Out-of-towner saves neglected ‘Outsiders’ relic.
Rapper Danny O’Connor is renovating the house from the film “The Outsiders.” S.E. Hinton, who authored the book on which the film is based, donated items to O’Connor such as her call sheets, rewrites of the film scripts and a painting of the second book cover.
Danny O’Connor was terrified when he learned his offer to purchase a rundown bungalow in north Tulsa had been accepted earlier this year.
The house was home to the fictitious Curtis brothers in the 1982 film “The Outsiders,” but buying it sight unseen was a risky $15,000 investment.
Trashed, neglected and in disrepair, 731 N. St. Louis Ave. was destined for demolition, but O’Connor couldn’t stand the thought of losing a “national treasure.”
“I had no business buying a house in Tulsa, but it has been one of the greatest things I’ve ever been involved in,” he says.
O’Connor’s journey to owning and restoring “The Outsiders” house began while watching the movie as a kid. Based on the best-selling book by S.E. Hinton, he says the film’s storyline of rich kids versus poor kids growing up on different sides of the tracks “hooked him in from day one.” Originally from New York, O’Connor felt he could relate to Tulsa’s gang of greasers.
“I came out of that theater, and the first thing I looked to do was buy a pack of cigarettes and get myself a denim jacket,” he says. “‘The Outsiders’ felt like a timeless classic even when it was first released.”
A decade later, O’Connor found success touring the world as a member of the hit hip-hop group House of Pain, but music didn’t lead him to Tulsa until 2009 while performing with the group La Coka Nostra. Between shows at Cain’s Ballroom, O’Connor says he had an epiphany.
“It was like that line in the movie when Matt Dillon says, ‘What do people do for kicks around here?’ I thought, oh my God, ‘The Outsiders’ was filmed here.”
With the help of a knowledgeable cab driver, O’Connor received a personal tour of the movie’s filming locations with stops at the Curtis house, the Admiral Twin Drive-in and Crutchfield Park.
“I posted photos to Facebook, and my phone started ringing off the hook,” he says. “People were like, ‘Where are you?’ I said, ‘I’m in Tulsa!’”
The experience became his inspiration for develop-ing a group known as the Delta Bravo Urban Exploration team that searches U.S. cities for historic movie or album cover locations. On his cross-country travels, O’Connor regularly returned to Tulsa and visited “The Outsiders” house.
“Downtown was getting nicer, but the house kept getting worse,” he says. “I kept thinking if someone doesn’t save it, maybe we should.”
New Tulsa friends helped O’Connor track down the owner. She was willing to sell, and before long the Beverly Hills resident was a Tulsa property owner.
O’Connor is bringing the house up to code while restoring it as closely as possible to the way it looked during filming. The end product will be an informal mini museum. The rooms will be staged with furniture and fixtures from the movie set and also will house O’Connor’s private collection of “Outsiders” relics. He says the process is a collaborative effort.
“I’m only one small part of this,” he says. “So many people and neighbors have reached out with their support with offers to do all kinds of work on the house, donate materials or share their photos and stories from the movie. It has been incredible.”
Even Hinton expressed her support for the project, and O’Connor hopes to complete it by the book’s 50th anniversary in April 2017. Ultimately, he envisions offering his own tours of “Outsiders” filming locations.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” he says. “There’s something really special happening here. Tulsa has left that indelible mark on me, and moving here isn’t out of the question. I want to show other people the wonders of Tulsa.”
How to help
Learn more about Danny O’Connor’s project at www.gofundme.com/theoutsidershouse.
Since most of the furniture from the movie set was sold in Tulsa after filming wrapped, O’Connor hopes Tulsans with the original furniture will contact him. The rest of the set’s furniture will be replicated.
The Shrine will present “The Outsiders” House Renovation Fundraiser at 6 p.m., Aug. 6, at IDL Ballroom, 230 E. First St. The event will feature appearances by some of the film’s stars, including C. Thomas Howell (“Ponyboy”) and Darren Dalton (“Randy”); a silent auction; and performances by local artists. Visit www.tulsashrine.com.