Where are they now: Penny from ‘Dirty Dancing’ lives suburban-celebrity life

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk

She danced her way onto the big screen in the '80s and also into the heart of one well known pop star of the time -- Richard Marx ("Right Here Waiting" and "Now and Forever"). Always known as a woman who favored her moral compass over the seduction of fame, it is not entirely surprising to learn that Cynthia Rhodes happily chose family life over career.

Rhodes is perhaps best known for playing dance instructor Penny Johnson in the 1987 hit "Dirty Dancing." She starred alongside the late Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in a role that required not only her dancing chops but also some serious acting acumen. (Remember the scene when she's writhing in pain after an illegal abortion procedure? See the clip below.)

Rhodes got her start as a teen in the '70s acting and dancing at a Nashville, Tenn. theme park. By 1980 she got a small role in the campy Olivia Newton-John film "Xanadu." Rhodes' profile significantly increased in 1983 when she appeared in the less-acclaimed sequel to "Saturday Night Fever" -- "Staying Alive" -- as well as hit dance film "Flashdance."

A couple of films and a few years later, Rhodes landed her big role in "Dirty Dancing." But her rise to fame ended there.

Raised a Baptist, Rhodes is said to have turned down Playboy and films that called for nudity. So it's really no surprise to learn she decided to shun the spotlight completely for married life and motherhood.

It's hard to tell, but Rhodes is now 55 years old. "She looks exactly the same," her husband of more than 20 years, musician Richard Marx, recently told the Chicago Sun-Times. "She's just gorgeous as can be, and people still stop her constantly and say that they've seen 'Dirty Dancing' 74 times," he added.

The two live in Chicago's suburbs with their three sons. And Rhodes hasn't looked back -- at least that's what she's led Marx to believe. "One of the many things that Cynthia and I have in common is that we loved the work that we did, but neither of us ever liked the celebrity or the accoutrements," he said, adding that their 1994 decision to move back to the Midwest was an easy one.

Watch Cynthia Rhodes as Penny in 'Dirty Dancing':