Exclusive: Patrick Swayze's widow on Jennifer Grey's 'Dancing with the Stars' breakdown

lisa-niemiImage Credit: Adam Larkey/ABC; Ida Mae Astute/Getty ImagesLisa Niemi, the wife of the late Patrick Swayze, told EW.com exclusively that she was “caught off-guard” by the outpouring of emotion displayed by Jennifer Grey during the Dancing with the Stars premiere on Monday and “didn’t expect there to be so much focus on Patrick.” The season 11 opener featured a video segment of Grey bursting into tears when she and partner Derek Hough began to rehearse to “These Arms of Mine,” a song featured on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

“A friend asked me if I thought Jennifer was being sincere, and I said absolutely. I thought she was sincere,” said Niemi. “There’s got to be some part of her that knows it will help her chances a little bit. But does that cancel out whether she really does care? No, it doesn’t. I think her feelings are very true and at the same time, I think she’s going to win!”

Despite the breakdown, Grey, 50, and Hough went on to earn the highest score of the night – 24 out of 30 — by performing the Viennese waltz. It even brought judge Carrie Ann Inaba to tears. “Of course, Jennifer is hugely associated with Dirty Dancing, and if you think about it — her dancing ballroom again — how could it not remind her of moment in time that was very important?” says Niemi. “Jennifer is a very talented and very sensitive individual. It didn’t surprise me that she got so emotional.”

Niemi said she sent along her good wishes via email to Grey before she began Dancing with the Stars. She and Swayze often ran into Grey over the years and always had “warm feelings” for her. Says Niemi, “Jennifer is a very unique individual and she looks like dynamite. I’m sure some people thought Jennifer had all this dance training, which she hasn’t, but she has a lot of natural abilities. Coupled with her acting abilities, she’s a unique personality. She has a lot to bring to the show.”

“There is a lot of good will out there for Dirty Dancing,” Niemi continued. “Will that little magic help her? I think it may because she was such a big part of Dirty Dancing. Go girl and win it if you are going to do this kind of thing, I think!”

After co-authoring Time of My Life with Swayze, Niemi is working on a new book in which she’ll address how she coped with Swayze’s illness in his final years and his tragic passing last year.


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  • AuntieMM

    Regretfully, from what I remember, neither Patrick nor Jennifer got along during the filming. If that is true then her tears this week ring false and even more so if they’re used to further her chances. As far as Lisa is concerned I applaud her taking the high ground and continuing her husband’s memory.

    • Amanda

      I have to say that I immediately thought it was fake, but once I thought about it, I realized that she would have genuine reason to break down. I mean, I as nothing more than an avid fan can find myself misty-eyed at the thought of Patrick and his tragically cut short life. Imagine someone who actually knew him and spent time with him. Being in that environment with that music playing transported her to that time and brought back all those memories, and even if he wasn’t her best friend or even an acquantince, remembering him and the time they did share together would hurt deeply. If only for the tragedy of the loss.

    • zeezee

      Not getting along during filming is one thing, but I heard that they “patched things up” over the years. Just because you hold onto the past doesn’t mean everyone else does…they didn’t have to be Best Friends for her to have an emotional moment upon hearing that song and having memories. Does this mean that everyone who has a “moment” rings untrue to you? Sheesh…I pity your stepford children and hope they were allowed to have emotions!

    • Katja

      I’m only going on hearsay, but what I’ve read suggests that they didn’t get along during Red Dawn, but they worked things out in order to make the Dirty Dancing romance work. Regardless, he was an important part of her youth and a hugely important part of what really launched her to immortality. And now he’s gone at much too young an age and she herself has been diagnosed with a malignant lump. So there’s all of that happening. I was in my high school’s show choir and was partnered for a song with this one boy who I really didn’t care for. He was popular, but I thought he was arrogant and all that. We barely spoke to each other. I found out a few years later when I was in college that he died in a car accident, and to this day I am freaked out and usually cry when that particular song comes on the radio. And that’s not nearly as significant as making a future classic movie with someone.

      • Shelley Mitchell

        This was the most beautiful and bittersweet post I think I have ever read. So sad, so true, it made me cry. RIP Patrick!

      • jennrae

        I’d heard the same, that they didn’t like each other during Red Dawn but made up for Dirty Dancing. But just because they might not have gotten along doesn’t mean they didn’t love each other. Don’t you fight the hardest with those you love the most? So who knows? But I completely agree with Lisa, and I think she expressed herself very well.

    • Regan

      Not getting along during filming 20 something years ago doesn’t count for much. Even if you don’t get along with someone, they can still have a big impact on your life, and you can still empathize with their pain and with the pain of the people who care about them. Seriously people! JG is after all 50 and not a high school student. I’m sure she’s quite able to think beyond ‘like/don’t like’ and experience a wide range of grown up human emotions.

      • wakeforce

        Kind of like when Sonny Bono died and Cher gave an emotional eulogy. Some people may have thought she was just emoting for the camera. It’s just that some people are skeptical of any kind of emotion, especially when played out on television.

      • denise warren

        who cares that they did not get along all those years ago, i just dont see you working that close with some one and not care…me personally and regretfully never had the privillage of knowing either one but just watching her in dancing with the stars brought tears to my eyes, in memory of patrick…..I think she is auwsome and feel that she not only loved him as a freind and co-worker but also a mentor…so let us all be nice, we all have our own crosses to bear.

    • melnaie

      I’ve been in shows with people I didn’t get along with, but still respect as a person. I’d be very sad if they died, even though we had a disagreement now and then.

    • Ford

      They actually did not get along during the filming of “Red Dawn”.When they were cast in this movie the met prior to the start of filming and worked things out,stating they had both grown up.They became friends while filming and some of their off camera joking and playing was kept in the movie and are pivitol scenes.The whole “Sylvia & Mickey” on the floor scene was a great example.It was written entirely different and they were “horsing around,it was filmed,I liked it and kept it in.”

      • Dallas Child

        Wow. Thanks for the informative insight. You have hopefully silenced the pessimists.

      • Roy D. Seel

        Yes to you Ford , should have been another, a sequel, but then again why mess up a Golden Classic that will live for Eterinty, well said well done , God Bless everyone ass. with bringing them together ,truely magical, a Moment In Time that will be remembered by millions yet to see it, from my heart if I could I would have gave Mr. Patric Swayze any of my own organs to keep such talent alive, He is still alive , waiting for Christ to pick Him and others up when He returns.

    • Alex

      The contestants due use some anrics to get votes or sympathy. Remember Marie Osmond. Talk about fake.

    • Janie

      oh, you were there during the filming?????????

    • kfeely@zoomtown.com

      “From what you remember”? Were you there? Your opinion matters not. Neither does mine on the subject. It is what it is.

    • sharon

      i do think it was very sincere what a flash back for her. i loved patrick swayze, but he was pretty tough i’m sure as a coach teaching her and i think he was a hard ass. she still feels bad she doesn’t do things perfectly. i can’t imagine how hard it was for her to not be a real dancer and patrick with his professional experience being hard on her. my mom say’s gene kelly was not easy either. jennifer made that movie and it was not just patrick. if not for her patrick may not have shined as much since she brought that main character to life. another actress would not have given it the magic that they both had together. he has to thank her for his big break too. it’s not all patrick. jennifer never got her fair due of making that movie a hit and making patrick as big as he became. ghost and demi more was not even close to as good as dirty dancing made patrick. demi moore was awlful.. i’m sure patrick is proud of jennifer and good for her for getting over her fear of dancing.

    • Jaelyn

      In response to Patrick and Jennifer not getting along during the filming of Dirty Dancing…I find that very difficult to believe cosidering that his wife says Patrick and herself ran into Jennifer many over the years and there was nothing but warm feelings between them. So unless AuntieMM was actually on the set daily during filming of the movie and even if she was one should not post such things. I am inclinde to believe his wife afterall she would know.

  • K

    I thought they got along, though I think there was a big age difference.

  • carmanah

    They apparently had difficulties during shooting, which they addressed, and over the years they were always friendly toward one another. I think the “they hated each other” was blown out of proportion by Hollywood since it made a better story. Patrick even addressed it in his book, yet people seem to continue to perpetuate it.

  • andymo

    they actually didnt get along when they filmed red dawn. they werent thrilled with working with each other again, but they met before filming dirty dancing and worked everything out and got along quite well.

  • barock

    I just wish she had her old nose back

    • Chappel

      So does she. She realized after the surgery that it killed her career. Too bad because she’s a talented and delightful actress.

      • PrincessBride

        I loved the way they addressed that on the brief but funny sitcom “It’s like, you know”.

      • kat

        I thought I was the only one who remembered “It’s Like, You Know”! It was funny and too brief, as you said.

  • Eolra

    Ms. Niemi seems like a class act.

    • Regan

      Agreed! Reading this my thoughts were: Either Lisa Niemi is a great person, or she’s got an amazing PR rep working for her who’s coaching her on the perfect things to say.

      • Axis

        Absolutely. I read the book she put out after his death, and was really impressed with this incredible lady.

    • aleksa

      She really does.

  • Redhead

    Lisa Niemi believes Gray is sincere, so I really think the haters should just shut up.

    • Edina

      I agree — Lisa Niemi would be in a better position to judge than just about anyone (save Jennifer Gray herself.)

    • ALM

      …and if she had shown no emotion whatsoever, everybody would be here saying, “what a cold fish; can’t believe she didn’t get upset at all”. Can’t win with some of you, can we?

  • MDEP

    You know DWTS picked the song because it was in the movie. You can tell Jennifer did not know what the song would be. I would say it was more the show playing up the connection than Jennifer herself.

    • anonymous

      That, and also DWTS addressing the elephant in the room. Now if they bring it up again and like on American Idol, well…

  • Michael

    OMG people!!! Seriously whether they got along or not is not the issue. When she was crying she was remembering a time with Patrick. If this was reversed and Jennifer Grey died and Patrick Swayze was still alive and on Dancing with the Stars doing this exact dance. Dont you think he would have been crying? This is a human emotion that she conveyed dont judge her. She was really greiving.

    • Charleme

      Amen! Lisa is a class act and always has been! RIP Patrick you are thought of often and truly missed by your fans.

    • Marieh

      I don’t think Jennifer faking it when she burst in the rehearsal. I assume that she truly missed Patrick and her feeling was true.

  • Allison

    I have to ask – does anyone else remember what part of the movie that song was in? I’ve been racking my brain since Monday night – I had both the original soundtrack and the bonus one that was released, and I don’t remember that song at all. Maybe I’ll have to re-watch it…

    • Julie

      I think it was when Baby went to Johnny’s room the first time, after their dance at the Sheldrake.

      • Ford

        Julie that song was “Cry to me”by Soloman Burke.I think.lol.I thought it was when they were laying together after they made love and she asked him about how many women he had been with.I think it was raining and she told her mom they were “doing Charades in Lounge”

    • Kat

      It WAS playing in the room when she went to see Johnny–he had music playing when she knocked. Later, the song changed and it became “Cry to Me” by Solomon Burke and they danced to that. I had to look it up on youtube because I couldn’t remember myself.

      • Angie

        I believe you are correct.

  • Ceballos

    It was an obvious fame-whoring plea for sympathy. That was 20 something years ago. Would anyone really cry for a co-worker they worked with for a brief time that long ago? A year after he died? No, not in the real world. But you idiots keep lapping up the bull$hi* if you want.

    • chattypatra

      Why do you have to call people idiots if they disagree with you? FYI, Cancer tends to change people and make them reevaluate their lives. It is very possible that when Ms. Grey was diagnosed it made her think about Mr. Swayze and his battle with the decease. She was very young when they made that movie, so I’m sure she sees that experience differently now. Why is it not plausible that the song triggered strong emotions in her? I know there are things I regret saying or doing…doesn’t everybody? I’d rather not judge her and enjoy the competition.

    • pylgrym

      A co-worker is not a co-star. I grieve anytime I hear of the loss of someone I worked with on stage and I never made a block buster movie that is on an eternal loop.

    • Angie

      Since Dirty Dancing is an iconic movie,there have been many reunions over the years. It wasn’t as though they never saw or spoke to each other since the movie left the theaters. That movie was a special one in their careers. Also, since Jennifer was diagnosed with cancer as well, I think it would be very natural for her to feel strongly when hearing anything connected to Swayze. Sheesh-I cried and I never met the guy.

    • Carrie

      Wow, the world you live sounds like a cold place. I cried and I’d never even met him.

    • annoymous

      You are rude, crude and disrespectful.

    • N.

      Obviously Jennifer Grey didn’t chose that song and when they told her about it there were cameras on her every second.
      When she started to cry she left the room but the cameras followed her although she signaled them to go away.
      Jennifer Grey hasn’t been in the spotlight for years now and it’s no surprise she was overwhelmed and overreacted. She’s human, after all.
      If you want to blame someone, blame abc… they used Jennifer Grey’s emotions for ratings and that’s just vile.

    • sharon

      she left the business out of her choice after that car accident. she is not a fame whore at all. what dumb ass comment… dirty dancing was not just about patr4ick which is what some idiots think it was i guess. jennier was the star of that movie and poor thing never got to enjoy it aafter that horirible car accident left her not wanting a career.

    • Java

      Stupid idiot! They are famous people not like you. Of course she will remember every moment coz she was one of the actor stupid!

    • denise warren


  • ceejay

    How could it not remind you that she is a professional dancer and does not belong on this show. The breakdown was fake…. to garner sympathy. It’s been thirty years since she worked with him, he’s been gone a year and she is not his wife, mother or girlfriend. It was a cheap stunt…. Patrick deserves better than to have his memory used in such a manner!

    • ALM

      I would hate to live in your cynical little world.

    • floridamom

      ceejay – did you read the article? Lisa said in the article that Jennifer was NOT a professional dancer and I concur – it was her father, Joel Grey, that was the pro dancer!

    • Brenda

      Someone I know from my childhood has recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. We were never close, and it must have been over 10 years since we last saw each other. Still, it really affected me when I first heard of the news. I became very emotional, too, in ways that I couldn’t even describe. I felt compassion for this person I hardly knew, and at the same time, I was reminded of my mortality. I think Jennifer felt this fleeting quality of things. Maybe you’ll understand this someday, too.

    • Susan

      Jennifer Grey has never been a pro dancer in her life.
      yeah, she’s had some dancing lessons at one point or another but most female celebrites have had them.
      Hell, Suri Cruise has dancing lessons, and she’s barely old enough to walk!
      Jennifer Grey didn’t know they would chose this song and she overreacted. Let’s not forget that she was out of the public eye for many years, no wonder she’s a bit overwhelmed.
      ABC used her in a very crude way, that was just hideous.
      And it was totally unnecessary as she did a great job… her waltz was graceful and very elegant.

    • Debbie

      She is not a professional dancer. She only learned dance moves for “Dirty Dancing”. Even Patrick’s wife said that Jennifer Grey never had professional dance classes or training and learned enough to be great in the movie.

  • Jessica

    Wow, I think those of you who are so cynical must never have experienced a tragic death of someone in your past. For me, personally, I lost a friend from elementary school last year. I hadn’t seen her since I was 8 years old, but when I heard the news, I was completely grief-stricken. I spent two days crying and trying to find out what had happened and why she was gone at the too young age of 34. All the while the voice in my head chastised me for being overly sentimental about someone I barely knew anymore. Even now, a memorial to her will pop up on my facebook newsfeed and I’ll get a lump in my throat…all for someone I hadn’t seen in 25 years. Sometimes it seems that you never realize how much someone actually meant to you until they’re gone.

    • Ceballos

      You need to get on medication. Drama queen.

      • Java

        This idiot is a Tea Party member and a Palin supporter

      • Kim

        You need to get some empathy. Big jerk.

      • Shelley

        I agree with Kim. It is only natural for Jennifer to feel a huge sense of grief over the loss. If you can’t understand that, then YOU are the one who has problems!

  • John

    For all the skeptics, did you not read the part in the article in which Lisa said that she and Patrick often ran into Jennifer over the years? Obviously they have seen each other after the movie was made and Lisa even emailed Jennifer wishing her luck so they must have been in contact before DTWS began.

  • sam

    She is not a professional dancer. She made a dance movie and she was coached for the movie. And if I tear up when I watch Dirty Dancing now or see Patrick’s widow, why wouldn’t she do the same when remembering her actual experience with him? I am tired of all of the negative stuff that surrounds us these days. Some people think any display of emotion is automatically “fake.”

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