More to the Story: Stacy Widelitz
By Taylor Harrington 3/29/2021 9:00pm EST
Composer Stacy Widelitz, who wrote “She’s Like the Wind” alongside Patrick Swayze, sat down for an intimate conversation about his own journey and the joy he has found along the way.
“She’s Like the Wind” was created two years before Dirty Dancing for the Patrick Swayze film Grandview, U.S.A. Luckily the song was rejected until one day Patrick played it on the set of Dirty Dancing in North Carolina and they wanted to use it.
“It was a little bit of a fateful thing. They wanted to use it because nobody thought the film was going to do anything. The word on the street was that Dirty Dancing was going to be in theaters for a week and then straight to video. The movie and soundtrack were a worldwide hit. It became iconic and was almost like a rite of passage for young women. It’s like they turn 15 years old, and now they’re allowed to watch Dirty Dancing.”
When asked how Stacy met Patrick he says that they met in an acting class in 1983 when he accompanied his friend on piano for a scene in the class which was also class to young greats at the time such as a young Alec Baldwin, Tom Selleck. Patti Reagan-Davis, and Mimi Rogers.
“As I was packing up my music, the class took a break, and this guy came over and he had this kind of husky Texan accent. He said, “Hi, I’m Buddy,” which is how I knew him. Friends and family called him Buddy.”
They talked about music and theater, and Stacy told his new friend that he looked familiar. Patrick listed off some of the movies such as The Outsiders that he had been in, but Stacy knew that wasn’t how he recognized the man. Mid conversation, a blonde woman walked up to the two of them, and introduced herself as Patrick’s wife Lisa. In that moment, it clicked for Stacy.
“Okay, I’ve got it! You two are always working on a black 240 Z on La Jolla Avenue on the weekends. And so they said, “Yeah, how do you know that.” And I said, “I live right around the block from you.” So it turned out we lived two houses away from each other. I was living with my girlfriend at the time who was a great singer, Wendy Fraser, who actually sings on the final version of “She’s Like the Wind”. The four of us started hanging out and became friends.
Patrick knew that Stacy was writing music for television at the time, and so he asked the composer for help on a little song he was working on for a movie called Grandview, U.S.A., which ended up being “She’s Like the Wind”.
“He walked over to my house with his guitar and he sang me the first lines that he had and he only had two chords at that point C, then E-minor. He had the opening like, “She’s Like the Wind through my trees, she rides the night next to me”, which I liked and then I didn’t like the third and fourth lines. So he said, “Well, what would you write?”, I said, “She leads me through moonlight only to burn me with the sun.” And he said, What does that mean, and I said, “I don’t care, let’s just write it down” and we were off and running. Over the next two or three nights we pretty much had it hashed out and did the demo of it. Fortunately, it wasn’t used in Grandview U.S.A. The song sat in a drawer for two years until he (Patrick Swayze) played it on the set of Dirty Dancing.”
Patrick and his wife got their pilot’s licenses in the early 90s, and at the time Stacy was living with his girlfriend Karen Richmond, who was Gidget in The New Gidget. Karen was not a fan of small planes, but when the invitation to fly out for dinner with Patrick, Lisa, and Stacy came up, it was too hard to pass up. The four of them left the Santa Monica airport to fly to Santa Barbara for a night out. It took some convincing, but Stacy says Patrick was one of the most obsessive compulsive people, and would go through his checklist five times before flying. The couples enjoyed the flight out and a nice dinner and were heading back home.
“At this point, it’s dark out and the Santa Monica airport is in the middle of the city, full of lights, making the runway difficult to see. We’ve all got on headphones and Karen and I are in the backseat. I distinctly heard Buddy say to Lisa through the headphones, “I think that’s the runway.” Karen gripped my arm and she said, “Did he just say what I think he said?!”
They managed to find the runway, but Stacy will never forget that moment.
Stacy started piano when he was eight years old. After flunking out of the school band, even having a note sent home to his parents that read: “Please return Stacy’s flute. I’m dropping him from the band as he exhibits no musical ability whatsoever”, Stacy’s family soon got an old piano and he sat down with his cousin, who gave him his first lesson.
By age 15 Stacy was in a lounge band. The other members were older than Stacy was, and they were asked to play regularly at a club called The Port Royale Room on Long Island. The other members were 18 and old enough to be in the venue, but Stacy was not. The manager of the club told Stacy that as long as he had a piece of paper with his name on it, and a birthday saying that he was old enough to be there, he could stay. When Stacy told his dad this and that he was going to be paid to play every Friday and Saturday night, his dad took Stacy’s birth certificate into the basement and altered the age on it to make him be 18 years old. He still has the certificate with the altered age on it to this day.
At eighteen years old, Stacy started working with a man named Lou Stein, who wrote jingles and told Stacy that he was a good musician but a better composer. Stacy soon realized that Lou was right and started following that path. At age 24 Stacy was still living with Wendy and her dad was a producer for television, who gave them a shot at a new show that he had. Stacy says Wendy’s father put a stipulation in place that he had to like it, his wife had to like it, the star had to like it, and the syndicator had to like it.
“He said that if we could satisfy all four of those things, then we get the job. We did it. It was a new show called The Richard Simmons Show, which went on to be a huge hit.”
After he got The Richard Simmons Show Stacy knew it was time to move to California and booked his next gig within two weeks of moving to LA. His first time on the NBC Universal lot, a blue Mercedes convertible went by with Johnny Carson driving, and that’s the moment Stacy realized he was in the midst of the business.
Stacy tells us of a show he worked on called Erie, Indiana, which he says was a lot of fun because he could really use his creative side. Stacy will watch a scene, and react to it emotionally, and then try and convey that emotion to the audience.
When asked what his inspiration for writing is, Stacy says, “Fear. Fear of not getting the job done.”
In 2015 Stacy went to Florence, Italy for a songwriters conference being conducted by songwriter Gretchen Peters. For this trip, Stacy bought a new camera and quickly fell in love with its black and white function. Throughout his time in Italy, Stacy would capture different black and white images of people at the marketplace, in cafes, and on the street. After printing some of these photos, Stacy was encouraged to put together a portfolio and showed them to a friend that was the curator at Oz Arts at the time. This friend was convinced Stacy needed a one man show at a gallery in downtown Nashville, and Anne Brown decided to do a show of Stacy’s work in 2019, which they called “Second Act”. Four of Stacy’s pieces have since been sold, and his passion for photography can be found at www.StacyWidelitz.com.
Whether it is on film through his music or through his black and white photography, being a composer has truly helped Stacy become a great storyteller. Stacy hopes to spend more time in Europe traveling and taking photographs with his best friend, rescue pup, Max.
The full interview can be seen below on our YouTube Channel or listened to everywhere podcasts are available.
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