EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories about fun and interesting things to do within a day of Southwest Oklahoma. Maximize what’s left of your summer vacation by visiting some of these hidden gems and family fun spots.
TULSA — Former hip-hop star Daniel “Danny Boy” O’Connor watched “The Outsiders” when he was 13 years old.
Decades later, he bought the north Tulsa house where much of the movie was filmed and turned it into a museum honoring Francis Ford Coppola’s legendary flick that introduced several stars to the silver screen. Cast members include C. Thomas Howell, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Diane Lane and the late Patrick Swayze.
Moving from Los Angeles to Tulsa, O’Connor, the former hype man for multi-platinum hip-hop group House of Pain, and countless volunteers worked tirelessly to renovate the old house used as one of the sets for the 1983 flick.
Produced by Gary Frederickson, the movie focused on two rival gangs in Tulsa during the 1960s – the poor lower-class Greasers and the rich Socs, short for Socials. Issues of gang violence, underage smoking and drinking, foul language and family dysfunction permeated the book and movie which created public controversy.
A longtime fan of the film and S.E. Hinton’s novels, which include “The Outsiders,” O’Connor said, “The movie mirrored my life in a lot of ways. I became obsessed with it. I identified with all the characters. I saw this brotherhood in that family (greasers gang), and I looked to recreate that in the streets growing up. It was an inspiring movie to me.”
O’Connor said he used hip-hop as a way “to fill the void of a broken family.”
Over the years, as he would travel through Tulsa for hip-hop performances, he would often drive by the old house where “The Outsiders” was filmed. After a while, he decided he needed to either buy the crumbling structure or face the realization that it might be torn down. O’Connor’s thought almost came true.
After buying the old house for $42,000 – a price unheard of in California, he says – O’Connor learned about a group that wanted to buy the house and demolish it. They never got the chance.
Instead, O’Connor and key donors began a long renovation process that took more than three years.
“I humbled myself and asked for help,” he said. “I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew.”
O’Connor quickly learned about the Oklahoma Standard, where help is just around the corner. He received help from neighbors who volunteered to fix plumbing and mow the yard. There were all sorts of in-kind donations and then there were cash donations that came from “The Outsiders” author S.E. Hinton and former White Stripes front man and four-time Grammy award winner, Jack White.
“Okies really stepped up and saved the day,” O’Connor said. “I have never seen so many acts of kindness.”
Frederickson, “The Outsiders” producer who now lives in Oklahoma City, recalled that the movie almost didn’t get filmed at the north Tulsa house. The homeowners, who lived across the street, had to be convinced. As a gesture of goodwill, Coppola, who insisted on using the house, and producers paid for the family to spend a month in Hawaii, Frederickson recalled.
“We shot 10 to 15 days in that house and were out before they got home,” Frederickson joked. “It was a fun shoot, crazy and wild. The entire cast was young and having a good time. Tom (Cruise) was the only one who was serious.”
With renovations complete, O’Connor began his quest to collect “The Outsiders” memorabilia, which he says is the largest such collection in the world. The museum unveils behind-the-scenes layers that everyone loves: the trivia and the stories behind the story, the museum’s website claims.
“Stepping into the museum gives fans young and old a chance to stand in the living room where Ponyboy and Darry quarrel, visit the kitchen and recall all the talk about chocolate cake for breakfast, see Dallas Winston’s leather jacket, hear about the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of Francis Ford Coppola’s Director’s Chair, see rare and never-before-seen photos, movie artifacts and more,” the website states.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, museum hours have been shortened to weekends only. However, scheduled school and private tours can be arranged at The Outsiders House Museum, at 731 North St. Louis Avenue in north Tulsa, O’Connor said.
“The house looks just like it did when the movie was shot,” he said. “It’s the spitting image. This (museum project) has given me a new lease on life, a purpose.
“When we started this, it was a lower-class neighborhood. But now, there’s a renewed pride in all the neighbors and the city has helped with new streets and sidewalks.”
O’Connor is trying to turn the venue into more than a museum about “The Outsiders.” C. Thomas Howell, who portrayed Ponyboy Curtis in the film, will perform in an already sold-out musical concert on the museum’s lawn Aug. 3.
For more details about The Outsiders House Museum, visit www.theoutsidershouse.com.