Solving for Saving Pop Culture and Literary Landmarks with Danny Boy O'Connor
How do we solve for the restoration and preservation of historical pop culture and literary landmarks? We speak with Danny Boy O’Connor—artist, designer, rapper, and founding member of House of Pain—about his drive to do just that with the cultural legacy of the famed 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film, The Outsiders. Danny joins us from Tulsa, Oklahoma where he created and oversees The Outsiders House Museum as executive director.
The film is an iconic one, based on an equally iconic novel written by a fifteen-year-old girl, pen name S.E. Hinton. Think: “Stay gold, Ponyboy.” Its narrative centers on rival teen gangs, class conflict, and the mid-1960s “American outlaw as personified by the brat pack” (in Danny’s words).
Danny first saw The Outsiders in theaters upon its release when he was a teenager. For Danny, the film was a “pivotal” moment and quintessential “coming of age film,” witnessed as he himself was coming of age. It gave him something to relate to, to feel represented by, to escape into, and to help cope with the pain of adolescence in a broken home. As an adult, he honors the impact the film had upon his life through cultural preservation.
What started as a coincidental trip to filming locations in Tulsa during a La Coka Nostra tour turned into a now full-time pursuit to preserve film history. When the opportunity arose to purchase the house featured in the film, Danny jumped in to express his passion for pop culture history. His solution? Starting a museum through collective effort.
The project started with completely rehabilitating the house, which had fallen into extensive disrepair. Realizing the enormity of the task, Danny reached out through online fundraising and over the course of three and a half years got the job done. And once the house was finished, it came time to fill it with film artifacts. He began with one poster, and has since amassed the largest S.E. Hinton and The Outsiders collection in the world.
Past pop cultural moments are, according to Danny, “part and parcel of the making of us.” Both Hinton herself (who turned her academic struggles into widespread literary success) and the film’s characters offered Danny and countless other eighties teens a narrative that framed the underdog as the hero, that placed emphasis on the value in found family, and that gave hope to those with unlikely backgrounds. This is what Danny seeks to appreciate and share with others through his drive to open a crowdfunded, volunteer-run museum that educates and benefits its local community and beyond.
Now, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Danny recognizes the “warm fuzzy blanket” that nostalgic reflection and historical appreciation can offer in turbulent times. He looks forward to the day the museum can properly resume operations, but in order to do so outside support is needed to keep things rolling. To pitch in, visit the museum’s website here, where you can be included in the house itself by sponsoring a personalized engraved legacy brick.
Photo Credit Phil Clarkin