Fresno Teenagers Get An Insider's Look at the Matt Dillon Movie They Inspired

updated 04/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

The scene: Lone Star Elementary School in Fresno, Calif. Hordes of teenage girls are howling for Leif Garrett, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon and other heartthrobs starring in Francis Coppola's new film, The Outsiders. When the fab hunks emerge from their tour of the school library, the girls mob them, requesting autographs and stealing kisses. "How old are they?" Garrett, 21, wonders aloud after a blizzard of passionate smooches. "Their bodies say 12 and their kisses say 18." When the girls chase Swayze, a remarkably young 31, into a bathroom, Lone Star principal Bob Kirchner appeals for order. "Leave those boys alone," he bellows.

A Fresno County public school is an unlikely spot for a movie premiere, but there was a reason for the locale of this St. Patrick's Day fete: The film might never have been made were it not for the enthusiasm of Lone Star students Kristy Yeramian and Jennifer Lewis. In 1980 the girls convinced their eighth-grade English teacher to read to the class their favorite book, The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. With the aid of school librarian Jo Ellen Misakian, they got 78 student signatures on a petition to Coppola urging him to film the novel. One year later Coppola read the book, was moved to tears, and decided to honor the students' request. But Yeramian and Lewis—now 11th graders at Fresno's Sanger High School—had something other than literature on their minds when they returned to their elementary school for the special day. In modish flip hairdos, they eagerly joined the crowd mobbing the cast. "When Leif Garrett kissed me," shrieked Lewis later, "I felt myself get red as a lobster." And that, students agreed, was the most exciting thing that has happened at the Lone Star library in years.

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