What do Miles Davis, Joseph Pulitzer, Celia Cruz, Robert Moses and Fiorello La Guardia have in common: Woodlawn, the Bronx’s breathtaking cemetery
New York City has some of the most extraordinary cemeteries in the world. Woodlawn Cemetery in the northern Bronx is one of them. Reachable by the No. 4 train — it is appropriately the last stop — the cemetery is one of the finest you will find anywhere on earth.
Its gentle sloping hills, lawns, trees and wildlife are an urban oasis — you could be dropped here and conclude you’re no where near New York City. The mausoleums and monuments are designed by renowned architects and sculptors, and how they complement the natural setting is breathtaking.
Woodlawn is also home to a grand constellation of amazing interments, people who were influential in a range of fields. The list of notables here is too great for any one blog post, but I have selected a handful of graves that are extraordinary to behold.
The fall is a wonderful time to explore the cemetery, as I did recently with map in hand. Here are some selections from my visit, organized in order of how I encountered them as I strolled from the main gate on Jerome Avenue:
J.C. Penney — yes, THAT J.C. Penney — rests here.
F.W. Woolworth started his legendary, namesake five-and-dime chain, about as simple and all-American as you can get. His grave, however, is anything but a five-and-dime. In fact, building it required a staggering amount of nickels and dimes, just as his skyscraper in lower Manhattan did.
The Cuban flag rests on her crypt, along with photos of the beloved salsa performer. She shares the mausoleum with her husband, Pedro Knight.
“La Guarachera de Cuba:” In Cuba back in the day, they called salsa “guaracha,” so the epitaph appropriately remembers her as “The salsa singer of Cuba.”
This is her tomb’s stained-glass window, as seen from the outside. It depicts the patroness of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity of Cobre (la Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre).
Fiorello La Guardia
Fiorello La Guardia’s tombstone is simple yet elegant, and has a bit of a 1940s air. Fiorello means “little flower,” so it’s only natural that his grave should depict one.
These music legends are in the “jazz neighborhood” of the park.
Roach and Jacquet are across from the grave of Sir Miles Davis. His tomb is dramatic, but the lettering can be somewhat difficult to read.
Of course, the fulcrum of the jazz neighborhood is the grave of Duke Ellington. He and his relatives rest under a large tree, flanked by two stone crosses. It’s a simple but dramatic sight.
The grave and family plot of Irving Berlin, who penned some of the most memorable songs ever. Pay your respects during the Christmas season (“White Christmas”) or Easter (“Easter Parade”) or whenever, really.
Jay Gould, 19th century industrialist and robber baron, rests in this impossibly ostentatious, interpretable (and unmarked) temple set on a vast lawn.
He may not be a household name anymore, but this robber baron’s baby is: The Long Island Rail Road.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, suffragette and pioneer of the women’s rights movement, is buried here. Her tombstone sums up her achievements.
Yellow journalist (and namesake of the considerably less yellow Pulitzer Prize) Joseph Pulitzer contemplates his final deadline here.
This is one of those graves where you just ask, “Wow, HE’S here?” Indeed, Herman Melville, the creator of “Moby Dick,” rests in Woodlawn beside his wife.
He’s hardly a household name, but J.C. Leyendecker is a big deal in the history of American illustration, publishing and advertising. He was the illustrator of the iconic Arrow Collar Shirt Man, and his work graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post before the magazine’s famous association with Norman Rockwell.
Here lies the great political cartoonist and Tammany Hall scourge Thomas Nast, who crafted the popular image of Santa Claus and the Republican Party elephant. This is definitely the time of year to pay your respects.
This was perhaps the most surprising tomb, not so much for its ostentation but rather for its utter lack of it. Here lies Robert Moses, one of the most powerful men in the New York of the 20th century, who ruthlessly transformed Gotham and the region through public work projects that to this day remain both vital and controversial. Yet here he lies, in a mausoleum, surrounded by the fellow New Yorkers his decisions influenced, who are far from powerbrokers. It’s shocking, really.
Text and photos: Rolando Pujol
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Clever ad campaign for Ask.com posits questions that speak to a New York audience. This shuttle train was wrapped inside and out with this Gotham-centric campaign. #advertising #subway #ask #trains #mta #history #nyc #trivia (Taken with Instagram)
The redesigned USA Today hits newsstands this morning, complete with a new logo as it marks its 30th anniversary. Straphangers entering the subway at Grand Central are finding out about it with this turnstile campaign focused on USA Today’s political coverage.
As USA Today reintroduces itself to the nation in a media landscape that’s very different from the paper’s pioneering beginnings in 1982, let’s flash back to an earlier time, when the newspaper was a novelty and was making a big push to get into people’s hands by touting itself as a quick, smart, colorful read for busy people.
This vintage 1980s commercial, HERE and below, features celebrities like Charles Schwab, Willard Scott, Mickey Mantle and even Chicago politician Jayne Byrne. And what’s more, they SING about why they read “USA Today, every day!” You must see Charles Schwab and Willard Scott sing!
Text and photos: Rolando Pujol
Look up America! Coca-Cola’s patriotic post-Watergate ad campaign was a jolt of Madison Ave. pep for a depressed nation
This patriotic television commercial for Coca-Cola aired on the NBC Nightly News on Aug. 8, 1974. Let’s just say this was not any old broadcast. The nation was hours away from hearing President Richard M. Nixon deliver these words: “I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.”
This ad was said to be part of the Coca-Cola company’s campaign to bolster the nation’s morale (and sales) during one of the darkest moments in American history, and the ad may well have premiered that night as the networks reported the historic news. As explained in this Coca-Cola advertising history page:
During the mid-1970s, the political uncertainty in the United States stemming from Watergate and the resignation of President Richard Nixon presented a new creative challenge to The Coca-Cola Company’s advertisers. Their solution: as the nation questioned its direction, Coca-Cola would remind Americans of their country’s positive values in the “Look Up, America” campaign.
The jingle is incredibly catchy, the American vistas selected are stirring, and the editing and narration are masterful. The overall effect leaves you feeling pretty awesome about this country, which must have been quite a feeling to have on the evening our president was resigning in an epic corruption scandal.
This campaign in its various permutations continued for more than a year after Nixon stepped down and “our long national nightmare” of Watergate was over.
Click below to watch the first ad as shown on John Chancellor’s newscast. It may well give you goose bumps on this Independence Day, almost 38 years after Nixon’s resignation.
Thankfully, America is still looking up, Coke or not.
— Rolando Pujol
Throwback Thursday: A drive-thru in Anaheim and other places where McDonald’s Mac Tonight is still creepily crooning
He’s part of any decent 1980s nostalgia session: The creepy McDonald’s singing crescent moon who plays a mean piano and goes by the name Mac Tonight, a play on Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife,” the song which Mac also riffed on in the service of selling Big Macs to adults.
The campaign, which began on the West Coast in 1986 and went national the next year, featured memorable commercials featuring that ear worm of a jingle. Mac was brought on as a way to draw an older crowd to the restaurants for dinner, an antidote to Ronald McDonald, the Fry Guys, Grimace and the rest of the McDonaldland characters who hawked for Ray Kroc’s chain earlier in the day.
Mac is retired these days, but if you keep your eyes peeled at older McDonald’s restaurants, you’ll find him still singing away. The photo above was taken at a McDonald’s in Anaheim, California in January 2011, and I will presume this Mac Tonight drive-thru signage is still in place. The oldest operating McDonald’s, in Downey, California, features a range of McDonald’s collectibles at a small on-site museum, including this Mac Tonight plate, below. And of course, you can always troll eBay for Mac memorabilia.
Well, let’s get to the truly fun part: the vintage commercials. Below is a compilation.
Text and photos: Rolando Pujol