It’s been 35 years since audiences had the time of their lives watching Johnny and “Baby” dance the night away in the classic 80s coming-of-age movie, Dirty Dancing. This romantic drama from 1987 starred Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in a love story that moves in passionate rhythms and defies social status with each step on the dance floor.
Even though the movie was made in the 1980s and was set in the 1960s, this film has stood the test of time for generations now, featuring a hit music soundtrack that won both an Oscar and Golden Globe to complement the plot. Fans of the film will undoubtedly remember the now legendary final dance between the two leading lovers that featured the popular song, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, and the lift that has been often imitated – sometimes with comedic disaster, but never entirely done like the original, no matter who else has tried over all these years. Perhaps the magic and passion from that dance floor is still alive though, since recently, word got out that a sequel to the 1987 classic is on the horizon.
The cast of the original movie was full of familiar faces. Some of them were well-known before this film and even went on to other popular projects afterward. With that said, where is the cast of Dirty Dancing now?
Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle
Popular actor Patrick Swayze was cast as Johnny, a dance instructor at Kellerman’s, the summer resort in upstate New York, where the movie was based. His character wasn’t considered to be from the same social class that the guests or even much of the staff were from. Throughout much of the film, Johnny would endure disrespectful treatment simply because he wasn’t a doctor or a student at an Ivy League school. However, that didn’t matter to “Baby”, who quickly became attracted to Johnny from their first brief dance on through to the legendary lift at the end of the movie.
Swayze’s stardom was on the rise during the late eighties and he had a few good roles under his belt at the time he was cast in Dirty Dancing. By 1987, he had done work in both film and television roles but was most known for appearing in movies like The Outsiders, Uncommon Valor, Red Dawn, and Youngblood. After the success of Dirty Dancing, Swayze continued to elevate into leading man status with roles in the cult-classic Road House, then Ghost, followed by Point Break in 1991. A few years later, he would dial back on working but still appeared in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, Donnie Darko, and even a cameo appearance in the Dirty Dancing prequel Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, in 2004. In 2006, Swayze would venture to the stage in the musical Guys and Dolls, and also do a little bit of voice acting in The Fox and the Hound 2.
Swayze would take a role as an aging musician in the 2008 drama Powder Blue, his last film role before appearing in the TV drama, The Beast in 2009, for just one season. Just after filming the pilot episode of that show, Swayze was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He would unfortunately lose his battle with the disease, passing away on September 14, 2009, at the age of 57.
Jennifer Grey as Frances “Baby” Houseman
Actress Jennifer Grey was cast as Frances “Baby” Houseman, the female lead and love interest of Johnny. Against her father’s wishes, she develops a romantic interest in Johnny that passionately grows as they practice a dance routine that they plan to debut at the resort’s annual talent show. Originally just an observer of the more experienced dancers, her magnetism toward Johnny pushes her to make sure she performs perfectly with Johnny at the end of the film.
Grey got started on the big screen in 1984 with roles in Reckless and The Cotton Club. She followed that up with an appearance in Red Dawn before co-starring with Matthew Broderick in 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a film that earned her a small taste of star power before her award-nominated performance in Dirty Dancing a year later. Into the early nineties, Grey would seemingly fall out of the spotlight and end up making several appearances in lesser-known feature films and television movies. This was mainly due to the cosmetic surgery she would undergo after her work in Dirty Dancing, making while not unattractive at all, considerably unrecognizable from how she looked before going under the knife.
Since then, her popularity would rise again moderately when she would appear as herself in the ABC comedy, It’s Like, You Know…, from 1999 to 2001. Grey would then continue on with small roles in low-budget movies but also in popular TV shows like The New Adventures of Old Christine, House, and the eleventh season of Dancing with the Stars, winning the competition that year. From 2014 to 2017, Grey co-starred in the Amazon series, Red Oaks, and has just recently written a memoir, Out of the Corner, which was released in May 2022.
Cynthia Rhodes as Penny Johnson
Rhodes was cast as Penny Johnson, a local dance instructor from the area surrounding Kellerman’s resort property. She’s originally expected to perform in the talent show’s final dance duet with Johnny but for personal reasons, must immediately step away from the dance floor, leaving the opportunity for Baby to replace her.
Most of Rhodes’ background was rooted in dancing, starting with the craft as early as a teen in high school, during the 1970s. Her first film role would come in 1980’s Xanadu, followed by more dancing-related roles in Flashdance and Staying Alive. Rhodes also made appearances in numerous music videos during this time but she also ventured away from dancing once with a side role in the 1984 sci-fi film Runaway, before joining the cast of Dirty Dancing. Her next film role, an action-adventure movie called, Curse of the Crystal Eye would be her last acting gig before retiring from the business to raise a family with her then-husband, musician Richard Marx. In 2014, she and Marx would divorce after 25 years of marriage.
Jerry Orbach as Dr. Jake Houseman
To play Baby’s successful yet protective father, legendary actor Jerry Orbach was cast in the role of Dr. Jake Houseman. His vacation at the resort with his wife and two daughters begins calmly but is interrupted by drama Dr. Houseman believes has everything to do with Johnny. This forces him to forbid his daughter Baby to have any contact with Johnny and subsequently estranges both father and daughter from each other, albeit temporarily by the end of the film.
Orbach’s professional career began in New York City, in both on and off-Broadway productions, eventually also bringing small tv and film stints into the mix. Throughout the 1970s, he would earn several Tony Award nominations and come away with one for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in Promises, Promises in 1969. Orbach would focus more on his TV and film work into the 1980s, making recurring appearances in Murder, She Wrote and its spin-off, The Law & Harry McGraw, along with film roles in Prince of the City, Brewster’s Millions, and F/X. After Dirty Dancing, Orbach would continue with various small acting roles but then landed one of his most memorable roles in 1991, as the voice of Lumière, in Beauty and the Beast, a role he actually also won Grammy honors for. The very next year, he signed on to play one of the most popular characters in the Law & Order canon, NYPD detective Lennie Briscoe, in the original Law & Order series from 1992 to 2004.
During his run on Law & Order, Orbach would continue other work on the side with various guest appearances in Empty Nest and Frasier, as well as reprising his role as Lumière in a few direct-to-video Beauty and the Beast projects. On December 28, 2004, Jerry Orbach died after a nearly 10-year battle with prostate cancer, an illness that most of the public wasn’t aware of until shortly before his passing. He was 69 years old.
Jane Brucker as Lisa Houseman
Jane Brucker played Lisa, the older sister of Baby and the daughter of Dr. Jake and Marjorie Houseman. Her character doesn’t experience the same sort of passion as her sister Baby does during the course of the film but tries to involve herself with a member of the resort’s waitstaff. This causes some slight drama, aside from the movie’s main plot.
Brucker had only a small amount of acting experience stemming from appearing in a few episodes of the popular ABC soap opera One Life to Live, followed by a guest appearance in an episode of Miami Vice, in 1986. Dirty Dancing was her first feature film role, followed by more TV appearances during the eighties and nineties in shows like Crime Story, Wiseguy, Doctor Doctor, and Ellen. Her last acting role was in a 2009 comedy short titled, Holding for Miss Kiley.
Jack Weston as Max Kellerman
Veteran award-nominated character actor Jack Weston played Max Kellerman, the owner of the resort bearing his name. Because of his character’s professional stature, Max is often seen demeaning his staff members who are working class, including Johnny. At one point, he decides to fire Johnny from the resort after he learns that the dance instructor was romantically involved with a guest’s daughter, Frances “Baby” Houseman.
Weston got his career started in television, with his first appearance in 1951. He would eventually appear in popular shows like Perry Mason, Rawhide, and The Untouchables and would continue through the sixties and seventies in other programs such as The Twilight Zone and Bewitched. He would also begin his film career with roles in 1967’s Wait Until Dark and The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968, then into the seventies and eighties with appearances in Gator, Cuba, and High Road to China, before his performance in Dirty Dancing. He would then take one last acting role in the popular eighties sequel Short Circuit 2, in 1988. After a lengthy battle with the disease, Weston would pass away from lymphoma on May 3, 1996, at the age of 71.
Kelly Bishop as Marjorie Houseman
Playing the matriarch of the Houseman family, Marjorie, was veteran actress Kelly Bishop. Her character isn’t as vocal as her husband is toward the state of affairs involving their daughters and the staff during their stay at the Kellerman resort. This is likely because of the outdated gender norms within the typical American family, where women are more seen than heard since this movie was set in the early 1960s.
Bishop began performing as a ballet dancer in the sixties. She gained a lot of success after her Tony Award-winning performance in A Chorus Line, in 1976. From there, she made TV and movie appearances in tv shows like Hawaii Five-O and Hart to Hart leading up to Dirty Dancing in 1987. That same year, she also appeared in a recurring role in the CBS soap opera As the World Turns and continued with numerous TV opportunities through the nineties. Then in 2000, Bishop landed her most popular recent role as the wealthy matriarch Emily Gilmore, in Gilmore Girls, and the 2016 TV miniseries, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Television is certainly where most of her work has been, even right now as she’s currently filming episodes for the Freeform network drama The Watchful Eye, which has yet to set a series premiere date.
Lonny Price as Neil Kellerman
Lonny Price played Neil Kellerman, the grandson of resort owner Max Kellerman. Early on in the movie, Neil takes a flirtatious liking to Baby but it’s not nearly enough to overpower the chemistry between her and Johnny.
Price started his career performing on the stage, acting in several on and off-Broadway productions, beginning in 1979 but very quickly thereafter also earning small roles in television and film roles leading up to his role in Dirty Dancing. After that movie, he continued to take small roles into the 1990s but also found his calling as a director, calling the shots in countless stage productions like Sweeney Todd, Candide, Passion, and Annie Get Your Gun. He was also in the director’s chair for TV shows such as One Life to Live, Desperate Housewives, and 2 Broke Girls. Price most recently directed a 2017 London revival of Sunset Boulevard and in 2021, directed a Broadway-related tv movie titled, Show of Titles.
Max Cantor as Robbie Gould
Robbie, a womanizing waiter at the Kellerman resort, was played by young actor Max Cantor. Some of Robbie’s activities with ladies at the resort end up having dramatic consequences for a few characters as the story progresses.
Cantor’s acting career didn’t last very long, compared to many of his Dirty Dancing castmates. Prior to his role in the movie, Cantor had only appeared in two made-for-TV movies, Diner and The Alan King Show. The same year Dirty Dancing was out, he made a tiny appearance for one episode in a short-lived TV police drama series called, Leg Work. And then in 1989, he made his last career appearance, co-starring in a comedy film titled, Fear, Anxiety & Depression. Sadly, on October 3, 1991, at the age of 32, Max Cantor died of a heroin overdose.
Neal Jones as Billy Kostecki
Veteran actor Neal Jones played Billy Kostecki, Johnny’s cousin, who’s also responsible for introducing Baby to Johnny in the first place, at the “dirty dancing” party, thrown for the resort’s staff. This role was actually Jones’ first ever film role but before that, he gained considerable acting experience on-stage in productions of Macbeth, The Corn Is Green, and Big River.
After Dirty Dancing, Jones would continue to occasionally work on-stage but would gain much more work in front of the camera with roles in Glengarry Glen Ross, G.I. Jane, and Changing Lanes on the big screen. On television, he had small appearances in Sex and the City, Third Watch, and The Sopranos, with recurring roles in Rescue Me, Law & Order, and Criminal Minds. However, he hasn’t worked on any projects in the last decade, with his last role coming in a short crime comedy called, Carbone: Breaking Point, in 2011.
Miranda Garrison as Vivian Pressman
Miranda Garrison was cast as Vivian, a scandalous woman who makes intimately-charged attempts at some of the male staff members at the Kellerman resort. One such enticement was directed towards Johnny but after his refusal, Vivian stirs up drama involving Baby, Robbie, and others, putting Johnny’s employment in danger.
Garrison is more known for her dancing prowess, often appearing in front of the camera in roles that incorporated some kind of dancing but doing far more consistent work as a choreographer. She was first seen dancing in the 1980 hit fantasy musical, Xanadu. When Dirty Dancing came around, she not even acted but also assisted in the choreography efforts behind the scenes. After that, Garrison would go on to choreograph the 1997 biopic, Selena, the prequel Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, and The Skeleton Key. Her last acting role was in an episode of the short-lived TV drama Blind Justice, in 2005. And in 2008, Garrison was last working as the choreographer for an indie drama film called Moe.