Jerry Priest is glad “his” house is available to be shared with the world.
Priest was talking about his former residence at 731 N. St. Louis Ave., now known as The Outsiders House Museum.
The museum celebrated an opening weekend with a VIP ribbon-cutting ceremony and bus tours of “The Outsiders” filming locations. The house served as the home of the Curtis Brothers (portrayed by C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze) during the making of the filmed-in-Tulsa movie.
You probably know all of this by now.
You may be tired of reading about it.
But, uncharted waters, you haven’t read Priest’s story yet.
Actors in the movie pretended to live in the home. Priest is among people who actually lived in the home. Now, he lives across the street in a little metal structure that once served as an office for his family’s paint and body shop.
If you cruise down Independence Street, you may see Priest standing outside or having coffee with neighbors. Go ahead and act neighborly if you spot him.
“I like to talk to people,” Priest said.
Priest, 63, stood in front of his soon-to-be former residence (“I’ve got to find me a place to live”) and told stories about the more famous of his former dwellings.
His father, Lewis Priest, was a past owner of the Outsiders House. The Priest family was living at 731 N. St. Louis Ave. in the 1980s when scouts were scouring Tulsa for possible “Outsiders” filming locations.
The Priests agreed to temporarily move out of their home so director Francis Ford Coppola could convert it into the Curtis Brothers’ home. They were paid for the inconvenience. Priest and location manager Jim Clark, in separate interviews, said the sum was in the thousands, though their figures didn’t quite match. Clark said the Priests were tenants at the time, and the house’s owner also received financial considerations for use of the home.
According to property documents, Lewis Priest bought the house for $35,000 the year (1983) the movie was released. Jerry Priest was in his 20s when the movie was made, which means he was a little younger than Swayze and older than the other greasers who made themselves at home in his living room.
The Priests stayed close, relocating a few footsteps away. Jerry pointed out where he lived (the body shop office) and where family members lived (a house next door to the office) while scenes were being shot for the movie. He said crowds sometimes gathered in their driveway to get a peek at what was going on across the street. He was granted permission to join them by his father, who told him to stay away from the film site.
That doesn’t mean Jerry was devoid of star encounters.
For instance: Taught to mix drinks by an aunt, he said he once made a “dirty mother” for Swayze when the actor paid a visit. He asked Swayze if he liked it. According to Jerry, Swayze said, “How would you like to come to California to be my bartender?” Jerry’s father overheard and said, “He’s going to stay right here.”
Jerry said he was mowing a yard once when actor Ralph Macchio paused to visit. Jerry said one of the things they talked about was, “Why did they cut me out of the picture?” The back story: Jerry said he was filmed kissing his girlfriend in front of the gate at his home. “Then they cut me out of it,” he said. “I had long hair.” Translation: He didn’t look like a greaser.
A former farm kid from LeFlore County, Jerry said he has lived at different residences in his current neighborhood since he was 11. The Outsiders House means something to him because it was the site of family holiday gatherings.
“We had big dinners and stuff there,” he said. “We would sit down and eat and talk. Sometimes, you couldn’t talk very much because all you do is hear other people.”
Was it a big deal for the Priests when “The Outsiders” was filmed at their home?
“It made me feel good because Daddy liked it,” Jerry said. “Me and Daddy had our ups and owns, but that was something for him to be known by. So I loved it, and I loved it for him, too. He never had nothing like that. He has always been a country guy out there working in the fields and stuff like that.”
The Priests lost the home to foreclosure in 2007. The price tag at a sheriff’s sale was $6,000.
“They kicked me out, and I moved down the street here,” Jerry said.
Jerry is pleased current owner Danny O’Connor restored the home and converted it into a museum.
“It’s a monument now,” he said. “People come up and look at it. I walk out and talk to them.”
Museums are public places. This one is personal.
“This is my home,” he said. “And it will always be my home.”
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