“Dirty Dancing” Then and Now: 30 Years After The Time of Their Lives

Ah the 80s. What a simple time. Hair was big, jobs actually paid and everyone…was nostalgic for the 50s and 60s? Maybe not everyone, but there were plenty of movies about the “simpler times”. Dirty Dancing was one such film, a nostalgic look back at summer when families still vacationed together at quaint little lodges, learning to crochet and backstroke and box step.  Everything was wireless back then except, ironically, the phones. No one spent the day staring at a screen or thinking about AIDS. What a perfect time to be alive.

Thirty years after it debuted, Dirty Dancing is still perfect the way it is. Last year’s ill-fated television adaptation and the short lived musical both discovered this the hard way. Dirty Dancing is one of those movies we’ve all seen at least once. It’s one of those movies we don’t turn off if it’s on cable (does anyone still have cable?). It’s also a strange mix of nostalgia, and social commentary, the likes of which are difficult to replicate.

Where Are the Dirty Dancing Cast Now?

Thirty years is a good chunk of time, as any 29 year old can tell you. So in the interest of nostalgia, let’s take a look at the cast then and now.

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Jerry Orbach

Baby’s dad is the surprising complex character of Dirty Dancing. Jerry Orbach’s portrayal of Daddy Hodgeman is at times stuffy, understanding, progressive, closed-minded, traditional, and on and on. The layers never seem to stop unfolding as he navigates the changing world at the turn of the decade. Lumiere Jerry OrbachOrbach already had an illustrious career pre-Dancing, consisting of Broadway and off-Broadway roles which earned him multiple Tony nominations and one win for his role in Promises, Promises. Post Dancing, Orbach played a handful of smaller parts in films including voiceover work in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. His role as Detective Lenny Briscoe in Law & Order, a character he played until his death in 2004, brought him world-wide fame.

Kelly Bishop

Mama Hodgeman also arrived on the scene with a Tony award to her name, for originating the role of Sheila in A Chorus Line. Kelly Bishop has continued working on stage, most recently in 2011’s revival of Anything Goes.

Bishop’s most popular role since Dirty Dancing, however, is as a matriarch of a different kind. Her role as Emily Gilmore, grandmother to Rory and mother to Lorelai on Gilmore Girls is much more terrifying than the soft, one note woman she portrays in Dancing.

Jennifer Grey

In 1987, Jennifer Grey was still “Joel Grey’s little girl”. She had awfully big shoes to fill. Instead, she set out on a path of her own in Hollywood. Dirty Dancing was Grey’s second critically acclaimed role following the jealous sister Jeanie in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Since her Golden Globe nominated role in Dirty Dancing, Grey is now working on the Amazon series Red Oaks.

Jennifer Grey Dirty DancingThe fame Jennifer Grey earned from her role as Frances “Baby” Hodgemen was unfortunately stymied by two nose jobs which left her virtually unrecognizable. However, since then, she has steadily returned to the spotlight with her new profile, working in television and film as well as competing in Dancing With the Stars season eleven. Grey also guest-starred on Lip Sync Battle when her husband Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) competed against Hayley Atwell (Agent Peggy Carter).

(Skip to 1:05 for Grey’s cameo)

Patrick Swayze

About a year ago, one of my best friends sat me down and forced me to watch Road House, which was Swayze’s next film after Dirty Dancing. Are you watching Road House right now? Why not? Go do the thing.Swayze Road House QuoteSwayze’s post-Dancing career often allowed him to call upon his impressive physical skills (yes, he really dead-lifts Jennifer Grey in that closing number) and dancer’s grace. Some roles, such as his Romantic lead opposite Demi Moore in Ghost, took advantage of his status as a heartthrob, without really requiring other skills.

Unfortunately, Patrick Swayze lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2009. He and his wife Lisa Niemi penned a memoir about their relationship which they finished shortly before he died and released several months after. The book, titled Time of Our Lives recieved critical praise for both authors.

The Time Of My Life

One of the iconic songs from Dirty Dancing also enjoyed a post-film career. “Time of My Life” went on to represent Sandals, Jamaica for decades after the movie was done breaking records. Perhaps more importantly, the song became something of a recurring joke on Fox’s New Girl.

Are you still enjoying the “Time of Your Life”? Let us know if the comments below.



Jen Schiller
Jen Schillerhttp://jenrose.writerfolio.com
Jen is a writer with a penchant for nerdy subject matter, and a nerd with a penchant for writing. She is into theatre, Disney, Harry Potter, books and her cats Sif and Dinah. She can be found all over the internet, or in your backyard catching Pokemon. Jen's favorite Batman is Adam West, and she can't be convinced otherwise.