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Patrick Swayze's Widow: 'Complicated' Mom Abused Him

Lisa Niemi reveals late husband's volatile relationship with mother in new documentary
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2019 8:02 AM CDT
In this June 1978 photo, actor Patrick Swayze, right, dances with his mother, Patsy Swayze, center, and his wife, Lisa Niemi, at Patsy Swayze's dance studio in Houston.   (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Tom Colburn)
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(Newser) – Patrick Swayze's mother was a "complicated woman," one the Dirty Dancing star "absolutely loved and respected," his widow, Lisa Niemi, told People in an interview ahead of Sunday night's premiere of the I Am Patrick Swayze documentary on the Paramount Network. What made the late Patsy Swayze complicated, however, per Niemi: She was abusive toward her famous actor-dancer son, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2009 at age 57. USA Today notes that Niemi doesn't ever explicitly spell out whether Patrick Swayze's choreographer mom was physically or verbally abusive, though it appears from reading between the lines that physical altercations did play a role in their relationship. In the film, Niemi says Patsy Swayze could be "very violent" on occasion, and she recalls one story her late husband told her about his 18th birthday.

In that incident, Niemi says Swayze, who went by the nickname "Buddy," told her his mother "was laying into [him]" and that she had to be pried off of him by his dad, who proceeded to "[slam] her against the wall" and threaten divorce if she went after their son again. "She never hit [Patrick] after that," Niemi tells People, adding that Patsy Swayze had grown up with an abusive mother herself and "was really an example of what happens in families in a cycle of abuse." Still, the actor and his mother made their peace with each other, Niemi says: "She figured out that if she was going to be around us, she needed to be a little nicer, and that's what she did." Niemi adds the only fleeting reference made about any abuse by Patsy Swayze, who died in 2013 at the age of 86, was when she noted: "Well, you know, sometimes I could be strict, I'm that kind of a teacher." (Read more Patrick Swayze stories.)

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