It’s the 27th anniversary of Dirty Dancing—a little movie you may have heard of, about coming of age in a dance-obsessed 1960s Catskills resort. But it’s so much more than that—as if all that weren’t enough. Jennifer Grey’s Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman was everything you were and wanted to be, if you were a pre-teen girl who appreciated a good pair of denim cut-offs. She toggled between Daddy’s girl, and burgeoning feminist, rebelling against class divisions, while navigating a heart-palpitating dance-lationship with Patrick Swayze’s Johnny. The name Baby was ill-fitting, and likely the last time she allowed anyone to call her that, had she returned to the Catskills for another summer. Not after that lift.
I spent a large portion of the late ’80s watching that movie over and over again (and listening to the soundtracks—all two of them—on my Walkman). But I forgot, until recently, just how many nuggets of wisdom were nestled in the movie’s dialogue. After a quick trip to IMDB Quotes, I was reminded, not only of how people must have talked in 1963, but of all the wise lessons came from that mythical summer at Kellerman’s. Here’s a sampling.
Lesson 1: Own your fear
Baby: “I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”
Aaaaand cue Solomon Burke sexy-time dancing.
Lesson 2: Fight/dance to be heard
Baby: “Yeah, tell him your ideas! He’s a person like everyone else. I’m sure he’ll think they’re great.”
Johnny: “Look, I know these people, Baby. They’re all rich and they’re mean. They won’t listen to me.”
Baby: “Well, then why not fight harder? *Make* them listen?”
You tell ’em, Baby.
Lesson 3: Nothing is that big of a deal, except for a few things that are really big deals
Lisa Houseman: “Oh, my God. Look at that! Ma, I should have brought those coral shoes. You said I was taking too much!”
Marjorie Houseman: “Well, sweetheart, you brought ten pairs.”
Lisa Houseman: “But the coral shoes match that dress!”
Jake Houseman: “This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham.”
Baby: “Monks burning themselves in protest.”
Lisa Houseman: “Butt out, Baby.”
Lesson 4: Frances is a better name than Baby
Johnny: “What’s your real name, Baby?”
Baby: “Frances. For the first woman in the Cabinet.”
Johnny; “Frances. That’s a real grown-up name.”
It’s definitely more mature than Baby.
Lesson 5: When you’re nicknamed Baby, you open yourself up to a lot of pun-humor
Penny: “Go back to your playpen, Baby.”
Someone had to go there.
Lesson 6: Listen to your heart, if you’re going to try to mambo
Johnny: “It’s not the mambo. It’s a feeling; a heartbeat”.
Lesson 7: Jujubes are life-sustaining
Johnny: “You don’t understand the way it is, I mean for somebody like me. Last month, I’m-I-I’m eating Jujubes to keep alive, this month women are stuffing diamonds in my pockets.”
Lesson 8: Never say the following words out loud
Lisa Houseman: “Where is my beige iridescent lipstick?”
Lesson 9: First sexual experiences are better with someone you sort of love
Baby: “It should be with someone—it should be with someone that you sort of love.”
Lesson 10: It rains a lot in the summer in Upstate New York
Lisa Houseman: “God, I am so sick of this rain. Remind me not to take my honeymoon at Niagara Falls.”
Lesson 11: If you stand up for what you believe in, you’re bound to make an impact on somebody else’s life
Johnny: “Sorry for the interruption, folks, but I always do the last dance of the season. This year somebody told me not to. So I’m gonna do my kind of dancin‘ with a great partner, who’s not only a terrific dancer, but somebody who’s taught me that there are people willing to stand up for other people no matter what it costs them. Somebody who’s taught me about the kind of person I wanna be. Miss Frances Houseman.”
. . . And that is when Baby became Frances.
Lesson 12: If there is one thing in life that’s true, it’s this:
Johnny: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
(Images courtesy of Artisan Entertainment)