What’s a rapper to do when the lab is closed; there’s a gap in tour dates, and diggin’ in the crates has become a bore? If you’re Danny Boy O’Connor of La Coka Nostra and House of Pain fame, you put your fascination with pop culture of yore to the front, along with a carefully selected posse of truth seekers. You actualize this in order to properly investigate the notorious locations where so much of what we laid eyes on during our youth took place.
From the square footage where the Beastie Boys, RUN DMC and BDP shot their most iconic flicks; to Archie Bunker’s house; to the marina where Gilligan, Skip, and crew began their three-hour tour; to where Mars Blackmon, aka Spike Lee, let you know that she had to have it, and it was all about the shoes, plus shit tons more. Danny Boy’s Delta Bravo Urban Exploration Team touches ‘em all. No adult should be allowed to have this much fun, so thankfully D-boy has been kind enough to allow us to live vicariously, as he shares his findings with all of us.
Mass Appeal: So how did the Delta Bravo Urban Exploration Team come to be?
Danny Boy O’Connor: The Delta Bravo Urban Exploration Team started in 2009 as a direct result of the boredom that sometimes comes with being on tour. You know, there are only so many sneaker, record and toy stores you could go to on days off or in between shows. After being stuck in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a three-day lay over with La Coka Nostra, I decided to do something other than go to the mall and pick up shit I really didn’t need – another pair of sneakers or a useless DVD box set. It was like an epiphany that I remembered that the Outsiders was filmed there.
At first, I didn’t put two and two together, because I saw that movie when I was a kid, so I went back to my hotel and jumped on the computer and fished around for a few Outsiders movie locations. I jotted down and few addresses and asked a cab driver if the Outsiders was indeed filmed there. It was funny because it was as if he was waiting his entire life for someone to ask him that. The rest of the LCN guys weren’t interested in this stuff, so I made the tour manager come with me to these spots. We paid the cabbie $100 to take us all around the city to see these locations: the Curtis House, part of the drive-in movie theatre (which was partially burned down), Crutchfield Park, and UtoteM, which was a liquor store that was robbed in the film. I had my camera with me and decided to document all of these spots, because I didn’t know if I was going to be coming back anytime soon.
Doing this stuff really piqued my interest, because it was good clean fun. I was sober, over-caffeinated and motivated, and I thought I could do stuff like this in every town, which is how this whole thing got started, and it turned into something I could have never imagined. We now have branches in New York, Paris and Chicago.
What, beside your initials, is represented in the name?
The name Delta Bravo is obviously a nod to my initials, but it incorporates a few other layers as well. There are other people who call themselves urban explorers that are into investigating abandoned train stations or structures including bridges, or buildings, which is cool, but we are more like pop culture detectives – looking for classic movie, true crime, or pop culture locations. So we are kinda urban explorers in a sense, but we are more interested in finding locations from classic 1980s movies, classic photographs that were used on some of your favorite record covers, or historic skateboarding locations, for example. The Delta Bravo logo itself is a nod to LA’s old Pacific Electric insignia, which was the largest electric railway system in the world in the 1920s, before completely disappearing.
Who else, beside yourself, is on-board for this adventure?
Besides myself, I met some like-minded people who also had a passion for pop culture and exploring some of these movie and true crime locations, as well as the New York City we all grew up loving, including one of my best friends, Knocko Nolan, a former NYPD officer, who is currently a detective with the LAPD; Steve Mona, a retired lieutenant of the NYPD, who also was one of New York City’s most well known members of the Vandal Squad – whose main mission was to eliminate graffiti; Michael “Wise” Delahaut, and John Zee, a former Mass Appeal writer, who also wrote game content for Trivial Pursuit and has written for both the New York Post and Reuters news service.
How do you come up with the locations you choose to explore?
We get inspired by so many things; everything from true crime locations to the music and classic movies we all grew up loving: Fast Times, Saturday Night Fever, Valley Girl, Bad News Bears, The Warriors, Weird Science, and obviously all the stuff that Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Mann have done. The inspiration could be anything from a photo of the Beastie Boys sitting on a stoop in New York City to the school location where Van Halen shot the “Hot for Teacher” video.
What is the goal once you decide to dive in to a particular locale?
The goal of what we do is to document these locations and show the before and after. We really treat this stuff like a scavenger hunt. In most cases, finding some of these locations is very time consuming. It takes a lot of work using Google maps to pinpoint certain streets or buildings and following up on leads by talking to people; whether it’s Ricky Powell about a Beastie Boys location or Glen E. Friedman about finding the location of the legendary skate spot, the Dogbowl. To us, the most important thing is sharing the locations with people, because we want people to see and experience this stuff as well. We do this stuff because we love it, but we also love when people experience this stuff for themselves. I feel collecting experiences are more important than adding another pair of sneakers to my closer or toy to my shelf. If we never make a dime off of this, we are already overpaid for what we do.
What are the most intriguing spots you’ve checked out thus far?
In a short time, we have already visited a number of locations that are really important, but some of the ones that jump out at me in no particular order include those early Outsiders locations, because they set everything off. Others include the Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique pool; some of the locations from The Professional, the famous photo of Minor Threat on the front steps of the Dischord House; any of the Fast Times and Bad News Bears locations and the pool from the Morrie’s Wig commercial that was featured in Goodfellas. In addition to finding these locations, we have become friends with some of the people who were in the movies we love including Deborah Forman (Julie Richman, Valley Girl), Robert Romanus (Mike Damone, Fast Times) and David Stambaugh (Toby Whitewood, Bad News Bears).
Have any of the exploration sites you’ve gone to bummed you out because of what the location became after its heyday?
A lot of stuff is changing very rapidly, both here and in New York, and I am bummed out by what has become of 42nd Street, the Lower East Side and classic Hollywood. A lot of the old music venues and the beautiful theatres that ones existed on both coasts are gone or have been changed, and it’s important to document and see this stuff while you can. My motto is, “Here today, gone tomorrow,” so go out and see this stuff now, because it’s been disappearing with the quickness.
Once you have conquered enough locations, do you plan on showcasing it all somehow – maybe in a book or TV show?
Delta Bravo has signed a production deal with Asylum Pictures and we are shopping our show to a number of networks, which is really exciting. It would be nice to travel the country to tackle a number of locations and talk to the people involved with these films or photographs that we are interested in. Moving forward, we would also love to show our work in slide format in galleries or other public forums and discuss the locations with people.
Tell us about the Friday night broadcasts you guys have been doing.
The Delta Bravo Show broadcasts a show on www.TradioV.com every Friday night from 7-9pm (Pacific). During the two-hour show, both myself, Knocko Nolan, and Allison James discuss some of the locations we have uncovered and feature guests from some of our favorite movies that have included cast members from the Bad News Bears, Valley Girl, Weird Science and Fast Times. We’ve also had an eclectic mix of guests that have included Tony Muia, who runs “A Slice of Brooklyn,” a New York City-based pizza tour; Joel Lambert, a former Navy Seal who is also the star of the show Hard Target; and Slim Jim Phantom, the former drummer from the Stray Cats.
What’s up with La Coka Nostra and House of Pain?
As far as House of Pain is concerned, we have no current plans to tour at the present time. La Coka Nostra is releasing a record this year, and I spend a majority of my time always working on creative things— either musically or with regards to Delta Bravo. There is a lot of effort that goes into the weekly show— with booking guests to building show files, that my man Wise helps me with. I also spend a lot of time taking photos, scouting locations, maintaining the Facebook page, and designing Delta Bravo merchandise, which will include a snapback hat with New Era that will be released to commemorate MCA Day. During the event at the Littlefield in Brooklyn, Delta Bravo members, including myself, showcased some of our favorite Beastie Boys locations we have uncovered and explored.
Check out some of the Delta Bravo findings below, and afterwards peep the rest here.
Beastie Boys w/Rick Rubin outside Radio City Music Hall just prior to opening for Madonna in ’85.
Bad News Bears dugout – Chatsworth, California
Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee) – Dumbo, Brooklyn
Goodfellas – Robert’s Lounge (now GT Mobay Restaurant) South Ozone Park, Queens
Gilligan’s Island – Marina Del Rey, California
KISS Dressed To Kill album cover – W. 23rd and 8th Ave. NYC
Biggie Smalls freestyle (at age 17) happened here at 1114 Bedford Ave. Brooklyn
Saturday Night Fever – Lenny’s Pizza 1969 86th St., Brooklyn, NY.