May 23, 2003

A Pardon for Lenny Bruce?

There is a movement afoot to get Lenny Bruce's a pardon for his New York conviction.

Fueling the campaign is research done by Ronald K. L. Collins and David M. Skover, who wrote a book last year called "The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of an American Icon" (Sourcebooks). The authors discovered, to their surprise, that the obscenity conviction still stood.
[Bruce's] supporters insist they are not retroactively applying today's more relaxed standards on language. "The Solomon decision indicates that even under the prevailing standards of the time, the Bruce conviction should never have taken place," Mr. Corn-Revere said. "The fact that the conviction remains on the books is an anomaly and a disgrace to the First Amendment."

In August of 1966, when Lenny Bruce died, I was working for the summer with my father at DuArt Film Labs on 55th Street.

There was a skilled maintenance worker there (one of the last of the classic "dese, dem, doze" Brooklynites) who could communicate a reasonably coherent sentence using little but variations on the word "F--k" — as a verb, adverb, adjective, noun in all its regular and irregular forms.

On the other hand, the Judge in Bruce's New York case claimed to have been in the Army for 4 years and never heard the word. That got as big a laugh in the court as anything Bruce said.

I got Lenny Bruce's album in 1968. It was definitely the funniest thing I'd ever heard. Pardon? He should get a formal apology.

(By the way, I'm not squeamish about the F word, just trying to keep from choking on the spam filters.)

For some more on Lenny, here's part of his FBI file:

Posted by campbell at May 23, 2003 11:20 AM | TrackBack