A hip-hop icon is included in a team of enthusiasts dedicated to preserving The Outsiders house 

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If the walls of a particular house in Crutchfield Park, Tulsa, could talk, they would a say a lot about literature and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s debut novel, The Outsiders, immortalized the building as the home of Ponyboy Curtis, but years of wear and tear as a rental house have done their damage.

Oklahoma residents Zachary Matthews and Donnie Rich, along with hip-hop icon Daniel “Danny Boy” O’Connor — a trio of Outsiders enthusiasts — took it upon themselves to restore the house to its former glory. Oklahoma Gazette spoke to Matthews about the home’s past, present and future.

Matthews said when O’Connor (of House of Pain, La Coka Nostra and Delta Bravo Urban Exploration Team) would travel through Tulsa, the pair would park a half-block from the house and look at it.

“I just can’t believe it’s sitting there, deteriorating, while we’re watching downtown Tulsa blossom,” Matthews recalled thinking.

“Every visit, it was worse and worse,” Matthews said. “So we committed to finding who the owner was and seeing if they were interested in selling.”

After two and a half months of scouring Tulsa County Assessor records and Facebook, Matthews found himself taking the most direct course of action.

“I just went up and knocked on the door and I talked to the girl that lived in the house,” he said.

Upon finding out that the house would be up for rent, Matthews described his reaction as “slack-jawed.” He immediately called O’Connor, who was in Los Angeles, and they decided to buy the house. However, Matthews and O’Connor were not the only ones interested; he said Habitat for Humanity wanted to acquire the property and build new structures in its place.

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Sincerity swung the pendulum in favor of Matthews and O’Connor — after all, the Habitat for Humanity project could be built somewhere else.

“We’ve lost so many great things in Tulsa, and this fluke, the main house from the hottest film of the ’80s, is still standing on the corner,” Matthews said.

Finally, in March, Matthews and O’Connor purchased the structure. Matthews said they realized almost immediately that its days as a residence were over.

“We knew trying to live there would be like trying to live in a fish tank,” he said, citing the vast number of Outsiders fans who made pilgrimages to the house.

So the home of the Curtis brothers would become a different kind of home: a museum encapsulating and honoring the iconic book and film and their impact on American pop culture.

“When we saw the public’s reaction to what we had done, it was a no-brainer that we’d done the right thing,” Matthews said.

Cleaning house

After years of neglect, in order to preserve the house for future enjoyment, it was necessary to perform extensive repairs and renovations.

“The foundation of the house was twisted. The walls came down. The ceilings came down,” Matthews said. “What we’re going to wind up with is just a solid house that’s going to stand up for a long time.”

However, the renovations have not intruded upon the film’s spirit and aesthetic.

“This is the Curtis brothers’ house,” Matthews said. “We’ve got to keep it Grease.”

Painstaking research and careful attention to detail on the part of Matthews, O’Connor and Rich have been essential parts of the renovation. According to Matthews, they have done their homework and “[gone] through those HD Blu-ray copies frame-by-frame” in order to extract as much information as possible from the film’s sets.

Local vendors have donated their goods and services to the project, and Matthews and O’Connor also set up a GoFundMe account to help ease the financial burden for the forthcoming museum. Matthews said the donations range from large sums to a $37 contribution from students who pooled their money. This seems fitting, as a school class was initially responsible for nudging Coppola toward making The Outsiders into a film at all.

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Additionally, a recent fundraising event helped bring publicity and awareness to the project. Guests included cast members C. Thomas Howell and Darren Dalton, producer Gray Frederickson and author S.E. Hinton, who wrote The Outsiders as a student at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa.

“She got behind this from the start,” Matthews said of Hinton. “Her support just lent that legitimacy to the project … I don’t know if it would have had the success without her.”

Matthews credited The Outsiders’ examinations of diversity and socioeconomic understanding for the continued relevance of the book and film. It also helps that the novel has never gone out of print and is often required reading for students.

When the museum opens next May, visitors can experience the classic story in a new way.

“I don’t want to give away our biggies, but we’ve got the stuff,” Matthews said of the museum’s exhibits. “It’s going to look exactly like it did from filming.”

Print headline: Still gold, Recent renovations to Oklahoma’s coolest house ensure The Outsiders is remembered after all these years.

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