Dirty Dancing Character Penny Was Based On A Real Person Jackie Horner
The Dirty Dancing character Penny was loosely based on the real-life entertainment icon, Jackie Horner. I had the great pleasure of interviewing Ms. Jackie Horner during the summer of 2009 for my book: The Fans' Love Story: How The Movie 'DIRTY DANCING' Captured The Hearts Of Millions!
Jackie spent the summer of 1985 telling Eleanor Bergstein (writer of Dirty Dancing) her story--including going through photos of the era, clothing, and hair styles and telling her various anecdotes from her experiences as a dance pro at Grossinger's from 1954-1986. Check out the Dirty Dancing screen credits and you will see Special Thanks to Jackie Horner.
Here is one anecdote from Jackie: "Shelly Winters, bless her heart, was a dear friend and a Grossinger guest so often. One day she said, 'Jackie, you are going to get hurt practicing your lifts on these hard wood stages. Why don't you come down to the lake with me on Sunday and practice your dance lifts in the lake?'" Jackie was involved in stealing vodka-spiked watermelons for staff parties. Jackie taught a couple who was stealing and her partner was blamed for it. Sound familiar? Note though that Penny had an abortion and Jackie did not have an abortion--although per Jackie, there were other staff at the hotel who did.
Presently, Jackie continues her illustrious career/her life's work--in fact she doesn't seem to be slowing down at all, and is such an inspiration. Jackie has a dance studio in the Catskills, teaches at Kutshers Hotel (one of the few remaining great Catskills' resorts) and at many various dance workshops; including her annual Spring Dance Festival. She has recently been filmed in two documentaries on the Catskills. She gives lectures on Dirty Dancing and has a special Dirty Dancing weekend coming up in November. And these are only some of the activities she is involved in.
Regarding Jackie's dance background, Jackie began taking dance lessons at the age of four and started as a touring professional at fourteen. She was a Rockette and a member of the June Taylor dance company. Here is an excerpt from "Biographical Sketch--Jackie Horner."
"Ms. Horner has danced throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America in night clubs, theaters, and television's top variety shows . . . At present, she teaches dance here in the Catskills, collges, regional theaters and choreographs musical theater productions as well as appearing in some . . . The Catskills are her magical mountains, where her happiest moments have been spent teaching the Stars of Hollywood, television and all the guests who come on vacations these many years."
Jackie met her husband of fifty years, Lou Goldstein, at Grossinger's. He was the entertainment and sports director there and became known as "Mr. Simon Sez."
A big thank you to Jackie for her 1985 consulting work on Dirty Dancing and her activities that help keep the film alive in so many people's hearts.