The Bronx, USA, a documentary debuting tonight on HBO, follows producer George Shapiro as he returns to his hometown of the Bronx. Revisiting the streets, stores and memories of his childhood, Shapiro reflects on the singularity of the borough he grew up in and the close friendships he made there that have stood the test of time.
Directed by Danny Gold, the film features notable Bronxites including Alan and Arlene Alda, Charles Fox, Robert Klein, Hal Linden, Melissa Manchester, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Chazz Palminteri, General Colin Powell, Carl Reiner and Rob Reiner, who share their experiences in the borough and discuss what it means to them. Colin Powell credits his first boss, a Jewish toy shop owner, with encouraging him to get an education, while Alan and Arlene Alda recall the borough was the backdrop for their courtship.
A love letter to a special part of New York City and its distinctive residents, the documentary also introduces the next generation of Bronxites: the 2017 graduating class of DeWitt Clinton High School, who may come from different backgrounds from Shapiro’s class of 1949, but whose passion, drive and emphasis on the power of friendship connects them with the seniors who came nearly seventy years before them.
The birthplace of doo-wop and salsa, the Bronx birthed hip hop in the 1980s and with it, a whole new culture. Home to the world-famous Yankee Stadium and Bronx Zoo, New York’s northernmost borough has long been both culturally diverse and racially tolerant.
Revisiting his old stomping grounds with longtime friends Carl Golub and Jay Schwartz, Shapiro remembers the fun they had as kids. Back then, families lived in the same building, leaving their doors unlocked and everyone knew each other’s business. Mom and pop stores lived the street and it was never hard to find a kid to play with. Years later, Shapiro and his childhood friends, who call themselves the “Bronx Boys,” get together every five years to reminisce and celebrate their long-lasting bond.
Friendships also prove to be strong in the Bronx community today, just as Shapiro remembers. Joined by fellow “Bronx Boy” Jay, George and Carl pay a visit to DeWitt Clinton High School. Though the building’s exterior, covered in scaffolding, isn’t quite what they remember, they bond over their shared experiences with their guides, graduating seniors Danielle and Javid. Danielle, student body president of the 2017 graduating class, says that while many of her classmates come from low-income households, “having friends helps with getting over those hurdles.”
The Bronx, USA features an original song that opens and closes the film, “Da Bronx” with lyrics by Paul Williams, music by Charles Fox, performed by actor/comedian/singer Robert Klein and actor/singer Donald Webber, Jr.