H.A.C. to host ‘Dirty Dancing’ anniversary event

By Amanda Loviza

HURLEYVILLE — Hurleyville will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the movie “Dirty Dancing” with true local flavor at the Hurleyville Arts Centre on Saturday, July 22.

Local legend and inspiration for the character Penny, Jackie Horner, will introduce a screening of the film at the Hurleyville Arts Centre Saturday evening, and answer questions about Catskills resort life. Ms. Horner taught dance at Grossinger’s Resort from 1954 to 1986, and was involved in the making of the film in the 1980s. When the film was finally made in 1987, it had a small budget and low expectations.

“At the beginning, people said, ‘Why are you doing this little movie in the Catskills? Another piece of fluff,’” Ms. Horner said.

But those involved in the movie, like screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein who was the real-life “Baby,” were part of the Catskills resort culture for decades, and felt like they had countless stories to tell.

“Those were the best of times,” Ms. Horner said. “They were great years.”

Jackie Horner, a longtime dance instructor at Grossinger’s resort and inspiration for the character Penny in “Dirty Dancing” stands by her car during a recent visit to the Hurleyville Arts Centre. Ms. Horner will be speaking at an anniversary screening of the film on Saturday, July 22.

Ms. Horner was a dance instructor just like Penny, and she’ll regale anyone with tales of late-night staff parties and endless dance lessons. Her husband, Lou Goldstein, also worked at Grossinger’s as an entertainer. Their entire lives were at the resort, and they loved it, said Ms. Horner, who now lives in an apartment in Liberty that she calls a “museum” of the resort days.

The film “Dirty Dancing” was a surprise smash hit, and remains a household name.

“You know, I’ve only seen the film once,” Ms. Horner said. “I cried and I couldn’t watch it again.”

On Saturday, July 22, the day will kick off with an all-body inclusive fashion show, featuring the dancers of Heidi Latsky Dance and set to the soundtrack of “Dirty Dancing.” The fashion show will happen outside in front of the Hurleyville Arts Centre, and during the afternoon there will be an outside barbecue and refreshments served inside the arts center. H.A.C. is partnering with the Sullivan County Museum to put some Borscht Belt memorabilia on display. At 5:30 p.m., Ms. Horner will speak to guests inside the H.A.C. cinema, and the film will be shown at 6 p.m. After the film, everyone will be encouraged to share their own Borscht Belt memories. At 8:30 p.m. there will be a special showing of “Bang! The Bert Berns Story,” a documentary about 1960s songwriter and record producer Bert Berns, who wrote hits like “Twist and Shout.” Admission to “Bang!” is included with admission to “Dirty Dancing.”

It will be a day full of dancing and music and nostalgia. H.A.C. Art Programs Coordinator Erin Dudley said she hopes families will bring their children and spend the whole day in Hurleyville, enjoying a salute to an important part of local lore.

“How cool is it that ‘Penny’ lives right here?’” Ms. Dudley said. “’Dirty Dancing’ has epitomized the Borscht Belt tradition for three decades, and this is an opportunity to celebrate the beautiful heritage that is unique to our region.”