Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Last night when I heard that Patrick Swayze had died I was overcome with so much sadness. Although his pancreatic cancer diagnosis is one of the scariest, and seems to be death sentence, I kind of thought that he could and would beat it. Today my thoughts are with his wife Lisa, his best friend and companion for over 30 years.

One thing about being a celebrity is that your entire life is on display for consumption by the public. So once Patrick's star took off we all new everything about his life - that he grew up dancing in his mom's dance studio, that he loved his family, that his wife Lisa was his best friend and his favorite person.

Many celebrities give us this picture. It's like their personal lives are movies that they are starring in and everyone is going for the hollywood ending. It rarely happens though. I think for Patrick and his wife it was the real deal though.

The one time I met them no one was acting.

In 1992 I started working out at Winsor Fitness, Mari Winsor's first pilates studio. There were six reformers, a tread mill and an apparatus called the Cadillac in a not so large room on the second floor of a Calfornia Ranch style building surrounded by eucalyptus trees that we could see through the large windows on both sides of the room.

It was pretty free flowing in that you could call and reserve a reformer show up and an instructor would move between the six clients that were working out. Mari allowed me to bring in my own music and we all chatted and joked while we worked out on the torturers, I mean reformers. There were lots of celebrities that came in, but I rarely recognized them because it wasn't a see and be seen scene. No one except for Donna Dixon was wearing make up or had their hair done. It was a tough work out that made you sweat and grunt (and sometimes I'd cry), but it really works.

One of the things that I loved best about it is that I could go at 8pm and there wouldn't really be anyone there so I could get personalized attention. It was on an evening like this that I got to sweat and grunt with Patrick Swayze and his wife Lisa. We all arrived about the same time - they were there for a private session with Mari - so for the next hour and a half I was treated to his sense of humor and his awesome body going through all the moves. Lisa's not too bad herself and since they are both dancers they made the pilates routine look elegant and effortless albeit with a little grunting and panting because Mari really works you out.

He was wearing a spandex dance suit which sounds very gay, but on him it was distracting and it was hard not to ogle him in front of his wife. I just wanted to sit and watch. He was much shorter than I thought he would be, but then that just seems to be the story when you meet famous men - most of them seem to be 5'10" or even shorter.

In any case it was just us working out that night and although I tried to be cool and not to talk to them - they were having a private session after all and those aren't cheap, he was so funny and personable it was hard not to laugh. He flirted non-stop with his wife and although at that point they'd been married for a while it was like they were still dating. Even more than that you could tell that they were great friends. They had the kind of connection that is palpable to anyone who saw them. That's a rare thing - two people who are like twinned souls that find each other.

Sharing pain with people can create moments of connection and bonding and the routine we did on the Pilates reformer just kind of creates an instant intimacy as you gaze at the person across from you through legs split wide, and while they could have been weird and stand offish they were not. They were fun people to be around and you could tell that they were deeply and completely in love.

The thing about loving like that - something I think we all want - is that when one of you dies, and it is inevitable that this will happen, it feels like part of you dies too and yet you have to go on. If your someone is young then this mean you have many years to miss and remember them and the intensity of your love equates the intensity of your pain and loss.

Today my thoughts and prayers are with Lisa and Patrick's family who have to go on without him and I hope that that deep and complete love will sustain her in the years to come.

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