Bred and Buttered in the Bronx

Neil deGrasse Tyson
Astrophysicist Extraordinaire
Attended Bronx Science High School, then earned his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia. He is currently the Chief Astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium Rose Center at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Host this summer of the PBS series NOVA scienceNOW. A frequent guest on the Colbert Report. If only he had been my physics teacher in high school…oh my, I would certainly be blogging on another subject. He is a hero in our household.

Colin Powell
65th United States Secretary of State /12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff / 16th National Security Advisor / Retired General in the United States Army
Born in Harlem, grew up on Kelly Street in the Hunts Point / Longwood neighborhood (Longwood has a very beautiful historic district), attended Morris Park High School.

Valerie Simpson
Musician, Composer
Of the husband wife duo Ashford and Simpson, born in the Bronx, songwriter and producer of so many classic hits, including “I’m Every Woman”, the Supremes’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. Could a rolling hill or peak in the Bronx have been her influence? Ashford and Simpson had opened a restaurant, The Sugar Bar on the Upper West Side. But I’m not sure if it is still open?

E.L. Doctorow
Known as Edgar when a student at Bronx Science High School, his novels “Billy Bathgate” and “World’s Fair” portray life in the Bronx during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Signed copies of these novels are buried in the Bronx Time Capsule to be unearthed in 2089. In the dedication of the capsuled “Billy Bathgate” Doctorow wrote: “Is there still reading? And will you understand this? Or will you read it all too well and smile for the primitives we were.”

Stanley Kubrick
Attended William Howard Taft High School in the South Bronx, director of films “Dr. Strangelove”, “2001 A Space Odyssey, “A Clockwork Orange”, “The Shining” and “Full Metal Jacket”.

Garry Marshall
Television Producer, Director
born in the Bronx, older brother to actress Penny Marshall, their mom ran a tap dance studio in the Bronx, attended DeWitt Clinton High School, graduate of The Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University (my alma mater!), donated the funds for Northwestern’s Barbara and Garry Marshall Studio Wing and The Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center named for his mother. He wrote for “The Lucy Ball Show”, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Odd Couple”, created “Happy Days” and Laverne and Shirley”, directed the films “Beaches”, “Pretty Woman”, “The Runaway Bride”, “The Princess Diaries 1 and 2”.

Penny Marshall
Director/ Actor
Born in the Bronx, sister to Garry Marshall (see above), played Laverne DeFazio in late 70s TV sitcom “Laverne and Shirley”, director of several films including “Big”, “A League of Their Own” and “The Preacher’s Wife”.

Rob Reiner
Born in the Bronx, as was his father Carl Reiner, Rob is most famous for his role as “Meathead” on the 1970’s sitcom “All in the Family”, directed “This is Spinal Tap” and “When Harry Met Sally” (the first movie my sister and I saw when we moved to New York).

Danny Aiello
Grew up in the South Bronx, performed in “Moonstruck” and “Do The Right Thing”, he’s also a singer and recently released an album in the vein of Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and Louis Prima.

Nancy Savoca
Born and raised in the Bronx, directed, “True Love” about Italian-American life in the Bronx, won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1989, “Dogfight”, “Household Saints” and “The 24-Hour Woman”. I once heard her speak at a Learning Annex workshop and liked her a lot.

Tracy Morgan
Actor / Comedian
Born in the Bronx, attended DeWitt Clinton High School, appeared in “Martin”, “Saturday Night Live” and currently in “30 Rock”.

Anne Bancroft
Born in the Bronx, most known for her role as the unfaltering teacher Annie Sullivan in the “Miracle Worker” and Mrs. Robinson in the “The Graduate”. Married to Mel Brooks. I stayed up late one night recently watching “The Miracle Worker” and was absolutely stunned at the physical intensity of her scenes wrestling with Patty Duke’s Helen Keller. Amazing. I could feel that pain in a way I certainly do not when watching a contemporary high action film.

Jennifer Lopez
Actor / Dancer / Singer
Born and raised in the Castle Hill neighborhood of the Bronx. She was a one of the “Fly Girls” on “In Living Color” in the early 90s. We adored this show. The Fly Girls moved like dancers we had never seen before. And everyone on it, Damon Wayans, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Kim Wayans, David Allan Grier, Jim Carrey, was hilarious.

Ace Frehley
Born in the Bronx, lead guitarist for rock band “Kiss“. He’s the one with a starburst over each eye. Apparently the Kiss lightening bolt logo is his design.

Calvin Klein
Fashion Designer
Born in the Bronx and grew up in the Moshulu Parkway neighborhood. His father Leo, owned a small grocery store in Harlem on Lenox Avenue. He spent many childhood afternoons with mother Flore, in his grandmother Molly’s tiny dress alteration shop on Bainbridge Avenue. Took art classes at P.S. 80 on Moshulu Parkway, attended New York’s High School of Industrial Fashion in Manhattan. Couldn’t wait to finish high school to get out of the Bronx. Graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology. He almost became the owner of a string of grocery stores with boyhood friend and fellow Bronxite, Barry Schwartz. Creator of the eponymous designer jean and their provocative television and print ads. Sold his company Calvin Klein in 2003.

Ralph Lauren
Fashion Designer
Born in the Bronx, né Ralph Rueben Lifshitz. Grew up in the Mosholu Parkway area, attended DeWitt Clinton High School. Changed his name to Lauren when a teenager. Introduced a line of men’s ties 40 years ago. His ties were wide when the trend was for narrow ties. They were instantly successful. Never went to design school. Never played polo. Creator of the Polo Ralph Lauren brand.


28 thoughts on “Bred and Buttered in the Bronx

  1. I want to add a very famous artist who
    Was my best friend and died very early
    Kenneth Munowitz
    His paintings are almost
    He deserves mention
    Look him up on google
    My phone no.if needed
    914 419 0305

  2. As former NYC managing editor who was also born and raised in the Bronx – I’ll take Manhattan anyday – however this borough is where the family dinners took place and all holiday gatherings. I have to share that you’ve left out so many other Bronxites from this list! Thank you for the info on the Andrew Freedman home, so many times have we driven by it on the way to the Bronx Museum, who knew?

  3. Jim Henson also lived in the Bronx. I remember him when I was little.He use to say, higuys in his Kermit voice. We didn’t know he was famous. We did know that he made muppets, not puppets he told us.My brother got to play with his first Kermit the frog made from his mother’s coat. He was a really nice man. He lived in the building next to where I lived and Jacob Javits lived on the floor right above him (Javits Center). They lived at 1950 West 179th St. right off University Avenue.

  4. Helen Kane was an actress/singer flapper in the 20’s 30’s she was a Bronxite in Clason Point. Betty Boop was fashioned after her because she coined the phrase “boop oop a doop”. Famous song was “I wanna be loved by you”.

  5. from DeWitt Clinton HS wiki page come:

    Don Adams from Get Smart: Richard Avedon, photographer; Nate Archibald, NBA Hall of Fame; James Baldwin, writer; Martin Balsam, actor; Paddy Chaefsky, screenwriter; George Cukor, director; Lloyd Cutler, advisor to Democratic presidents; Stanley Kramer, director, Stan Lee, comic book creator; Eddie Lopat, pitcher; Tracy Morgan, on 30 Rock; Barnett Newman, Expressionist painter; Charles Rangel, Congressman; Dolph Shayes, NBA Hall of Fame, Daniel Schorr, journalist; and Neil Simon, playright

  6. Dion of Dion and the Belmonts (50’s rock and roll group)
    Chaz Palminterri, Eddie Palmari
    The list does go on and you can see more if you check out the Bronx Walk of Fame .

  7. R there any pics th@ u can post? I’ve been fascinated by the Bronx’ history since I moved 2 the Highbridge section. I was born & raised in the Bronx, but never truly appreciated it’s history until I started reading small excerpts of it’s history in a local newspaper th@ is published in the area called the Highbridge Horizon. Ever since then, I’ve been an avid reader of anyhting to do w/ it’s history. I also have 6 books relating 2 this Beautiful City. I will not tolerate any1 bad mouthing it, & I try 2 give them a better picture of wh2 the Bronx was, is, & will continue 2 b in the future. The Bronx is a city full of wonderful & beautiful history. U can c it everywhere u go in th@ city.

  8. Carl Reiner, Rob’s dad lived here as well. Robert Klein the comedian. Sonia Sotomayor, needs to be added. Red Buttons the comedian. I will work to remember more and attempt to add. I thought that Denzel Washington lived here for a while before moving up to Mt. Vernon. Steve and Edie Gorme lived on the grand concourse in the 50s and 60s. The new attorney general is teh first AFrican American AG and the new Urban Policy guy are both former Bronx residents and public servants.

  9. the actor and writer Robert Klein should also be on this list – I think he recently wrote a book about growing up in the Bronx.

    1. Yes!
      I think I heard or read about him that he doesn’t like flying.
      I found the book title: The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Child of the Fifties Looks Back
      I’ll have to check it out.
      Thanx for the reminder.


  10. In addition to Ann Bancroft (Italiano) two other notable attendees at Christopher Columbus High were boxer Roland LaStarza and George (Christine) Jorgensen

    1. Thanx for these suggestions — both new names to me.
      Christine Jorgensen’s story is very interesting — I’ve seen her photo, but didn’t realize she was transgender nor a Bronxite.


  11. Nice list. Visitors and locals should also stroll the Grand Concourse and check out the Bronx Walk of Fame from the Bronx County building to the Hostos Community College area. There are plenty of names of people who hail from the Bronx. Just look for the yellow street signs.

      1. Don’t forget Don DeLillo (much of his great “Underground” is set in the Bronx); also Tony Curtis and Sal Mineo

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