Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thursday Thinks: The Outsiders House Renovation Fundraiser

It's easy for me to pick my favorite book. A lot of people say they can't-- that that's like asking them to choose between their children-- but I can. There are two books that have been outstandingly instrumental in my life. One of them is a highly unpopular YA standalone, and the other is THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton.

In case this one has slipped through the cracks of your read-dar, here's the description from Goodreads: According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for "social") has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers-- until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

In middle school, seventh grade to be exact, I was in Third Hour English with my favorite teacher, and that's when she told us that we were going to read a book as a class. It was required for our grade, and we'd go through it chapter by chapter every day; popcorn style. We started, and I remember being hooked immediately by the writing style and the internal narrative of the main character, Ponyboy Curtis. 

After class, we were asked to hand in our books so that they could stay in the classroom, and I remember my teacher looking at me and making sure I knew that she did not want me reading the book out of class. That teacher knew me and my reading habits well, so her warning was not unnecessary. I stuck it out all week, and then that Friday we didn't finish our chapter in class, and were told to take the book home to finish the day's reading. We were a little less than halfway through the book at this point, so I took it  home... and totally blew threw the last half over the weekend. It was the first book to bring me to tears. The first book to bring about so much emotion in me that I cried over the words on the pages. And that Monday when I went back to school, my teacher just looked at me and said, "You finished it, didn't you?" 

Like I said, she knew me well.

The rest of the class still had to finish, so I reread the last half of the book with them, and after we finished, we watched the movie in class. I remember sitting on top of the desks in front of the screen with one of my closest friends, and just being completely entranced by the way the story was unfolding right before my eyes, and how it was so close to how things happened in the book (The Theatrical Version of The Outsiders is highly accurate, though it does leave out some key parts. One of them being when you find out WHY Pony is telling the story. I now know that there was a Director's Cut released, known as The Outsiders: The Complete Novel Edition. You can buy it here.).

Shortly after that, I bought my first pair of Converse. Shorter after that, I picked up a jean jacket. And from then on out, I've had my head in the world of greasers and soc's. Years have passed, and Converse are still the shoes you'll find me in the most (other than my cowboy boots, bc #FarmersGottaFarm). They're the only shoes I've worn so much that the rubber is falling off of the sides.

I'm always checking around for S.E. Hinton signings, and anytime someone mentions The Outsiders, you can bet that I'm jumping in on that conversation. That's why, when earlier this year, S.E. Hinton retweeted a link to a GoFundMe page mentioning the Curtis Brothers' House (Ponyboy's house from the movie) I had to click on it. What I found was the most amazing thing.

The house used for filming was in pretty bad shape. Dilapidated and falling down. Until Danny Boy O'Connor, band member of La Coka Nostra and House of Pain as well as founder of film/television/true crime-site scouting team Delta Bravo Urban Exploration, decided to do something about it. O'Connor purchased the house, and together with members of Delta Bravo, he's set forth to bring the house back to life. Their endgame is to revamp the house so that it looks as it does in the movie, and then turn the house into an Outsiders Museum, full of donated Greaser memorabilia. 

The reactions and responses they've gotten have been insane. From tweets from the actors, to volunteer work and donations in terms of landscaping, security systems, drywall, and most recently, a new HVAC system for the house. As well as physical labor for the house, there have also been physical donations, such as crew jackets, magazines featuring the cast from movie release year, international editions of the book, switchblades like the ones carried by the greasers, and even an original script.

The GoFundMe page for the Outsiders House has been up for ten months now, and in that time, 479 people have been generous enough to donate. So far, $32,140 has been raised towards the $75k goal, and the number grows on a (generally) day-to-day basis. Still, renovating a house takes a lot of cash. We're in the middle of doing so with an old farm house, so I understand the things they're struggling with-- it can be slow going if you don't have the money for it. 

That said, O'Connor and crew were in need of renovation funds, so they set up a fundraiser event. The event would take place in downtown Tulsa, with a silent auction for Outsiders-related items (Set photos signed by Ralph Macchio; a signed copy of Rob Lowe's LOVE LIFE;  multiple pieces of original artwork from local artists; a reprint of the script, signed by cast members such as Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell, Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio, and Rob Lowe; and many more items, possibly the best of all being a copy of THE OUTSIDERS signed by S.E. Hinton herself. The fundraiser would feature local cover bands, have an area to purchase tshirts, and a full bar for those over 21. 

But wait, there's more.

As an addition, special appearances would be made by O'Connor, two of the 52 Pick-Up boys (memorable scene from the opening of the movie, when Matt Dillon plays 52 card pick-up with three boys and then chases them across a lot.), Darren Dalton (One of two main soc's from the movie), and C. Thomas Howell.



You read that right. 

C. Thomas Howell, AKA Ponyboy Curtis, would be attending the fundraiser.

Of course, as soon as I heard about this, my mind started turning. I'd known about the house renovation for some time before the fundraiser was announced, and one of my close friends and I had planned on going to Tulsa as a sort of Senior Day-Trip to see the house before it became fully renovated and turned into a huge tourist trap. Because I'm such an Outsiders fan, I also talked said friend into agreeing to go to the many different filming locations. It had been our plan to do this on July 22nd, because it's Ponyboy's birthday, and things were set in stone, but when I heard about the fundraiser, I called him up immediately and convinced him that changing the date was the best idea ever. So things changed. August 6th was the new date for our trip. I bought tickets for the fundraiser for us, as well as my parents who wanted to attend as well, and proceeded to count down the days until the event.

***Disclaimer: This trip happened August of 2016, but due to health issues and school, it's just now coming out into the world.***

As the days passed, I got my Outsiders tshirt ready, made up a list of the filming locations and their addresses (Thank you Delta Bravo, that map is a lifesaver), and stayed up-to-date with the Twitter and Facebook feed of the House. 

Soon, they released information that there would be a screening of The Outsiders on the 7th, followed by a Q&A with C. Thomas Howell and Darren Dalton. So again, I made a call to convince my friend that we should stay the night in Tulsa to attend the screening, which would be at one of the theaters featured in the movie. It took two days for us to find out whether he could get off two days in a row. In that time, the theater opened up two more auditoriums for the screening, and then sold out of all three just before I could grab tickets. We would be missing the show, but we'd get to meet them the night before, so even though we would have liked to go, we weren't complaining.

And then finally the time came. After what seemed like a year's worth of waiting, my 5am alarm went off and I stepped into my old converse, donned my Outsiders tee and jean vest, and hit the road. We met up with my friend (who will henceforth be known as Friend Grant, and is the aforementioned friend from my 7th grade English class), I hopped into his truck, and we started for Tulsa. We were driving for maybe a half hour when the clouds opened up and began pouring. It didn't take long for things to get crazy enough that it was pretty difficult to see through the windshield, so we pulled into a Cracker Barrel to have breakfast and sort of wait things out. By the time we finished, the rain had chilled out enough for us to continue, so we made our way towards Tulsa, making a few stops before I set the GPS to the first filming location on our agenda.


Pictures below with the words "The Outsiders" typography are not mine. They are pictures taken by Delta Bravo, all credit goes to them. Pictures with my face in them, however, are mine. They are pictures taken by my mom, all credit goes to her.

"Take the 3:15 train to Windrixville. It's a... It's a freight. There's an abandoned church on top of Jay Mountain."

Aforementioned first site was the approximate location of the Windrixville Church stood. Believed to be in Black Dog Park, the church was torn down quite some time ago and the area is now under water. After a few minutes of looking around and trekking through poison ivy and comparing pictures to landscapes, we found two prospective locations where the church could have been. Of course, neither of these are certain, and the church could have been at either or none of these locations. These are the best two options we found, though.

From there, we made our way to Sperry, OK, where we found the Rexall Drugstore that is shortly featured in the movie. It's now closed down, but there are still signs and knickknacks in the windows from before it shut down.

"You kids ever play 52 Pick-Up?"

Directly behind the Rexall is the lot where the 52 Pick-Up scene took place. As we walked and took pictures, I couldn't keep from saying, "I don't like little kids, I just don't like 'em." Because Dally is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters.

"Your brother Soda, he works at a gasoline station, right? A DX?"

Just a few yards down the road from the Rexall was the DX station that Sodapop and Steve worked at. This was the first of the locations that we visited that really blew my mind. This was the first scene in the movie that Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, and Ralph Macchio were together in. Not all of the greaser crew, but a good amount of them. The DX is now an empty, unused building. Standing where the gas pumps used to be, I heard Steve say, "Hey, Soda. Here come the Hobos."

"You know the rules. No jazz before a rumble."

After the DX, we traveled to Owasso, OK to find the Burger Stand. It's now a Kum & Go, but the football stadium in the background is still there. This was perhaps the most entertaining place to take pictures, as there were still people going in and out of the convenience store, and the looks they gave us as they read our signs and stared were hilarious. 

"He's just a kid!"

From Owasso, we headed for Crutchfield Park. On the way there, we passed Lowell Elementary, which served as a production office throughout the filming of the movie, and through we got turned around (I'm so bad with maps, guys. So bad.) we did find the park. Here, I was in a more solemn mood. This is the location of Bob's death in the movie, but it's also the location of Dally's death. I mentioned earlier that he's one of my favorite fictional characters, so being at the place where they filmed his death scene was a bit heavy for me. Friend Grant is all smiles, but not me.

"I killed him."

At the same park, just on the other side, is the location of the scene where Johnny kills Bob the soc. The fountain was gone, but you could still see the place where it had stood. Unfortunately, it was hard to make out on camera, so we took our picture by the park sign.

"It ain't a rumble without me!"

Not too far away from the park (Literally just down the street) was the site of the rumble with the soc's. The lot that this was filmed in is now someone's yard, so we didn't go into it. But we definitely did stand on the sidewalk to get a picture. Just a few yard down was Johnny's house, but someone was living there so I didn't want to disturb them. I was happy with the rumble lot. 

On the next street over, we found St. Louis. There, on the corner, sat the Curtis Brothers' House. We parked along the road, and walked across the street, stopping to take pictures with the brand new, less-than-12-hours-old street signs that now read The Outsiders Way and Curtis Brothers Lane. The night before, O'Connor and C. Thomas Howell, along with S.E. Hinton herself attended the unveiling of the signs, with a large group of fans that turned out. I didn't even know this was happening, or you can be sure that I'd have been there, but it was so amazing to walk up and see the signs. What was crazy is that we later learned that one of the neighbors actually stole the signs in the middle of the night, and O'Connor's crew had to go and retrieve them the morning of the 6th.

So we take our pictures, and turn to admire the house. It was then that we met Zachary Matthews, one of the guys that Danny bought the house with. He gave us some Delta Bravo stickers and said hello, before we were distracted by a man who had pulled up alongside the house. His name was Jim Thompson, and he had been talking to one of the men accompanying Matthews. We found out that he had actually been an extra in the movie. He'd been the one driving the car in the flashback scene showing the Curtis Parents' death, and he spoke of how it took so many adjustments of the vehicle and it's position before Francis Ford Coppola gave him the okay. Apparently, everyone who helped out with the movie was given tickets to the premiere, and Thompson went to the theater with his wife to see the movie and spot himself, and it turned out that the scene only lasted for about as long as it takes to blink. Thompson said they laughed, and his wife told him that he'd better keep his day job.

After listening to Thompson's story, Matthews turned to us and asked if we'd like to see the inside of the house.

I just.

Of course, I jumped on the opportunity, and walked up the steps to the front porch.

Stepping over that threshold was like something out of a dream.

Here I was, standing inside the house that so many of the scenes of the movie were filmed in, and it was amazing. I looked at the layout of the house and watched as countless clips played in my mind, and had them brought to life when Matthews instructed me to stand in a certain spot in the living room, and then proceeded to hand me a photo. Holding the photo in front of me, I could line up the windows in the picture with the windows of the house, and be transported into the film. I saw Sodapop in front of me, hanging out in the chair, and then Matthews walked to the kitchen, where he showed me another photo and we marveled at how the wood pattern on the threshold's trim matched the pattern in the photo taken during one of the movie scenes. I traced it with my finger. Standing there, Matthews showed me where the stove would have been in the house, and I channeled my inner Ponyboy as I re-inacted the scene where Tom Cruise as Steve, and Emilio Estevez as Two-Bit pounce on Pony in the kitchen as he's cooking breakfast, and the eggs go flying to the other side of the room. Next, Matthews took me to the bedroom, showed me where Ponyboy's desk had been placed. The place where C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy wrote the words, "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home." Slowly, I made my way back to the living room, knowing that our tour had come to an end. On the way, I passed the bathroom where Rob Lowe infamously stepped out of the shower as Sodapop and nearly flashed his goods on camera, and then proceeded to listen to Mr. Thompson retell his story about being in the movie (no matter how few seconds he appeared, it was still a fantastic account to hear!).

After taking one last 360 in the living room, we left the house. I'd been on the verge of tears when I walked in (Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be allowed inside the house) and as I walked out, I had the biggest smile on my face. Zachary had given us the go-ahead to take all the photos we wanted on the porch (No photos allowed inside) so we spent the next ten minutes or so getting our snapshots in so we'd always be able to remember the special time we spent there.

"Then pity the backseat!"

From the Curtis Brothers' House, we headed for lunch. After that, Friend Grant had an errand to run, so he split from us and we planned to meet up at the fundraiser in just a short couple of hours. By the time lunch had finished, we had just about an hour before things would be getting started with the event, so we made our way to the Admiral Twin Drive-In. Closed at the time, we managed to get a good many photos of the place, including one of my favorites just a few yards down the road from the entrance, at the place where the soc's followed Ponyboy, Johnny, Two-Bit, and the girls from the Drive-In. One of my absolute favorite lines from both the book and the movie happened in this scene-- it's when Randy (one of the soc's, played by Darren Dalton who would be at the fundraiser) calls the greasers bums, and says that they have four more (soc's) in the backseat. That's when Two-Bit says, "Then pity the backseat". It's always been one of my favorite parts, and I was so happy to have gotten a picture at that location.

After hitting up the Admiral, we made our way to downtown Tulsa. By this point, I'm getting jumpy, and waiting in line outside the club in the middle of August wasn't feeling too great, but what made up for it was the people around me. As people added to the line, and the car show across the street grew in size, I began seeing Converse. Jean jackets. Leather jackets. Outsiders themed tshirts. Knowing that everyone standing behind me, and in front of me, were fans of the book, movie, or both, was a pretty incredible feeling.

We stood in that line for at least an hour. Not too long into the wait, Friend Grant met back up with us, and we all endured the heat together. The music coming from the car show was loud, the sound of people talking and laughing filled the air, and I took out my copy of THE OUTSIDERS and dove in. In that moment, I was glad that my friends were used to me reading when they were over. Later, as I went through the pictures, I found that Mom had caught me.

Just as I decided to take off that jean vest, the door opened. It took probably fifteen minutes for us to get inside (they had to give everyone wristbands and check ID; Friend Grant and I were gifted big UNDERAGE Xs on our hands). Inside, there was a cover band playing, as well as a that list of items I mentioned that were up for auction, so we grabbed a table and perused the many things that would be bought over the course of the night. It wasn't long before I found the signed copy of THE OUTSIDERS. So far, no one had taken up the starting bid of $100, and the gears in my mind started turning. I'd brought a stack of bills with me just in case, as I wasn't planning on leaving without that book in my hands, and went back to our table to think.

Drinks in hand, I told my parents about the items and we began discussing the book. I didn't want anyone getting it but me, and I'd had bad luck with silent auctions before, so I was planning on making a big bid to start off, hoping that no one would push it higher. I went back to the book and wrote down my max bid of $300, knowing that if someone took it father, I'd immediately be out of the picture.

It was a risk I was willing to take.

We hung out for a while, headed to the "gift shop" and purchased tshirts and pins, and went through more soda than we probably should have, and then they changed bands. That's when things started to get sticky. As you guys know, I have a pacemaker. Due to that, there are things I need to watch-- things that affect me that wouldn't necessarily bother a normal person. One of those is bass, whether it's in the car or coming from the stage, and it was definitely strong at the venue. We sat there, and only got through part of a song before I felt my pulse speed up. My chest constricted, it became hard to breathe, and I couldn't sit still. I made it through three songs before I knew I had to leave.

I had two major concerns at this point.

Number One: The auction. There was pretty much only one rule: You had to be there at the end of the night to accept the item and exchange the money. If you weren't, you didn't get it and it went to the person who had bid before you. Thank God for parents who have more common sense than I do, because while I cleaned up and gathered our belongings, Mom went to talk to someone overseeing the auction. She came back a few minutes later with news that she had explained the situation and they had allowed her to write her phone number next to my bid. If no one outbid me, they'd call and I could transfer the money to them electronically. They were more concerned with my health than with the details of the auction-- a rarity in today's society.

Number Two, and quite possibly the most important: The meet and greet. If I left, I would lose my chance of meeting C. Thomas Howell and Darren Dalton-- the entire reason we'd moved the trip date in the first place. I didn't want to sacrifice that... meeting Ponyboy in the flesh? These were the actors that made up my favorite movie. These were the actors that I could quote nearly all of their lines from all of their scenes, and the opportunity was going to slip through my hands.

But, like any medical patient knows, sometimes you have to give up the things you want in order to stay safe.

We left the venue and I could instantly breathe better without the bass, but I was a mixture of angry and distraught as we walked to the car and went to grab dinner (Taco Bell > Taco Bueno ANY day). My parents felt bad, even though it wasn't even close to their fault that we had to leave, but it was my hope that they'd have another event sometime soon, and just maybe the actors would come back.

The four hour drive that ended the day ended on a pretty great note. As I played DJ in the front seat (and nearly caused a car crash when I played Let It Go and rook Friend Grant's attention away from the road), my mood started to lift, and when we stopped for gas, Mom and Dad revealed to me some amazing news-- The book was mine. No one out bid me, and I was the proud new owner of a signed copy of THE OUTSIDERS.

Only a few days later, a yellow bubble envelope came in the mail, and I was about to burst with excitement. As I ripped it open, I was in shock at what came out. Not only did I have the book in my hands, but I also had a stack of Delta Bravo stickers, pins from the fundraiser that I hadn't bought when we were there, Outsiders movie stickers, a VIP lanyard from the event, and a playing card signed by two of the three 52 Pick Up boys.

Yet again, another person associated with the Outsiders House who was kind, thoughtful, and who is much appreciated. Big thanks to Donnie Rich for that package-- it was incredible to receive.

So now, it's 2017. As I've been typing this, I received the news that S.E. Hinton is having a book signing and movie screening on the 25th of March, and that there is going to be a new fundraiser event on May 6-- A 50th Anniversary Celebration, at which C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, and Darren Dalton will be attending.

The hope is alive, my friends. I already know by the dates that I won't be able to go to either of these events, but the hope is alive. I'll watch social media, and when the next event pops up, I'll be there. Until then... Stay Gold, O' Connor and team. Stay Gold.


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