Twister (The Movie) Museum
Alas, the late Hollywood actor Bill Paxton will never be able to pick up his Wakita brick.
Wakita, starring as itself, was destroyed by a giant tornado in the 1996 movie Twister. The film co-starred Paxton. It was the second-highest-grossing film of that year, it made storm chasing into a sexy profession, and it put Wakita's Twister (The Movie) Museum on the map as a tourist attraction.
Bricks were salvaged from the movie-tornado rubble, engraved "Twister Wakita 95," and sold as souvenirs. Most of them later crumbled with age (their scraps were then packed in baggies as "genuine Twister debris"), but one brick has been preserved. It was kept at the Museum -- to be given to Paxton when he returned.
He never did.
According to museum director Linda Wade, Wakita was chosen for Twister because it's an isolated farm town, at the end of a county road, and because it had already been partly destroyed by a hailstorm. "They needed debris," said Linda. "Basically, the whole town was their set. Five blocks, sidewalk-to-sidewalk, head-high debris."
Wakita was also chosen because it's in a part of the U.S. that gets a lot of tornadoes. "I've stood on Main Street and seen three or four," said Linda.
Despite the presence of real twisters, Wakita's streets have been rubble-free since the film crew left in the summer of 1995 ("It took a month to clean out," said Linda). Some of the more charismatic junk was saved and assembled into a mini-wall of Twister debris that greets visitors as they enter the museum, which is in the film's old downtown location office. There's a photo display of local celebrity meteorologists, and dozens of t-shirts from visiting storm chasers (One reads, "I chase flying cows"). A Citation of Commendation from Oklahoma's lieutenant governor praises Wakita for "representing our state with pride" and "showing the world that Oklahoma can help produce a major motion picture."
The most famous item in the Museum is Dorothy I, a tornado-cracking machine that was smashed when the film's heroes tried to place it in a twister's path. According to Linda there are two surviving "pretty" Dorothys and one "with character" -- the one at the Twister Museum. "Mine is the one that has movie damage. That's important," said Linda. Dorothy I is on permanent display at the museum except when she's rolled into Linda's pickup and driven, as a prized local relic, to the annual Monster Truck Rally in Enid.
The museum opened in September 1995, eight months before the film did, and Linda said that the town was told to expect public interest to last about two years. "I keep thinking it's gonna die down, but it doesn't," said Linda. The museum's small size and homespun collection also haven't discouraged visitors. "The majority of them are such fanatical fans that they're pleased as punch when they come," Linda said. "It's amazing for Wakita being in the middle of nowhere."
And why did the museum save a brick for Bill Paxton? Linda said, simply, "He was our favorite," and described how in 1995 he showed up with a football and played catch with everyone, signed autographs, and "took pictures with all us ladies." A film of edited home videos in the museum show Paxton lofting the pigskin, which he later gave to the museum as an exhibit. He also donated a Twister pinball machine (set to Free Play) and a hand-written note thanking the people of Wakita "for helping me feel at home."
The only thing Bill never did was to show up to collect his brick.
Will Hollywood ever return to Wakita? For a Twister sequel or prequel? Or a remake? If it does, the Bill Paxton brick will likely still be there, as a memorial to Wakita's favorite actor in the Twister Museum.