In 1983, Danny Boy O’Connor was in his early teens, living in Woodland Hills, California, when he saw The Outsiders. The film from director Francis Ford Coppola follows a crew of young, working class Greasers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and their fights with their preppie rivals, the Socs. It immediately resonated with O’Connor, who had moved with his single mother from Brooklyn to the privilege and excess of the San Fernando Valley. “I always felt disconnected, I always wanted that kind of brotherhood I’d seen with The Outsiders,” he says. “I came out of the movie theater, first thing I did was I started smoking cigarettes and I got myself a denim jacket.”
After gaining notoriety in the 1990s as a rapper and hypeman in House of Pain, in 2009 O’Connor found himself in Tulsa on tour with his new group La Coka Nostra, waiting out three days between gigs. With not much to do, he paid a cabdriver $100 to take him around the city to show him Outsiders filming locations he’d found online and couple the cabbie knew himself: the house where the Curtis brothers live, the park where Johnny and Ponyboy kill the Soc, the drive-in movie theater (though the screen had recently burned down), and the liquor store that Dallas robs. O’Connor couldn’t believe that over twenty years later, the places still looked the same. “These things disappear so quickly in [Los Angeles] or New York,” he says. “It was like being on a set that hadn’t been stricken. It was just mind blowing.”
When O’Connor posted photos of what he found on his Facebook page (along with one of the hole in a wall backstage at Cain’s Ballroom that Sid Vicious made with his fist), he got a bigger response to them than anything else he’d ever put up. That motivated him to start the Delta Bravo Urban Exploration Team, pop culture detectives around the country that find and share the original locations used for album covers, movies, videos, and other ephemera.
O’Connor would return to the Outsiders spots whenever he came back through Tulsa for shows, and even travelled there a few times on personal trips. He became a friend of S.E. Hinton, the author who wrote the 1967 book the film is based on when she was a teenager and still lives in the city. During his trips he noticed that the deteriorating state of the neighborhood where the Curtis Brothers house is located. Whole blocks of buildings in the area were getting bulldozed and replaced with prefabricated Habitat For Humanity homes for low income housing. While O’Connor recognized the need, he feared that the Curtis Brothers house would soon join them. “Every time I passed by the house, it just looked like it was getting worse and worse,” he says.
With the help of local friends, O’Connor was able to track down a working number for the owner. He approached her about doing an extensive photoshoot for Delta Bravo Urban Exploration Team and to see if she was considering putting the house on the market. It turned out she was. “I wasn’t prepared to buy the house that quick. It was more of a fantasy,” says O’Connor. “Within a matter of 30 days, we ended up acquiring the house.”
The deal was finalized just two weeks ago. Buying the house cost O’Connor about $20,000, plus he had to pay to relocate the tenants who were living there. “Literally, I put half my savings in it,” O’Connor says. “I used to make more on accident in the ’90s than I make on purpose in the 2000 and whatever era.”
O’Connor had never even seen the interior of the house, and while the outside looked fine, when he came to Tulsa after the sale, he found out that the interior needs a ton of work. He and a couple friends spent three ten-hour days taking out everything the previous residents left behind, filling an entire forty-yard dumpster. He also learned that the roof leaks, the floors are warped, and it had a significant roach problem.
The plan is to turn the house into a museum about The Outsiders. He wants to recreate the living and dining rooms as they appear in the film and to use the other rooms to showcase his extensive Outsiders memorabilia collection. He hopes it will draw fans of the movie and field trips of high school English classes where the book is still taught.
O’Connor has no experience with home renovation, but plenty of local contractors and specialists have been offering their services. He has set up a GoFundMe account to get donations from Outsiders fans for the repairs. In seven days they’ve raised over $11,000 of their $75,000 goal. “It’s kind of like having rotten teeth,” he says. “We got the infections out, we put the antiseptic in there, we put the antibiotics in there. Right now we’re just holding it until we can cosmetically fix it.”