‘A Tulsa story’
Believe it or not, “The Outsiders” author S.E. Hinton received a poor grade in creative writing while attending Will Rogers High School and simultaneously wrote a beloved young adult novel.
C. Thomas Howell, who played Ponyboy Curtis in a 1983 movie adaptation of the 1967 book, was asked to assign a letter grade to the Outsiders House Museum.
“A-plus,” Howell said after touring the museum. “It’s awesome. It’s fantastic.”
The Outsiders House Museum, 731 N. St. Louis Ave., was used as a filming site during the making of the shot-in-Tulsa movie. It served as the home of the Curtis brothers in the film.
The home decayed in the decades since greasers lived in it and was on the verge of being demolished before it was salvaged by music artist and “The Outsiders” fan Danny O’Connor, who saw the film for the first time when he was a teen in California.
Buzz was generated when O’Connor bought the home and announced plans to turn it into a museum. When? The long-awaited christening came Friday, when Howell and Hinton joined Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Mayor G.T. Bynum and other community figures for a sold-out VIP ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Standing on the front porch and addressing the crowd, Howell said, “Tulsa is so awesome. When I’m not here, I think about you all the time. I’ve got my Starbucks Oklahoma cup I drink out of every morning. True story. I think about Susie (Hinton) about five times a day. I am called Ponyboy at least 50 times a day. People ask me sometimes if I ever get tired of that. Hell, no.”
Bynum called the opening of the The Outsiders House Museum a great day in the city’s history. Howell called it an iconic moment. He recalled moments with co-stars Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe and Ralph Macchio that occurred in the home.
“I had such an amazing time here, and I am so grateful that this place was not mowed down,” he said.
Debra Moreland traveled from Cedar Park, Texas, for the ceremony. She’s a part of Outsiders House history because she’s a former owner. She sold it to O’Connor in 2016.
“It’s fabulous,” Moreland said after checking out the refurbished home and its “Outsiders”-themed displays.
“When my husband and I bought the house, it was our dream to do exactly this, but we couldn’t pull it off. It took somebody like Danny to pull it off. He did an excellent job.”
Hinton said O’Connor once asked her if she wanted to buy the house. Her answer? “No,” she said. “I can’t keep my own house up.”
Hinton said she realizes she had “a little something” to do with the Outsiders House, but she said all the praise belongs to O’Connor. He boomeranged kind words back at Hinton and the community.
“I don’t want you thinking this is my doing,” he said. “This is our doing.”
Jeff Moore, executive director of the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, said it was amazing and poetic that an outsider (O’Connor was raised on both coasts) saved the house. “It’s so perfect,” Moore said.
Deana McCloud, executive director of the Woody Guthrie Center, said it is great to have O’Connor as another partner in the Tulsa arts scene. She said it was cool that “all of us socs and greasers” were present at the home to enjoy a sunset. Her words sparked comments about whether any socs were in attendance.
A former teacher, McCloud thanked Hinton for giving young readers a “place” by writing “The Outsiders.”
Before the ribbon-cutting event, KraSarah Durant of Ada said this when asked why she was coming to the museum: “I discovered ‘The Outsiders’ during a really dark time in my life; it just means the world to me to be able to attend.”
O’Connor said he gets contacted often by teachers because of his involvement with the Outsiders House. Gary Malone, an eighth-grade English teacher from New York, was among those in attendance and wore a DX service station shirt in honor of apparel from the movie. Inside the house, Malone got to meet Hinton. “This means so much to me,” he said.
Pinnell predicted that the neighborhood will be transformed because of The Outsiders House Museum. He spoke about the benefits of tourism and the goal of making Oklahoma a top-10 tourism state.
So far, so good. The ribbon-cutting ceremony and Saturday bus tours sold out in advance. Current plans call for the museum to be available on an appointment-only basis in the future, according to O’Connor.
Among ticket-buyers was Tamara Annis, who is from Ottawa. Ottawa County? Ottawa, Canada.
Annis was 14 when the movie was released. She was “in love” with Matt Dillon, so she and a friend decided to go see “The Outsiders,” not having a clue about what to expect. Now, “The Outsiders” is her favorite book and movie, and she calls Hinton an inspiration.
Seeing a photo of music artist Billy Idol wearing an Outsiders House Museum shirt piqued Annis’ curiosity. That’s how she found out about the home’s restoration.
The home was in such sad shape that it had to be gutted. It wasn’t restored to look new. It was restored to look like it did during the making of the film, furnishings and all.
There are “Easter eggs” inside the home. You can find one if you open the desk in Ponyboy’s recreated bedroom. O’Connor said he hopes people don’t go looking for “Easter eggs” all over the home because that would be weird.
Before the doors were opened, O’Connor talked about how he — a former latchkey kid — instantly connected with characters in the movie. He said issues tackled in the book and movie still exist today. “There will always be haves and have-nots,” he said.
O’Connor used the word “overwhelmed” when talking about his opening-day feelings. He said he can’t imagine a world without The Outsiders House.
“This story has always been a Tulsa story,” McCloud said. “This is the next chapter.”
— Jimmie Tramel,
World Staff Writer