Who is Lenny Bruce ?
Detailed Lenny Bruce biography
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Lenny Bruce Bio
Leonard Alfred Schneider, better known by his stage name Lenny Bruce, was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, and satirist. Lenny Bruce was renowned for his open, free-style and critical form of comedy which integrated satire, politics, religion, sex, and vulgarity.
His 1964 conviction in an obscenity trial was followed by a posthumous pardon, the first in the history of New York state, by then-Governor George Pataki in 2003.
Bruce is renowned for paving the way for future outspoken counterculture-era comedians, and his trial for obscenity is seen as a landmark for freedom of speech in the United States. In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him third (behind disciples Richard Pryor and George Carlin) on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time.
Lenny Bruce Age
Lenny Bruce was born Leonard Alfred Schneider to a Jewish family on 13th October 1925 in Mineola, New York. He grew up in nearby Bellmore and attended Wellington C. Mepham High School. Lenny’s parents divorced before he turned 10, and he lived with various relatives over the next decade.
His British-born father, Myron Mickey Schneider, was a shoe clerk, and the two saw each other very infrequently. Bruce’s mother, Sally Marr, legal name Sadie Schneider, born Sadie Kitchenberg, was a stage performer and had an enormous influence on Bruce’s career.
After spending time working on a farm, Bruce joined the United States Navy at the age of 16 in 1942, and saw active duty during World War II aboard the USS Brooklyn (CL-40) fighting in Northern Africa; Palermo, Italy, in 1943; and Anzio, Italy, in 1944. In May 1945, after a comedic performance for his shipmates in which he was dressed in drag, his commanding officers became upset.
He defiantly convinced his ship’s medical officer that he was experiencing homosexual urges. This led to his undesirable discharge in July 1945. However, he had not admitted to or been found guilty of any breach of naval regulations and successfully applied to have his discharge changed to “Under Honorable Conditions … by reason of unsuitability for the naval service”.
After a short stint in California spent living with his father, Bruce settled in New York City, hoping to establish himself as a comedian. However, he found it difficult to differentiate himself from the thousands of other show business hopefuls who populated the city.
Bruce took the stage as “Lenny Marsalle” one evening at the Victory Club, as a stand-in master of ceremonies for one of his mother’s shows. His ad-libs earned him some laughs. Soon afterward, in 1947, just after changing his last name to Bruce, he earned $12 and free spaghetti dinner for his first stand-up performance in Brooklyn.
On August 3, 1966, Bruce was found dead in the bathroom of his Hollywood Hills home at 8825 W. Hollywood Blvd. The official photo, taken at the scene, showed Bruce lying naked on the floor, a syringe and burned bottle cap nearby, along with various other narcotics paraphernalia. Lenny Bruce was 4o years old at the time of his death.
Lenny Bruce Wife
In 1951, Lenny Bruce met Honey Harlow, a stripper from Manila, Arkansas. They were married that same year, and Bruce was determined she end her work as a stripper. The couple was blessed with a daughter in 1955 and named her Kitty Bruce.
The couple left New York in 1953 for the West Coast, where they got work as a double act at the Cup and Saucer in Los Angeles. Bruce then went on to join the bill at the club Strip City. Harlow found employment at the Colony Club, which was widely known to be the best burlesque club in Los Angeles at the time.
Bruce left Strip City in late 1954 and found work within the San Fernando Valley at a variety of strip clubs. As the master of ceremonies, he introduced the strippers while performing his own ever-evolving material.
The clubs of the Valley provided the perfect environment for Bruce to create new routines: According to his primary biographer, Albert Goldman, it was “precisely at the moment when he sank to the bottom of the barrel and started working the places that were the lowest of the low”.
He suddenly broke free of “all the restraints and inhibitions and disabilities that formerly had kept him just mediocre and began to blow with spontaneous freedom and resourcefulness that resembled the style and inspiration of his new friends and admirers, the jazz musicians of the modernist school.”
Lenny had an affair with the jazz singer Annie Ross in the late 1950s and in 1959, Lenny’s divorce from Honey was finalized.
Lenny Bruce Daughter
Kitty Bruce is the one and only daughter of the one and only Lenny Bruce. It through Kitty that the spirit of her father lives on, as she is vocal about just what it is that she believes in. The Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation commemorates her father in a tasteful way that means a lot to not just his legacy, but also to Kitty.
“Jim McCue invites me to the comedy festival,” says Kitty Bruce, over the phone from her Pennsylvania home, “and I said to him ‘Jim, you know what? I love coming to represent my father at these functions. And I need to tell you the most important way to keep my father’s memory alive and to help people at the same time.
If there’s any way, shape, or form that you could hook me up with a treatment center, that could guarantee a scholarship for someone who’s in need of drug and alcohol treatment, and they don’t have the insurance or the funds, so that they can get the help that they need [we can do that]. Because that’s what The Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation does. So he hooked me up with this recovery center, a very good one. And so we’re having a fundraiser.”
“This is what we do. Honor my father’s life in a way that’s going to change lives. ‘Kitty, this is what you wanted.’ He’s alive today through his memory and through his work. As far as material goes, man, it is timeless. Because situations have, if anything, gotten frighteningly close to where it was in the ’50s and 60’s when he was getting locked up.”
It seems as if the legend of Lenny Bruce is still alive and well today, within the youth of America. He’s actually celebrated way more today than he ever was when he was alive. More and more young people, aged around 20 or so, seem to be introduced to the brilliance of Lenny Bruce via the internet.
“They’re hungry for what he stood for,” says Bruce. “I’ve had people send me things on Facebook and say ‘Did they really do that to your dad? Did they really want to put him in prison for talking?
How could that happen? This is America. Wait a minute, what’s free speech?’ These are 20-year-old kids. The millennials saying ‘Oh my God. Did that really happen? Is this really true? Did he really exist?’ Yes, he existed. Yes, it really happened. Yes, it was part of history. And that part of history can never be disinfected or sanitized.”
“I was helping put on a 12 step meeting at a woman’s prison. So these women are talking, I’m talking to them, and I kept hearing the same thing. That their addiction, or their being in jail, became generational. So now there’s a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter all locked up.
So I said to them ‘Do you have any place to go when you leave here?’ ‘No, I’m probably going to have to go back to my hood, and it’s going to start all over again.’ So I walked away from there, and it gave me a great reason to think. And I was 51 at that time. And I thought ‘Okay Kitty. What’re you going to do? What’re you going to do?’ And I was told to pray for a vocation. And as quick as a bolt of lightning, it came to me. Lenny’s House, a place for recovery.”
It was that moment of realization that spawned an entire movement, all helmed by Ms. Bruce herself. She put her house up for a mortgage and found a gigantic 16-room facility that would become Lenny’s House.
She then sought out to help women who had suffered substance abuse issues transition back into the frightening elements that come with the real world after you’ve been disconnected for so long.
“I just wanted them to taste and to smell and to know that there’s another world out there,” says Kitty, in a voice that suggests that she can truly sympathize with the daunting tasks that lay ahead for these women. “There’s another world out there. And guess what. It’s attainable. It’s attainable if you just follow a particular, simple set of guidelines until it becomes a habit.”
For someone who is in recovery herself, Kitty Bruce remains determined. She will continue fighting for those who struggle with substance abuse in general. And she will continue to do it in loving memory of the ever-present-in-her-life father. “So this is what I’m hoping to do,” determines Bruce. “Get another Lenny’s House in a city. If I had my way, I’d have one in every single city he got busted in.”
“I love the idea that young people are starting to understand history. The history of it is his legacy. Free speech, what happened, and the fact that he was also very funny. Then you combine that with doing something to help change the world.
He changed how people thought, ‘Let’s take a step further. Let’s help seize the world a person at the time. A kinder, gentler world, where we all help each other. And that, to me, is my father’s legacy. To keep current, to be real, and to love.”
Lenny Bruce Steve Allen
Branded a “sick comic”, Bruce was blacklisted from television, and when he did appear thanks to sympathetic fans like Hefner and Steve Allen, it was with great concessions to Broadcast Standards and Practices.
Jokes that might offend, like a bit on airplane glue-sniffing teenagers that was done live for The Steve Allen Show in 1959, had to be typed out and pre-approved by network officials. On his debut on Allen’s show, Bruce made an unscripted comment on the recent marriage of Elizabeth Taylor to Eddie Fisher, wondering, “Will Elizabeth Taylor become bar mitzvahed?”
Lenny Bruce Quotes
“There are never enough ‘I love you’s.”
“Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”
“If you can’t say “Fuck” you can’t say, “Fuck the government.”
“If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.”
“The ‘what should be’ never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it. There is no ‘what should be,’ there is only what is.”
“The only honest art form is laughter, comedy. You can’t fake it…try to fake three laughs in an hour — ha ha ha ha ha — they’ll take you away, man. You can’t.”
“Satire is tragedy plus time. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it.”
“Liberals can understand everything but people
who don’t understand them.”
“I am influenced by every second of my waking hour. ”
“Take away the right to say ‘fuck’ and you take away the right to say ‘fuck the government.”
“If you live in New York, even if you’re Catholic, you’re Jewish”
“There is only what is and that’s it. What should be is a dirty lie.”
“You are white. The Imperial Wizard. Now, if you don’t think this is logic you can burn me on the fiery cross. This is the logic: You have the choice of spending fifteen years married to a woman, a black woman or a white woman.
Fifteen years kissing and hugging and sleeping real close on hot nights. With a black, black woman or a white, white woman. The white woman is Kate Smith. And the black woman is Lena Horne. So you’re not concerned with black or white anymore, are you? You are concerned with how cute or how pretty. Then let’s really get basic and persecute ugly people!”
“I won’t say ours was a tough school, but we had our own coroner. We used to write essays like “What I’m Going to be If I Grow Up”
“Even if you are Catholic, if you live in New York you’re Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you are going to be goyish even if you are Jewish.”
“People are leaving the church and going back to God.”
“…Catholicism is like Howard Johnson, and what they have are these franchises and they give all these people different franchises in the different countries but they have one government, and when you buy the Howard Johnson franchise you can apply it to the geography – whatever’s cool for that area – and then you, you know, pay the bread to the main office.”
“Life is a four-letter word.”
“I’ll die young, but it’s like kissing God.”
“must be lonesome, being bright and witty and aware,”
“I don’t want a sharp chick who quotes Kerouac; I just want to hear my old lady say, “Get up and fix the toilet, it’s still making noise.”
“There is only what is.”
“The first great break-through—or, rather, breakdown—of society’s nudity/lewdity guilt-by-association was the now-famous Marilyn Monroe calendar. Marilyn’s respectability when she died was based principally upon her economic status, which is, in the final analysis, the only type our society really respects.”