NYC's starry Woodlawn Cemetery an overlooked cultural gem

NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Cumella, dressed in 1920s garb, laid his old Victrola record player down among the tombstones and turned to the small tour group assembled under the towering trees at Woodlawn Cemetery.

“She was the diva of her day. The Beyoncé of her day,” he said, brushing leaves off the modest stone commemorating vaudeville star Nora Bayes.

The group had to lean in toward the old windup Victrola to hear Bayes' big voice, necessary in the age before microphones, belting her biggest hit, 1917’s

The song's author, George M. Cohan, was also honored on this tour of jazz and vaudeville greats buried at , a grand old cemetery and arboretum in the heart of the Bronx. Cohan and his family lie in an imposing mausoleum with Tiffany stained-glass windows.

Other stops included the resting places of jazz pioneers W.C. Handy and King Oliver; dancers Irene and Vernon Castle; comedian Bert Williams; and, at a crossroads known as “Jazz Corner,” Duke Ellington, surrounded by Miles Davis, Lionel Hampton and others.