Let’s Honor Swayze By Resurrecting His Film Debut
or “Never Mind Johnny Castle, Rest In Peace Ace Johnson!”
Currently there is a poll on CNN.com asking, “What’s your favorite Patrick Swayze movie?” (in honor of the recently deceased goofball hunk). There are only four choices; unsurprisingly, most votes are split between Dirty Dancing (36%) and Ghost (34%). What struck me as odd is the fact Point Break, the greatest and most x-treme surfer bank robbery film ever made, is dead last in the poll (13%), trumped by Red Dawn (17%).
Really, America? Red Dawn? Would anyone even remember that movie if it weren’t for VH-1’s “I Still Love The Friggin’ 80s (No Matter What You Say)!” or obscure references here and there on “Family Guy?” I was alive and very aware of movies in 1984 and I don’t remember Red Dawn at all. On the other hand, there was a lot of crazy crap going on in 1984. Ghostbusters, Temple of Doom. the Olympics, Cabbage Patch Kids…perhaps my attention was focused elsewhere the week Swayze and his corn-fed crew lead the charge against Soviet Russia.
Anywho, I was looking at Patrick’s filmography earlier to see if he was in anything else I consider better or more important than Red Dawn. Lo and behold, I completely forgot Swayze first hit the screen in 1979’s Skatetown, U.S.A., a film I took up a small crusade for a few years ago. Skatetown, U.S.A. is the roller disco explosion that not only boasted a fresh and graceful Swayze, it also threw Scott Baio, Ron Palillo, Flip Wilson, Maureen McCormick, and Billy Barty in our unsuspecting faces! All on roller skates! Check out the trailer:
The plot of Skatetown, U.S.A. is as follows: Scott Baio goes to the roller rink one afternoon and ends up tangling with Swayze’s Ace Johnson, who, if I remember correctly, sets things off by flirting with Scott’s little sister. This, naturally, leads to a no-holds-barred homo-erotic skate-off between the two men, but not before we can meet tons of wacky ancillary characters. There’s the overwhelmed snack bar attendants, the Christ-like DJ character, the bumbling rink doctor, and an incredibly swarthy/bearded/coked-out Horseshack from “Welcome Back, Kotter.” This was actually Ron Palillo’s first post-“Kotter” role, and he really took a risk by playing an annoying creep.
Skatetown, U.S.A. is s huge steaming pile of cheese-tastic disco camp, one of the last great feel-good Carter-era musical epics notable for doing absolutely nothing for the careers of anyone involved. That’s probably why the film hasn’t been available in any format for decades. I tried to change that back in, oh, I don’t know, 2005? I launched an online campaign to bring Skatetown, U.S.A. back to the American people, hoping at least for a bare bones DVD or one-week midnight run in theaters. Crazier things, I feel, have happened (Dirty Dancing re-release, Dirty Dancing sequel, Lambada movie, etc).
Frustratingly, the world turned a deaf ear to a potential Skatetown renaissance, and the film remained buried in the grave of kitschy crap time forgot. This country just didn’t want to remember Scott Baio’s cut-rate Xanadu. As legendary film critic Joe Bob Briggs put it when I e-mailed him about “the cause” (and I think he was speaking on behalf of every movie fan from Boston to Sacremento), Skatetown, U.S.A. was so bad they probably couldn’t get it to stick to video tape. It just slid off like a hot turd.
Of course, now that Patrick Swayze is gone, the tables have turned. We have to cherish every performance he gave us. Certain films, like Road House and Donnie Darko, will forever remain on the public’s hot, greasy lips. Others, like Skatetown, we must fight for. I can’t pretend to understand why the Hollywood elite would suppress the only film that paired Swayze with Murray Langston and Ruth Buzzi, but it’s happening. Please, if you care about classic cinema at all, I urge you to write Sony Pictures and demand they do the right thing. Demand the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Skatetown, U.S.A., or it might be lost to history forever. Their address is below.
10202 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
If you aren’t that skilled a writer, don’t worry. You can always just show up there and plead our case in person. Companies love it when crazy people show up to scream at them about some stuff they did a million years ago! Or hell, just call them: 310-244-4000. Tell ’em a crazy buns-hole in Brooklyn sent ya!