December 22, 2014

50 years ago today: Lenny Bruce was sentenced to "4 months in the workhouse."

He never served that sentence, however. He was free on bail pending the appeal, and he would have won that appeal, but he died, at the age of 40, before the court issued the opinion.



Here's an excerpt from the trial court's unpublished opinion, with this 12-point list of Lenny Bruce Bruce's jokes, awkwardly retold judicial style:
1. Eleanor Roosevelt and her display of "tits." (1st performance; transcript of 3rd performance at p. 27)
2. Jacqueline Kennedy "hauling ass" at the moment of the late President's assassination. (Transcript of 2nd performance at p. 22; transcript of 3rd performance at p. 13)
3. St. Paul giving up "fucking." (1st performance; transcript of 2nd performance at p. 12; transcript of 3rd performance at p. 19)
4. An accident victim-who lost a foot in the accident-who made sexual advances to a nurse, while in the ambulance taking him to the hospital. (1st performance; transcript of 2nd performance at p. 25)
5. "Uncle Willie" discussing the "apples" of a 12-year old girl. (transcript of 2nd performance at p. 20; transcript of 3rd performance at p. 12)
6. Seemingly sexual intimacy with a chicken. (transcript of 2nd performance at p. 25)
7. "Pissing in the sink" and "pissing" from a building's ledge. (transcript of 2nd performance at p. 24; transcript of 3rd performance at p. 15)
8. The verb "to come," with its obvious reference to sexual or orgasm. (1st performance)
9. The reunited couple discussing adulteries committed during their separation, and the suggestion of a wife's denial of infidelity, even when discovered by her husband. (1st performance; transcript of 2nd performance at p. 29)
10. "Shoving" a funnel of hot lead "up one's ass." (transcript of 2nd performance at p. 22; transcript of 3rd performance at p. 13)
11. The story dealing with the masked man, Tonto, and an unnatural sex act. (1st performance)
12. Mildred Babe Zaharias and the "dyke profile of 1939." (transcript of 3rd performance at p. 27)
Bruce received a pardon in 2003. His daughter Kitty Bruce, who was 11 when her father died, said:
"Isn't this wonderful? Isn't this a great day in America? Boy, has this been nuts, or what? My dad had so much to say and so little time to say it. This is what America is all about.''

24 comments:

Humperdink said...

Many years ago it was Lenny Bruce. A few years ago it was Howard Stern and other shock jocks. Always labelled controversial. Nothing controversial about it. it's just smut. And the envelope gets stretched a bit more every year.

sean said...

Wow, that was then. Today, you can't dance with headphones on at the Lincoln Memorial, or criticize gay marriage on a university campus.

Dr.D said...

We care about Lenny Bruce why? His work was trash then, and it is trash now. Nothing new, nothing special, just trash.

Johanna Lapp said...

I thought of Lenny on Saturday, watching tweeters unfold every emerging detail of the NYPD shootings. Black shooter! Hispanic cop! Asian-American cop!

The jokes he would have made would be foul, using all the forbidden epithets. But fifty years later, we're still throwing down race, gender and all the rest like bids and trump cards at a bridge table.

sydney said...

But did he ever use the Lord's name in vain?

DrSquid said...

And he killed himself with heroin. Hmmph, another bad decision.

Laslo Spatula said...

From the link:

Dissent in PEOPLE v. BRUCE
(Criminal Trial Court of the City of New York, Nov. 4, 1964)

J. Randall Creel 
Judge of the Criminal Court of the City of New York

"And most ironically, the voice of the sovereign people is muted into inarticulate impotence once the judiciary has rendered an opinion declaring the matter before it of constitutional import, whether it is obscenity or other vastly more vital social policy problems."

Applicable then, applicable now.

I am Laslo.

Humperdink said...

Old Lenny was a free spirit, except of course when it came to his lovely bride:"Bruce met his future wife, Honey Harlow, a stripper from Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951. They were married that same year, and Bruce was determined to have her end her work as a stripper."

Smut for me, but not for thee (or anyone else apparently).

Laslo Spatula said...

You can't put tits and ass on the marquee!...Why not?...Because it's dirty and vulgar, that's why not!...

Titties are dirty and vulgar?...Okay, we'll compromise. How about Latin? Gluteus maximus, pectoralis majors nightly...

That's alright, that's clean, class with ass, I'll buy it...

Clean to you, schmuck, but dirty to the Latins!

Sum Laslo.

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tank said...

Meade made a comment, then banned himself?

Curious George said...

Drug overdose? He got off easy. Imagine the hell the left would have put him through for saying nigger or dyke in his act.

Meade said...

"Meade made a comment, then banned himself?"

Nothing gets attention like censorship.

David said...

And now it's mainstream. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The Godfather said...

I don't care if a joke's funny, so long as it's dirty.

JAORE said...

Check out some of his material. If it were not controversial no one today would remember Lennie Bruce. I have a low bar to clear for funny. He was not.

JAORE said...

Ooops, Lenny not Lennie, of course.

FullMoon said...

JAORE said... [hush]​[hide comment]

Check out some of his material. If it were not controversial no one today would remember Lennie Bruce. I have a low bar to clear for funny. He was not.


I guess maybe you had to be there. Inflection, nuance, timing, and a nightclub setting with everybody drunk or stoned. Might have been real funny, in a sixth grade sort of way.

Roger Sweeny said...

Lenny considered himself a man of the left and was hated by much of the right. Those who tried to censor him were generally considered to be on the right.

In America back then people on the right were the censors and people on the left were all in favor of free speech, no matter who was offended. How things change.

mccullough said...

In Don DeLillo's novel Underworld, the scenes with Lenny Bruce are terrific.

jr565 said...

I will say, that the country really has become debased. Think of how tame What Lenny said was. Now he might even get a PG13 rating.

jr565 said...

Though, good point about getting banned for speaking ill of gay marriage or womens issues. Now its not the smut that will get you it's the lack of political correctness or strict adherence to the orthodox liberal position.
Whatever it might be today.

Fritz said...

He was so important, Grace Slick sang about him in her days before the Airplane.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r34vfH4lDAQ

William said...

He was monumentally self destructive. He got to pose his self destruction as a form of martyrdom. Neat trick. Sometimes the grandiose achieve grandeur.