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Character Building

Rapper Danny Boy O’Connor has taken a childhood inspiration and turned it into an experience for all fascinated by 1983’s coming-of-age drama, "The Outsiders," with the renovation of the Curtis home.

Article
Michele Chiappetta
Photos
Marc Rains
Posted
February 28, 2019

Set and filmed in Tulsa, the 1983 movie The Outsiders — based on the 1967 novel by S.E. Hinton — has inspired people for five decades and counting. And now, the north Tulsa home used to film several scenes is opening its doors as The Outsiders House Museum. It’s all thanks to hip-hop artist Danny Boy O’Connor of House of Pain, whose fond memories of the film are matched by his willingness to go out on a limb for something he loves.

“I was 13 when I went to the theater to see The Outsiders,” says O’Connor. “I didn’t have any preconceived notions about what I was going to see. I had never read the book. When I came out of the theater, I came out like a changed man. What resonated about it to me was that I was that latchkey kid.”

Like the characters in the film, he says, his own family was in disarray. He identified strongly with the Greasers he saw onscreen. “Of course, Matt Dillon was cool too,” O’Connor laughs.

The film, released in 1983, was an adaption of the 1967 novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton and is noted for its cast of up-and-coming stars including C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio and Diane Lane.

Set and filmed in Tulsa, the 1983 movie The Outsiders — based on the 1967 novel by S.E. Hinton — has inspired people for five decades and counting. (Photo: Marc Rains)
Set and filmed in Tulsa, the 1983 movie The Outsiders — based on the 1967 novel by S.E. Hinton — has inspired people for five decades and counting. (Photo: Marc Rains)

The film became a favorite for O’Connor, who saw it several times before visiting Tulsa for the first time in 2009 while on tour with House of Pain. “I was here for three days,” he says. “At the time, downtown Tulsa had Spaghetti Warehouse and Cain’s. And we were playing Cain’s, so I’d seen that.”

As he was wondering what on earth he and his fellow band members were going to do with their three days in town, he had an epiphany: Was this where The Outsiders was filmed?

With a little advice from the band’s driver and some online research, O’Connor pinpointed some of the filming locations. He visited Crutchfield Park where Johnny Cade (Macchio) kills Robert “Bob” Sheldon (Leif Garrett) and, later, Dallas “Dally” Winston (Dillon) is shot. Then he visited the house where the Curtis family scenes were shot.

“The whole neighborhood looked spot on to how it was when it was filmed,” says O’Connor. “Nothing in L.A. stays the same. So, I was shocked.” He took a photo and posted it to Facebook, which generated numerous comments and questions about the location.

The film, released in 1983, is noted for its cast of up-and-coming stars including C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio and Diane Lane. (Photo: Marc Rains)
The film, released in 1983, is noted for its cast of up-and-coming stars including C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio and Diane Lane. (Photo: Marc Rains)

Over the next five years, O’Connor traveled regularly to Tulsa to show the house to people and see it again for himself. During that time, the house’s condition steadily declined. Realizing it would soon be gone if no one cared for it, he purchased the home, partly out of love for The Outsiders and partly out of love for Tulsa.

“I don’t know if I would have bought the house if I didn’t fall in love with Tulsa,” he says.

Soon, though, O’Connor realized that getting the house into shape wasn’t going to be easy. “It had a lot of years of abuse,” he says. “Everything in that house had to get worked on. I realized I had bitten off more than I could chew.”

Knowing he needed help to salvage the house, O’Connor surrendered the dream of using it as a vacation home. Instead, he started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to repair it and turn it into a museum. “Pun intended,” he says, “it took an ‘outsider’ to see its worth.”

The fundraising campaign received many donations from Tulsans, as well as O’Connor’s friends and family. Jack White, another musical fan of Tulsa, got involved by making a sizable donation. Since then, O’Connor has been working on getting the museum ready for the public, which has included both physical renovations to the building as well as gathering memorabilia to put on display.

“I’ve amassed an incredible collection,” says O’Connor. “A lot of the items have been collected on eBay and other sites. Some of it has been donated. Most of the stuff wardrobe-wise is coming back or already here.”

A couple of the more interesting items O’Connor has tracked down include Francis Ford Coppola’s director’s chair from the set, which was later stolen off the set of Rumble Fish before being recovered by the police, and Cruise’s outfit from the rumble scene. “We believe it to be one of one, since he was playing a backup role [Steve Randle],” he says.

Some of the memorabilia will be displayed on loan at the Woody Guthrie Center starting at the end of March. Another part of the collection will be displayed at the OKPOP Museum once it opens in 2020.

Once The Outsiders House Museum is officially open, visitors can take bus tours on weekends to see the various film sites for the movie before ending up at the museum to see the displays. There are plans to build an educational component into the museum as well, so that students can visit it as they read the novel.

What makes The Outsiders House — and thus the museum it will house — so special? O’Connor says it’s the history it contains. “It’s more than just a movie house,” he says. “It is the symbolic home of the pride of north Tulsa.”

Expected to open at the end of March or early April 2019 if all goes well, O’Connor is excited to showcase the museum’s collection to the public. “Let the finished product speak for itself,” he says. “We’re very proud of it.”

LOCATOR
The Outsiders House Museum
731 N. St. Louis Ave. | Tulsa
theoutsidershouse.com

July 2019 Cover