Lake Lure officials were approached in 1986 by film producers wanting to film an entire movie in the town. The proposal was turned down, as certain landmarks would have been completely reconstructed. I’ll bet those officials were kicking themselves later when that film went on to become a top-grossing movie and prompt three decades in home video sales… the movie in question being Dirty Dancing. Eventually the 1987 classic starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey was partially filmed in Lake Lure, although primary filming was conducted at Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, VA.
Set in the fictitious Kellerman’s Resort in the Catskills, Frances “Baby” Houseman falls in love with dance instructor Johnny Castle. The lake and river scenes were mainly filmed around the western end of the lake (near the marina), while the famous dance practice scenes were shot on a specially-constructed platform in the lake. It turns out the water can be chilly in October… Good thing for Patrick it wasn't a cold day in February!
Located just down the road from the marina is the 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa. With a backdrop of mountains, the rooms overlook the Town Center Walkway and offer views of Lake Lure and Morse Park. Having undergone an extensive renovation in 2005, visitors have a choice of guest rooms, suites and bungalows, and features include a spa, restaurant and lounge.
Not only did the actors, producers and other staff stay at the 1927 Lake Lure Inn while filming in 1986, but some of the restaurant scenes were filmed in the Inn’s Veranda Restaurant and the mirrored practice room is now Roosevelt Hall. There’s a nod to the fame Dirty Dancing has brought with a Swayze Suite (though the actor actually slept in Room 205), a Jennifer Grey Suite, Baby's Bungalow and Johnny's Cabin, but other famous guests who have stayed at the hotel include Franklin D. Roosevelt, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter on their honeymoon.
Today the hotel is filled with antiques, paintings and old photographs dotting the walls. In the lobby is a rare collection of antique, upright disc music boxes, including an authentic Regina, Symphonion, Polyphon, Stella and Fortuna. The keys on a player piano depress as if touched by a ghost, while in the corner an old Badenia stands, behind whose closed cabinet doors can be found a full orchestra: piano, violin and cello pipes, orchestra bells, snare drums, a Chinese cymbal and xylophone. The rooms are clean and comfortable, the décor nostalgic and stately.
The scenes of Swayze and friends dancing in their cabins were filmed not far away at the former Chimney Rock Camp for Boys. While visitors to Lake Lure can still step into the movie in the Inn’s Veranda Restaurant, they can’t visit the camp cabins as the land is now a gated residential development called Firefly Cove. The 54-acre site's 41 plots initially cost $600,000 - $1.5 million... and that's just the lot! The people who built their house where the dining hall used to stand (and Baby takes her first dance steps with Johnny) are Dirty Dancing fans, and actually incorporated the hall's foundation stone into the design of their home.
On the east end of the lake on the Lake Lure Golf & Beach Resort golf course is another site that was used in the film. There is a sign at the hole where Baby asks her father for money for an abortion for Johnny's dance partner, but be prepared to play a round of golf to see it. The steps on which Baby practices her moves are still on a hillside somewhere in the area as well.
Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer in 2009, but his legacy lives on; not only in the Dirty Dancing Festival that takes places annually in Lake Lure, but also in the rooms of The 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa. Dirty Dancing fans should not miss this corner of Lake Lure in their explorations, however it doesn’t take a movie buff to appreciate the historical and aesthetic qualities of this grand hotel. And hey, if it’s Valentine’s Day? Make sure you sing a few bars! (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life…
Baby: Me? I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, I'm scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you.