I spent years and years as a wee Pance watching “Grease” and “Grease 2.” I belted out the songs, mimicked the dance routines, idolized Michelle Pfeiffer and never truly understood the sexual storyline I was subliminally ingesting. But when “Dirty Dancing” popped onto the screen (circa 12 years old), I had fully grown into my girl-likes-boy hormones and fell girlishly in love with being a girl in love. Baby and Johnny were my first glimpse at cinema risque.
(Next came “She’s Having a Baby,” which I still think is risque and precisely NOT the next step you want to discover.)
As proximity would have it, “Dirty Dancing” was partially filmed at Mountain Lake, a vacation resort very near hometown Blacksburg. And one chilly Sunday after church, several months after I sat blushing in the theater, we drove up to have brunch at the restaurant.
Between giggles I asked of the front deskman, “Which room did PATRICK SWAYZE stay in?!?” After a clear roll of the eyes he told me. Though now my bitter adult self wonders if he didn’t rattle off any ol’ number just to mollify the foaming teenager before him. Still… a beaming photo op:
Then I insisted Mom stand in for Jerry Orbach while we reenacted the “But you. let. me. down. too.” scene in the gazebo. And just in case I ever forgot exactly what we were doing, I documented the backside of the photo:
Oh but it doesn’t stop there. This November I traveled to Asheville, NC (really to see The Biltmore estate, but I digress) and wouldn’t ya know, it’s right near (!) the other filming location, Lake Lure. A quick tap at Google informed me that the stairs Jennifer Grey dances on and carries the watermelon up were just a few quick turns and a scamper on private property away. BAM! Adult Pance walking up those very same stairs… sans watermelon:
The staff cabins, Johnny’s cabin and where all that dirty dancing took place have since been torn down. Sad face. I also read that part of the floor that supported the final dance routine was salvaged and became the lobby floor of a nearby boutique hotel. Now I’ve had the time of my life:
Ashamed? Nah. Cheesy? Absolutely. Cliche that “Dirty Dancing” is still a favorite? Probably. But to still get those swirly girly butterflies when I watch the movie is kinda cool. Maybe it’s because Johnny drives away in the end, because it doesn’t actually end happy. The chapter never closed so the swirlies didn’t die. The flutter still runs on anticipation, on forward-motion, on no regrets. And it still runs a little because those moments happened at all…