Ken Tucker
January 08, 2009 AT 07:01 PM EST

Normally, I avoid Barbara Walters celebrity interviews like the timorous suck-ups they usually are. But I tuned in last night, because I’ve found admirable many of the blunt, articulate statements Patrick Swayze has made about his stage-4 pancreatic cancer. True to form last night, Swayze scoffed at trite cliches about false comfort, saying, “the cancer isn’t going away.” Avoiding all self-pity, he declared, “I’m not going to chase [the idea of] ‘staying alive.'”

With Walters, Swayze used the clearest language possible about having a fatal disease. He spoke with educational precision about his symptoms and his courses of treatment. When Walters tried a well-meaning, mawkish sign-off, saying she’d be back in a couple of years to do another interview with him, Swayze didn’t blink: “I’ll be here, or I won’t.” All this, plus you’ve gotta love a guy who’s taken to quoting a George Clinton funk lyric as a personal credo: “S—, god—, get off your a– and dance.” Dirty dancer? No: admirable, enduring dancer.

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