Whatever Happened To The Cast Of Dirty Dancing?

"Dirty Dancing" is often considered one of the most iconic romance films of the '80s. After all, who among us hasn't cry-sung along to "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" as we watched Baby and Johnny finally perform their dance while gazing lovingly into each other's eyes? Starring Jennifer Grey as the teenaged Baby and Patrick Swayze as the smoldering Johnny, the film became an instant though unexpected classic from the moment it landed in cinemas in 1987. 

A quick refresher: The film follows Baby as she and her parents holiday at the Catskills. Her boring summer takes a turn as she develops feelings for her dance instructor. Although he's from a different social sphere, their forbidden love is too strong to ignore. Of course, it all culminates with that iconic dance scene and lift. "Dirty Dancing" remains a cult classic to this day — after all, nobody puts Baby in a corner.

As of 2023, the film has been around for 35 years. Let's take a look at what happened to the cast.

Jennifer Grey has popped up in a number of TV shows and written a memoir

Jennifer Grey starred as Baby, the teen protagonist whose boring summer in the Catskills takes a turn when she falls for her dreamy dance instructor. Grey is still best known for the iconic role. Fans of '80s films will also remember her as bad girl Jeanie Bueller, Matthew Broderick's sister, in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." In 1995, she appeared in an episode of "Friends" as Mindy, Rachel's best friend who slept with her fiancée back before the show began. You might have also spotted her as Abbey, a new mother with a mystery illness on an episode of "House M.D.," as Carol, the mother of a runaway soccer star on "Grey's Anatomy," or as Sharon, Jules' mother on "Dollface." 

As Grey later recalled to The Guardian, "Dirty Dancing" felt like fate — as she put it, it "felt like it was made for me." Even that iconic lift was pretty magical for Grey. "I'd never done it before that moment," she said. "They had three cameras going and we only did it once. It was ridiculous because I couldn't rehearse it. I couldn't make myself do it and I hated myself for not trying it. There was something really emotional about it, too. You can see it on my face: I'm like: 'Oh my God, I f***ing did it!'"

Patrick Swayze died in 2009 after a career as a leading man

Back in the '80s and '90s, there were few stars as beloved as Patrick Swayze. After starring in "The Outsiders" as the tragic Darrel, the actor went on to find fame in "Dirty Dancing." This was followed by starring roles in "Ghost," "Road House," and "Point Break," which made him one of Hollywood's hottest leading men around. Throughout the early 2000s, Swayze continued acting, appearing in "Donnie Darko," "One Last Dance," and the "Dirty Dancing" sequel. One of his last roles was starring on A&E's FBI show "The Beast." Swayze was married to his childhood sweetheart, Lisa Niemi, until he died of pancreatic cancer in 2009 at the age of 57.

During a 2002 appearance on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," Swayze spoke about his love for "Dirty Dancing." While speaking about the sequel, which he did end up having a cameo in, he explained, "People in Hollywood, once they get, you know, decide they've got a formula on something, they decide to run it into the ground, and they didn't realize that the power of that movie was not Patrick Swayze swinging his butt, but it was about heart."

Jerry Orbach died in 2004 after a long career on Law & Order

In "Dirty Dancing," Jerry Orbach played Jake Houseman, Baby's strict but supportive father. Orbach was already known for his extensive career on stage, which began with a number of Broadway roles in the '50s. He also landed a number of roles in the '60s and '70s in TV and film. However, his role in "Dirty Dancing" would turn out to be one of his most memorable. He also found fame as the voice of Lumière, the French candelabra in "Beauty and the Beast." His longest-running role, though, was playing Detective Lennie Briscoe on "Law & Order," a role he took on in 1991 and continued to play until his death in 2004.

His "Dirty Dancing" co-star, Patrick Swayze, once said in an interview with the American Film Institute that he looked up to Orbach as an inspiration. "Jerry Orbach has been one of the most successful actors that ever lived to make that transition from musical theater into real, organic, break-your-heart kinds of reality in his work as a film actor, but transition back and forth seamlessly," said Swayze.

Cynthia Rhodes is now retired

Cynthia Rhodes starred as Penny Johnson, Johnny's dance partner and one-time love interest. Penny was Rhodes' biggest onscreen role — in fact, aside from "Dirty Dancing," she was best known as a dancer, having appeared in a number of music videos and small roles in dance films like "Flashdance" and "Staying Alive." She took on her last role in 1991, playing Vickie in the little-known adventure film "Curse of the Crystal Eye." After that, Rhodes decided to retire from Hollywood in order to spend more time with her family and raise her children.

Another reason Rhodes may have left performing behind was that she was simply tired of the difficult hours required. "We rehearsed every day for about 10 hours a day to make it look like Patrick and I had been dancing together all of our lives," Rhodes later said in an interview about her "Dirty Dancing" experience. "So, it was really hard rehearsals, that's why I keep saying, 'I'm never gonna dance again, I'm tired of dancing.'" Fair enough!

Kelly Bishop is now best known for Gilmore Girls

Kelly Bishop starred as Baby's mother, Marjorie Houseman. She had initially started out as a dancer and actor on Broadway, getting her big break in the original cast of "A Chorus Line." She went on to act on stage and, eventually, TV and film. After "Dirty Dancing" came a recurring role on "As the World Turns," among other guest roles. She landed another huge role in 2000 when she was cast as Emily Gilmore, Rory's snobbish grandmother, on "Gilmore Girls." She went on to play the role for seven years. She later reprised the role in 2016 in "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life." Other more recent projects have included "Bunheads," "Friends With Kids," "Art of Falling in Love," and a short stint on "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." At this point, Bishop is a TV legend.

Even though Bishop can count "Dirty Dancing" as one of her biggest roles, at the time, Bishop was worried about the film. "We didn't think it was going to be a good movie. We didn't," she confessed to CTV News. However, despite her hesitations about the film, it went on to become a huge success. It even helped Bishop break out of a typecasting rut. "What was good about the role was that I'd always played the other woman, that character I was cast for originally, and this changed me into more of a mom, which broadened my outlook a little bit," she said.

Jane Brucker continued acting, though Dirty Dancing is her claim to fame

Jane Brucker frequently stole the show in "Dirty Dancing" as Lisa, Baby's stuck-up older sister. Before "Dirty Dancing," Jane Brucker had appeared on "One Life to Live" and "Miami Vice." After "Dirty Dancing," she appeared in several other '80s films, like "Stealing Home" and "Bloodhounds of Broadway." In the 2000s, she had a few other small roles, up until the film "Bright Day!" in 2010. In 2022, she also appeared as a judge on Fox's "The Real Dirty Dancing" dance competition show.

Not only is Brucker best remembered for "Dirty Dancing," but she's probably also best remembered for one specific scene in the film — that's right, the singing scene, when Lisa performs a supremely awkward rendition of a song called "Hula Hana." As Brucker later told Entertainment Weekly, she actually wrote the song herself. "They wanted 'Some Enchanted Evening,' and it was too expensive," she recalled. "They were going to cut it. Either [screenwriter] Eleanor [Bergstein] or Emile said, 'Unless you wanna write something?'" So, she wrote "Hula Hana." Thank goodness she did because it's completely iconic.

Lonny Price is a well-known Broadway director

You might remember Lonny Price as Neil Kellerman, the nephew of resort owner Max Kellerman. Although Price went on to appear in a few more films and TV shows, including "Law & Order" and "2 Broke Girls," most of his acting career has been spent on stage. Throughout the '80s, he appeared on Broadway in shows like "Merrily We Roll Along," "The Survivor," and "Rags."

After a while, though, he turned his attention to directing. "I was limited by my physicality and constantly playing short, bald Jews who were either nerds or accountants," he later told Backstage of his decision to stop acting. "I thought I had more to say and the roles that were coming my way were less and less interesting." So, he became a prolific Broadway director, helming productions both on Broadway and the West End, such as "Pal Joey," "Finian's Rainbow," "Candide," "Anyone Can Whistle," "Sunset Boulevard," "Carousel," and many others.

As a former actor, Price takes an actor-centric approach to directing. After all, he knows what it's like. "I was an actor for many years, and I think my best work was done in a room where I wasn't afraid, where I was encouraged to try things and allowed to fail, and even fail big," he told Roundabout Theatre, adding, "For me, the acting is always paramount."

Miranda Garrison appeared as a dancer in numerous other films – including the Dirty Dancing sequel

Miranda Garrison played a supporting role in "Dirty Dancing" as Vivian Pressman, the married woman who, it is implied, had an affair with Johnny. Garrison is a dancer and most of her screen roles before and after "Dirty Dancing" were in dance films. Her best known appearances include "Xanadu," "Salsa," "Looking for Lola," and "Blind Justice." In 2004, she also appeared as a dancer in "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights." When not appearing onscreen, Garrison often worked as a choreographer on film sets. 

She also became a judge on "Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life" on Living in 2007, which was filmed on the actual "Dirty Dancing" set. "Revisiting the set of 'Dirty Dancing' was the ultimate 'coming home,'" Garrison told Female First at the time. "It is amazing to pass on to yet another generation 21 years later the magic of this location and experience!" She added, "My memories of making this film are fantastic. I honestly 'had the time of my life!'"

Wayne Knight became famous for Seinfeld, Jurassic Park, and other comedies

When he appeared as Stan, the goofy camp activities coordinator, in "Dirty Dancing," Wayne Knight was hardly a household name — in fact, he had only appeared in a few small film roles. However, after the success of "Dirty Dancing," Knight went onto find fame as Newman, Jerry's nemesis, in "Seinfeld," as assistant district attorney John Correli in "Basic Instinct," and as Dennis Nedry in "Jurassic Park." After that, his career took off: He now has over a 120 credits to his name. 

In spite of all of his successes, Knight still looks back on "Dirty Dancing" as his big break. In fact, when he first got the audition, he couldn't believe it. "I went in to audition for this thing, and I kind of ad-libbed some jokes or whatever, and ... Stan was going to be this small, nothing role in the movie, but it's a movie!" he recalled to AV Club. "I'm gonna be in a feature!" Knight went on to add that making the film was an extremely fun experience. "We're trapped in these lodges in these dry counties in the South with Jack Weston and Jerry Orbach and Kelly Bishop and all these dancers. ... And they have trucks going down the hill to other places to bring back alcohol, 'cause there's nothing to do there except to just watch what happens when you mix young dancers with alcohol," he said. "Lemme tell ya, it's fantastic!"

Jack Weston died in 1996 after a long career

Jack Weston played Max Kellerman, the owner of the resort where Baby and her family spend the summer. Like many of the other older cast members, Weston got his start on stage on Broadway before breaking into TV and film in the '50s. Onscreen, he became known for appearances in gangster movies along with his comedic roles. By 1968, he had starred in "The Thomas Crown Affair," which proved to be a life-changing role. "I have a Porsche, my wife has a Mercedes, and I've hired a business manager, a personal manager, and a publicity agent," he told one interviewer, explaining that he had finally made it. His career continued along smoothly, and he landed the role of Max in "Dirty Dancing" two decades later.

"Dirty Dancing" ended up being his second to last screen role — he played Oscar Baldwin in "Short Circuit 2" one year later. In 1996, just nine years after "Dirty Dancing's" release, Weston died of lymphoma. 

Neal Jones has left acting behind

In "Dirty Dancing," Neal Jones played Billy Kostecki, Johnny's cousin. After years of acting on stage, it was the actor's first onscreen role but not his last — he went on to appear in "Romeo Is Bleeding," "Glengarry Glen Ross," and "In America." He also popped up in episodes of "Criminal Minds," "Law & Order," "Generation Kill," "Rescue Me," "The Sopranos," and "Sex and the City." 

"I hadn't really been interested all that much in the cinema or in television," Jones told HoboTrashcan of his time filming "Dirty Dancing." "I was kind of a theater geek. But I began to go audition for various things that were TV and film and lo and behold, one of the first ones I went on was the audition for 'Dirty Dancing.' And I managed to get an offer." Although you've probably seen Jones in a few projects over the years, he's never quite become a household name — and apparently, that's the way he likes it. "That was always my dream and my avowed intention, to be able to act a variety of roles without the audience having to be taken out of the project by thinking, 'Oh, that's that guy from whatever' ... I always was very anxious to try to do things that were, in my opinion, interesting and varied."

As of 2023, he hasn't taken on a new screen role in over a decade.

Charles 'Honi' Coles, best known as a dancer, died in 1992 – Dirty Dancing was his last role

In "Dirty Dancing," Charles "Honi" Coles played Tito Suarez, the tap dancer and band conductor. Coles was primarily known as a singer and dancer, and this was one of his only screen roles. He had also appeared as a singer in films like "Charleston," "Rocky II," and "The Cotton Club." Coles was better known for his stage performances — over the years, he starred in numerous productions, including "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "Hello, Dolly!," "Bubbling Brown Sugar," and "My One and Only," which earned him a Tony Award. Later in life, he taught the history of black dance at Yale. In 1991, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts for his long career.

He died in 1992 of cancer, just five years after the release of "Dirty Dancing." He left behind a wife, two children, and several grandchildren.