We were getting ready to exit Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx this past Saturday when we noticed a sign noting the National Historic Landmark’s 150th Anniversary. Naturally we stepped toward the structure to gather more information and in doing so passed a group of people who stood just off its steps. As we approached the sign a woman called out, “Do you need help?” and Rob Medaska who was next to me replied, “We’re with the Bronx historian and…”, but before he could finish the sentence the woman excitedly cut him off, “With Lloyd? You’re with Lloyd?”
Lloyd Ultan has been borough historian of The Bronx since 1996 and as Saturday illustrated his name has become synonymous with the landmarks and institutions he loves discussing.
“If I can spread the word about the astonishing heritage shared by all Bronxites and the important contributions the borough and its people made to the growth and development of the country and the world, and thus increase their respect for the Bronx and its residents, I am heartily satisfied.”
There is no one who can make the case for the rich history of The Bronx as can Mr. Ultan who has written over ten books on the borough’s storied history, which includes deep ties to cinema. Thanks to his books Ultan has met many famous people, a fact that he still finds hard to believe. One of my favorite stories is about the time he was invited to a party given by Dolores Hope who approached him, hit him hard on the shoulder and told him she’d given his book as a Christmas gift to everybody she knew. And there were plenty of people she knew from the Bronx in Hollywood.
I met Lloyd Ultan at Fairleigh Dickinson University where he teaches history and where I have the occasional pleasure of playing audience to the one-liners he always has at the ready. Professor Ultan’s knowledge of history is encyclopedic and the most casual conversation turns into a fascinating story at every instance. Knowing that The Bronx had ties to early cinema I asked Professor Ultan if he’d consider our taping him for an episode of Classic Movies & More. He not only agreed, but offered to tell us some of those stories where they happened.
The visit to Woodlawn Cemetery with Lloyd Ultan will be released as an episode of the YouTube show, which I co-host with Rob Medaska and Annmarie Gatti of Classic Movie Hub. The Woodlawn tour was our second meeting with Ultan, however. Our first was a driving tour during which he enthusiastically recounted movie-related stories that happened in The Bronx and included visits to the sites where the Edison and Biograph Studios sat, which we are excited to show you today.