The Secret Origin of Johnny Castle and Other Dirty Dancing Observations

Yeah, so I watched Dirty Dancing with Shawna last Saturday.  Sue me.  Despite the fact this is what my weekends have been reduced to, I had a good time.  There were a few things I figured out about the story this time around, however, that I think require further discussion…

Item the First: Johnny Castle’s Origin.

During what I’ll call “That Scene on the Log,” Baby asks Johnny how he became a dancer.  Johnny’s answer (paraphrased a little) goes like this…

“A bunch of us were just sitting in this luncheonette one day, doing nuthin’, and this guy walks in and says they’re auditioning for dance instructors.”

Now, forgetting for just a second that’s exactly how I became a writer (true story!  Michael McBride and Kelli Dunlap were in that same luncheonette, and we were all just sitting around doing nuthin’), this is the all time lamest origin ever!  That, my friends, is not how you start a career.  What if the dance guy had been ten minutes later and didn’t show up until after a different man walked in and said, “We’re auditioning for government assassins.  Who wants in?”

I ask you, is Johnny Castle really a shiftless moron (probable), or is it part of a cover story?

A cover story for what, you ask?  Why for…

Item the Second: The Big Kellerman’s Lie.

Our second item today occurred to me (and was quickly supported by Shawna) during the big Dirty Dancing climax, right before Baby nails the lift.  Something didn’t seem right.  Suddenly, it all fell into place.

The entire ending is staged by Max Kellerman and his staff!

Let’s think about it a bit, examining the evidence from the film’s beginning:

– As soon as the Houseman family arrives at Kellerman’s, Max sends them to a dance lesson.  During this lesson, Baby fumbles through everything, and then Penny steals her father away, making her dance with Mrs. Schumacher (the wallet-thieving whore).
– When Johnny trains Baby for the mambo number (once they’ve sorted out she’s not a great dancer) he waits until the last minute to teach lifts to her.
– Penny and Baby bump into the Schumacher’s, getting a good glimpse of the wallets they’ve stolen.
– The Schumacher’s show up at the Sheldrake! It’s all very mystery weekend, no?
– Johnny gets fired, getting him out of the picture to prepare for the final act.
– And, of course, there’s the final act.  Nobody tries to stop Johnny when he takes the stage and starts talking.  They don’t pull the plug or send security out to stop him.  They just let the guy talk and then dance.  The staff even clears the stage as if to say, “Here it comes.  Johnny’s gonna do that thing again.”
– The dancing starts, and suddenly the entertainment staff is choreographed.  These guys and gals have done nothing but dry hump for the last hour and twenty minutes, but now they’re a goddamn chorus line.  Suspicious?  You bet your ass!
– And now the staff is dancing!  And Max doesn’t go ballistic and take a swing at anybody!

Now tell me this isn’t a set-up from beginning to end.  I contend that Kellerman’s sets up one unsuspecting family per season, one with a daughter who is coming of age, and orchestrates this whole mystery/blossoming young girl storyline throughout the summer, culminating in the “spontaneous” dance number at summer’s end.  It’s entirely possible that Baby’s father is in on the whole thing, helping Penny fake her pregnancy/abortion woes while setting up tension.  That whole scene where he stares at nothing while Baby screams and cries at him could just be him trying like hell to keep the charade going, even as he realizes it’s hurting his daughter.

So there you go, friends and neighbors.  That’s the secret truth behind Dirty Dancing. Enjoy!