Last night, the Tribeca Film Festival hosted an outdoor, under-the-clouds screening of Dirty Dancing in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary — and I had the time of my
life last six months.The preshow festivities, though not quite as festive as they sounded on paper, proved ultimately entertaining: There was that moment when the crowd of a thousand (give or take one) turned on the trivia contestant who answered “Her sweater?” when asked what Baby (Jennifer Grey) carried. (The prize was two tickets to see Dirty Dancing the musical in London.) There was the realization that I’m not entirely comfortable watching dirty dancing in person — or sitting on the aisle when there’s the threat of group participation. And there was Lumidee, there to promote her “hit single” “She’s Like the Wind,” walking through the audience and leading a group karaoke rendition of “Time of My Life.”
Dirty Dancing producer Linda Gottlieb and star Kelly Bishop (Baby’s mother before she was Lorelai Gilmore’s) were on hand to introduce the film. Gottlieb talked about how “MGM turned down the movie, and so did 40 other people who I took it to,” then told a tale that’s supposedly “never been told.” Turns out Bishop had actually been cast as the hot-to-trot bungaloo bunny Vivian Pressman, but Lynn Lipton, the actress originally cast as Marjorie Houseman, “on the first day of shooting… proceeded to say, ‘You know, I have to have seven small meals a day, I have to eat every half hour.” By noon, director Emile Ardolino decided they’d need to replace her if they wanted to stay on schedule and the $5 million budget. (You can see Lipton’s scenes on the 20th anniversary DVD, hitting shelves May 8.)
Bishop took the story from there. She’d just gotten off a plane, “fuzzyhair, essentially no makeup,” when the director and producers paged her, stood her next to Grey and the late Jerry Orbach (best movie dadever), and just stared. “It was such a strange request to go completelyagainst the character that I’d been hired for that I thought I had tosay yes because it was so bizarre. I’m totally glad I didit… I have to tell you, we did have the time of our lives, and thoselast four days of filming the last shot of the movie, listening to thatsong over and over again, I never got tired of it. And apparently, youall don’t get tired of the movie, so I’m thrilled. Enjoy it again.”
And I did, Ms. Bishop. More than ever before. I had just turned 12when the movie was released in August 1987. My mother — who’d laterspend $80 on the VHS — took my 15-year-old sister and I to see it six times in the theater. Back then, I got that Swayze’s Johnny Castle was yummy, but I didn’t feel it until last night. Good. Lord. That “Love Man” scenewhere Johnny first teaches Baby to move her hips? So. Hot. The kindahot that makes you stop and think, I hope no one is looking at my faceright now. (They’re not.) And wonder if you really just whimpered outloud. (You did.) Thankfully, group participation was rampant — andwelcome — during the screening: People hooted at Swayze from entrance to exit. They spoke-along lines (down to sister Lisa’s “four, five”).They — and by that I mean, I — found themselves mimicking, in theprecise directional order, Swayze’s four kicks to the stake that heuses to shatter the window of his car.
I’ve said it before on PopWatch,but it really is comforting to see how movies affect people in the sameway. Like when my EW colleague Allyssa Lee whispered “back muscles”during the “Hungry Eyes” montagetwo seconds before the woman seated behind us did. But it’s alsointeresting when you find yourself appreciating movies on a new level.When I was younger, I thought Baby’s post-“Love Man” gyrations, asJohnny walks away, were funny of course, but I didn’t get that theywere exactly what a teen girl would do if a dangerous (yet safe) guylike Johnny Castle had just awakened her sexuality. If you haven’t doneDirty Dancing in a while, you might want to.