On Monday, October 28th, HBO premiered The Bronx, USA at Hudson Yards in NYC. The documentary directed by Danny Gold and created by the team who brought HBO’s “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast” follows Emmy winning producer and talent manager George Shapiro as he returns to his hometown in the Bronx.
On his journey, Shapiro reminisces about his childhood, close friendships, and the unique residents of the Bronx as he compares and contrasts the past and present of the borough. The documentary also introduces the next generation of Bronx-ites from the 2017 graduating class of Dewitt Clinton High School including seniors at the time, Danielle and Javid who Shapiro meets on his trip to his old school. On his adventure, Shapiro gives the teens’ life advice and shares the importance of humility, passion, drive, and friendship, despite one’s adversity or differences which establishing a connection with the seniors who came nearly twenty-seven years before them.
The film features a series of Bronx former residents including Alan and Arlene Alda, Charles Fox, Robert Klein, Hal Linden, Melissa Manchester, John “Crash” Matos, grandmaster Melle Mel, Chazz Palminteri, General Colin L. Powell, Carl Golub, Rob Reiner and George Shapiro.
At the red carpet premiere, The Knockturnal had the opportunity to talk with director, Danny Gold, executive producer, Aimee Hyatt, George Shapiro along with Jerry Seinfield, Chazz Palminteri, best friend Carl Golub and composer Will Lee.
The Knockturnal: What made you want to be involved in this project?
Danny Gold: George Shapiro and I had done another project together If You’re not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast for HBO and we had so much fun on that one we said let’s do it again!
The Knockturnal: Did your perspective on the Bronx change or stay the same after wrapping up the documentary?
Danny Gold: I had no expectation, I’m not from the Bronx, I’m from Los Angeles so it gave me the opportunity to learn the Bronx and it really shaped my perspective of the Bronx positively. It’s a wonderful place with a lot of great things happening there.
The Knockturnal: What do you want the audience to leave with after seeing this documentary tonight?
Danny Gold: I want them to know there are great things in this country and some great kids are coming up and we hear a lot of negativity right now and I want to shed some positivity. The name of the movie is The Bronx, USA and one of the reasons behind that is this story should happen everywhere you know about friendship, community and culture with people surrounding each other in a positive way!
The Knockturnal: What made you want to be apart of this project?
Aimee Hyatt: First of all the message of the film was so important to me. I was so passionate about it. I didn’t let go, it’s just so important! That and also George Shapiro’s love for the Bronx, he grew up there and his two friends are from the Bronx and once we came to the Bronx and went to Dewitt Clinton and met the students, they were so articulate, so beautiful it was just a contagious project that really just went from there!
The Knockturnal: What elements did you guys focus on while shooting?
Aimee Hyatt: It started out about one thing and it grew into what we are seeing today, it started out about George and his Bronx friends but once we went to the Bronx and started meeting the people of the Bronx that have made it what the Bronx is for him, the story just shifted and the result is very touching you can’t watch it and not cry at the end it’s my favorite project.
The Knockturnal: How was it working with the director?
Aimee Hyatt: Great, Danny and I work really great together as a team we are constantly bouncing off of each other all night!… It’s like 3 A.M and you get into a conversation so things with this project just keep organically evolving.
The Knockturnal: Did you have any surprising moments upon your return to the Bronx?
George Shapiro: The biggest excitement for me was going back to Dewitt Clinton High school when I was there… it was Jewish, Italian, Irish now it’s people from Puerto Rico, Ghana, Jamaica first, second-generation immigrants they have that bond of friendship that we had I got chills and the class president whose in the documentary Danielle took my heart. she’s a black girl 17-years old, whose just brilliant and she’s gone through a lot, yet she’s so inspiring. The rough part upon my return was the great sports of stickball in the Bronx, and everyone talked about it, Carl Golub, Rob Reiner, Chazz Palminteri, Colin Powell everyone who loves stickball so I went back to PS 80 first, my grade school at that time it was kindergarten five years- old until Fourteen-years old and I brought the sticks but unfortunately, it was raining so we couldn’t play in the schoolyard so we went up to the gym and the kids didn’t know what it was so I told Danny Gold the director I feel horrible I misjudged it and the kids are bored and then I got the stick and started hitting it and they got into it and by the end of that scene they were exhilarated they were having so much fun everything about the documentary was emotional but that scene they thought I was acting because I was so down and disappointed.
The Knockturnal: In the trailer, I hear you talk about the magic of the Bronx could you tell us what that magic looked like for you?
George Shapiro: The magic was we would go to school and as soon as it ended we would meet with friends planning stickball, basketball, football the magic was the friendship and adventures being involved with people all the time and the laughter and when you have that many friends around we went to the movies they had double features they showed two movies cartoons, the news, superhero movies it was great we went to the movies from 10 am until 4 pm and our parents didn’t have to come it was a thing we did ourselves it was called the Tuxedo theatre on Jerome avenue around the corner from where I lived so that was the joy it was magical.
The Knockturnal: What’s your relationship with the Bronx, and what brings you here tonight?
Jerry Seinfeld: Well, George Shapiro’s my manager of 40 years and my father is born in the Bronx… I was born in Brooklyn but my father’s born in the Bronx and I grew up in the Bronx.
The Knockturnal: What are you expecting audience members to feel by the end of the show
Chazz Palminteri: I’m expecting it to be a very touching documentary about what it was like in that time to grow up there you know we all have fond memories of our youth but especially back then its a lot different there were no cellphones playdates it was just guy hanging out on the corner becoming friends and trying to make something out of themselves it was a fun time
The Knockturnal: How do feel about the stigma surrounding the Bronx that its this tough out of control place?
Chazz Palminteri: they’ve been saying that for years the Bronx dangerous place, hip hop was born in the Bronx, the Bronx has an incredible amount of talented people so that’s just the thing people run with it takes its own life it’s not any dangerous than any other place. It’s a great place to grow up with some wonderful area’s and it’s got, soul and it’s very diversified.
The Knockturnal: How was it working on the film what was your involvement?
Will Lee: I worked on a song called ‘Da Bronx’ and I’m from the Bronx I had a great time doing it Paul’s my pal we’ve written a lot of nice songs together the movie is wonderful and I’m thrilled to be apart of it.
The Knockturnal: What was your experience being back with your best friend back in the Bronx?
Carl Golub: Well, I met my friends when I was four and a half years of age and I still see them we are seven surviving people and most of them are living on the east coast all turning 88 this year and are super excited at the fact that this movie is being done and of course going to our old high school was a very nice experience it been a long time since I was there
The Knockturnal: In the trailer, there’s conversation about the magic of the Bronx a certain type of energy that’s in the air, What does that magic and or energy look and feel like for you?
Carl Golub: It was really just growing up together after the depression, after World War Two and the thing I can tell you is we had a lot of fun we were a hell of a lot of children
The Bronx, USA is a reminder that despite all our differences we are all human and can connect despite race, gender, class or sexual orientation. Life is about creating memories and having fun.
The Bronx, USA debuts on October 30th HBO 9ET/PT and also will be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO ON Demand and other streaming platforms.