ON the surface, the film Dirty Dancing is a romance about raunchy dance routines. But it is much more than that.

The Sixties-set flick, which saw innocent Frances “Baby” Houseman, 17, fall for 25-year-old dance instructor Johnny Castle, taught a generation of women what it means to be confident and independent.

Now, a new book by comedian Katy Brand, I Carried A Watermelon: Dirty Dancing And Me, tells how the 1987 movie shaped her life.

Speaking to Fabulous Daily, Katy says: “It’s much more than just a chick flick — it’s an instruction manual for girls. Dirty Dancing has provided the template for my emotional life.

“It has shaped my attitudes to politics, class issues, love, casual sex, abortion, and, of course, my understanding of whether it’s possible to learn a complicated dance routine to perform in public in only a matter of days.”

The movie sees the pair flirting their way through dance lessons, culminating in them having sex. Katy adds: “When that astonishing sex scene finally happens, it is Baby who initiates it. She seduces Johnny.


“Here is a teenage girl losing her virginity with no misery, shame or tears — she loves sex.

"When you are brought up with the constant reinforcement that your virginity is both a hindrance and a prize, that the losing of it will be traumatic no matter how you do it — can you see what a pioneering concept that was?”

The film, featuring the late Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey as the leads, shows love-making in a way that is a far cry from sex-education lessons in school, which filled many young women with fear.

Katy adds: “Despite being set in the Sixties, it was very modern in its mindset and tells how teenage girls can love sex and not be “little minxes” or “sluts”. Who knew?

“Baby is not a silent, smiling, swishy-haired princess. She is outspoken, noisy and casual in her appearance. She finds a man in Johnny who respects all of that, loves it, even. He only wants to lift her higher.

“This film says, ‘Find a man like Johnny, and go get him. Don’t change yourself, change the man if necessary’.

“Johnny loves Baby for the amazing person she is — not because she is some perfectly formed sex goddess. It’s a decent message for a teenage girl, better than, ‘drink fruit-flavoured laxatives to be thin’.”

Yet Katy had not always realised what a profound effect the film had on her growing up. It was not until her 40th birthday that she had the Dirty Dancing epiphany.

It’s much more than just a chick flick — it’s an instruction manual for girls

She said: “My husband asked me what I wanted to do to mark the occasion. And I said, without hesitation, ‘I want to watch Dirty Dancing’.

As soon as I pressed play, and that opening to Big Girls Don’t Cry by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons came from the speakers, I was right back there where it all began.

“I felt excited and all these emotions came flooding back. I wanted to have a moment to reflect on the first 40 years of my life, to look back on my teenage years and compare myself now to the girl I was then.”

And the film does not shy away from difficult issues. In 1963, when Dirty Dancing is set, abortion was still illegal in the US.

Penny — Johnny’s glamorous dance partner — has no choice but to pay for an illegal procedure when she gets pregnant by one of the waiters.

“I can relate to Penny,” says Katy. In 2010, I became pregnant and was due to host an awards ceremony. During a rehearsal at a posh London hotel I started bleeding. My first thought was, ‘This isn’t right’.

My second thought was, ‘I wonder if I can keep it to myself long enough to do the job?’ It was paying a lot of money, and I didn’t want to let them down.

“But the bleeding grew heavier and I knew I had to call time. I walked into a room of strangers and quietly took the most senior person aside and said, ‘I’m very sorry.


"I think I am having a miscarriage and I need to go to hospital. I don’t think I will be able to host the show’. It is not something I would ever want to repeat.

“It was an early miscarriage and I was fine. The bleeding lasted another couple of weeks. But what I regret the most is that I fulfilled every other contractual obligation I had over the course of that fortnight.

"And all those times I honestly thought of Penny. She got me through it. Women go back to work when perhaps we’re not quite ready.”

In April, Katy flew to the Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia, US, aka the fictional Kellerman’s resort in Dirty Dancing, where holidaymaker Baby meets Johnny.

It usually operates as a normal hotel — but four times a year, it hosts a Dirty Dancing-themed weekend.

Thousands of superfans fly in from all over the world to learn the iconic dances, carry a watermelon, party in the barn where all the dancers hang out in the film, and compete in costume contests.

They can even rent the cabin where Baby and Johnny made love. Katy says: “When I arrived, the woman checking in ahead of me was wearing a Dirty Dancing T-shirt.

"Then I noticed she had watermelons painted on all of her nails because there is a scene at the beginning of the film where Baby carries one.

Despite the serious topics [Dirty Dancing] covers, the overriding message is one of hope

I was glad I’d packed my pink, frilly Baby dress. It is the perfect accessory for nailing the iconic lift.” It was not the first time Katy has had to learn a tricky dance at short notice.

In 2012, she appeared in the Strictly Christmas Special after a celebrity dropped out at the last minute. She says: “My partner was Anton du Beke.

"We performed the Viennese waltz. Not the sexiest of scenarios, but a blessing in many ways. It had been many years since I had last (successfully) done the splits, and I didn’t fancy Anton’s chances of lifting me over his head.

“So even though it would not be my hot and steamy Latin dream come true, it was going to be something more dignified.

“As I started the rehearsals I remember thinking, ‘This is it — it’s really happening’.

“I would have to learn a dance at short notice to cover for someone — just like Baby did when she stepped in for Penny.”

More than 32 years since it was first released, the movie remains one of the most romantic films of all time.

Katy thinks it appeals to every generation because it deals with life’s pain and complexity.  She adds: “It will never go out of fashion.

“Despite the serious topics it covers, the overriding message is one of hope.

“Be happy in your own skin and live life to the full — and if you fancy someone, don’t be afraid to make the first move.”

  • I Carried A Watermelon: Dirty Dancing And Me, by Katy Brand (HarperCollins £12.99), is out tomorrow.

BGT: The Champions – Paddy and Nicko dance to Time of my Life from Dirty Dancing
Source: Read Full Article