Actor Allusion: When Kelly Bishop, playing Baby's mother, Marge, says of her daughter's dancing abilities, "She gets that from me." Kelly Bishop is a former ballet dancer who was in the original production of A Chorus Line. Jerry Orbach himself was also a well known dancer and he was Billy Flynn in the original production of Chicago. In fact, both musicals engaged in a famous rivalry for box office receipts and Tony awards when they opened within months of each other in 1975.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished : According to Word of God, they had to make up Cynthia Rhodes to look worse during the agony scene, because she was too beautiful without makeup to look convincing.
Creator Cameo : Writer/Producer Eleanor Bergstein is the woman Johnny is dancing with when Baby comes to get him after she finds Penny in the kitchen.
I Am Not Spock: Averted with Miranda Garrison, who continued her association with the film long after everyone else had pretty much moved on with their careers. In addition to appearing on the DVD's, Garrison was a judge on Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life, which was a British dance competition TV show that aired on British channel Sky Living and was presented by model Kelly Brook and featured top choreographer Sean Cheesman and Royal Ballet dancer and actress Jennifer Ellison as fellow judges. The show was taped at the Mountain Lake resort in Giles County, Virginia, where, coincidentally, the original movie was filmed.
It Will Never Catch On: When the film was screened for Aaron Russo, a producer at Vestron Pictures, his reaction to the film was "Burn the negative and collect the insurance."
Life Imitates Art: Near the end of the film, while some of the staffers are singing the resort's anthem, Max laments to the resort's bandleader, Tito Suarez, that he's having a hard time keeping customers at the resort, saying "Trips to Europe. That's what these kids want." Fast forward to 1990, when Vestron Pictures is having a hard time retaining former clients they had back when they were solely in the video distribution business.
Reality Subtext: Swayze and Grey didn't get along back when they appeared together in Red Dawn (1984). The tension seen on-screen during Baby's Training Montage (set to "Hungry Eyes") in particular had to do with their past working relationship, nerves, long hours, Grey's moods (ranging from crying due to not dealing with criticism well to bouts of the giggles), and Swayze's frustration with Grey. According to Swayze, one of the things that first broke down the barrier was his learning that Jennifer — daughter of famous Broadway dancer Joel Grey — had never learned how to dance; he apparently couldn't stop laughing for several minutes when she told him.
The Other Marty: Originally, Marge was played by Lynn Lipton, who is briefly seen in the beginning when the Houseman family first pulls into Kellerman's (she is in the front seat for a few seconds; her blonde hair is the only indication). Unfortunately, however, she became ill during the first week of shooting and was replaced by Kelly Bishop, who had already been cast to play Vivian. Ms. Bishop initially expressed reservations about the role of Marge, but Jerry Orbach convinced her to accept the role, telling her "Take it. It's much nicer." To play the role of Vivian, Miranda Garrison stepped in.
Throw It In : During the "Hungry Eyes" montage, when Baby and Johnny are practicing Baby turning and looking in Johnny's eyes and they bump noses, that was real. They kept it. Jennifer Grey was also ticklish and couldn't stop giggling when Patrick Swayze ran his hand down her side, much to everyone's annoyance. And the three-way dance scene came from rehearsals with the show's choreographer.
Grey and Swayze's discomfort during the training montage was real. See Reality Subtext above.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Billy Zane originally auditioned for the roles of Baby and Johnny, but they couldn't dance very well, and director Emile Ardolino only wanted experienced dancers in the film, to avoid the problems of using dance doubles, which occurred in Flashdance.
Writer and co-producer Eleanor Bergstein originally wanted her close friend, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Grey's father, Joel Grey, to play elderly resort guests and kleptomaniacs Mr. and Mrs. Schumacher, the actual culprits who stole Moe Pressman's wallet, but Westheimer dropped out when she discovered that the character was a thief and Joel Grey did not appear. Instead, the roles were played by Paula Trueman and Alvin Myerovitch.
Originally, Ms. Bergstein pitched the film to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and MGM executive Eileen Miselle actually approved it. Unfortunately, however, management changes at MGM placed the film into turnaround, until Vestron Pictures stepped in.
Later, when Vestron Pictures was looking for a corporate sponsor to help promote the film, Proctor & Gamble, manufacturers of Clearsil skin care and acne ointment, almost signed on feeling that it could be a vehicle to reach a teen target audience. The company backed out, however, due to their dislike of the Penny abortion subplot.