even without the drag, he was the kind of person who would stand up for someone else less fortunate or less able to stand up for themselves.

What a wonderful life, a wonderful example.

To Patrick Swayze, thanks for everything! BWB


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