Lenny Bruce


Lenny Bruce

Original Name Leonard Alfred Schneider
Mineola, Nassau County, New York, USA
Death 3 Aug 1966 (aged 40)
Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Mission Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Mount Nebo, section 298-C
Memorial ID 140 View Source
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Writer and Comedian. He is best remembered for his social commentary and criticism of the 1950s and 1960s. Born Leonard Alfred Schneider in Mineola, New York, he grew up in Bellmore, NY, attending Mepham High School. When his parents divorced when he was 5, he spent his growing up years moving among his various relatives over the next 12 years. His mother, Sally Marr, made a living as a stage performer, but would pass her son to her family to raise when finances were tight, as they often were for a single woman. When Lenny was 17, during World War II, he joined the US Navy and saw duty in Europe, until his discharge in 1946. In 1947, he adopted the stage name of Lenny Bruce, and got free meals by doing impromptu standup comedy in Brooklyn clubs. Despite such a modest beginning, he got a break on "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" show, doing voice mimics of Hollywood movie stars. His career in the 1950s included screenplays he had written for the movies "Dance Hall Racket" (1953) and "Dream Follies" (1954), often anything he could do to make money. He would begin to lace his comedy routines with frank but funny discussions of themes that made many Americans uncomfortable, talking about race, politics, religion, abortion, drugs, the Ku Klux Klan, and on being Jewish. As his fame grew, so did his detractors. Some people thought his social commentary was "a fad" while others wondered if he was a harbinger of new thought in the American people. His comedy frequently included "four-letter words." In October 1961, Bruce was arrested for obscenity during one of his comic workshops, and although he was acquitted, law enforcement agencies began to monitor his activities. Over the next three years, Bruce became a target for Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan, a staunch Roman Catholic close to the Archbishop of New York, Francis Cardinal Spellman. After being arrested in Philadelphia for drug possession and in Los Angeles for obscenity, he was arrested twice in New York's Greenwich Village for obscenity. At the time, Greenwich Village was a well-known location for artists and free thinkers to gather. During his six-month trial in 1964, numerous writers, artists, actors and prominent society leaders provided positive support for Bruce, gathering public opinion on his behalf. Bruce was found guilty, and sentenced to four months in a workhouse, and he was released on bail during his appeal process (the conviction would be overturned in 1970). Bruce would make television appearances in which he would include details of his encounters with the police, making them objects of ridicule, ranting against fascism and lack of freedom of speech; this would increase police pressure against him. Bruce was also banned from publicly performing in a number of cities, and due in part to his drug use, was banned from many nightclubs. His last recorded public performance was at the Berkeley (California) Community Theatre in December 1965, although he would last appear in San Francisco on June 25, 1966, in a concert with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. On August 3, 1966, he was found dead in the bathroom of his Hollywood home, from an accidental overdose of morphine. In December 2003, New York Governor George Pataki granted Bruce a posthumous pardon for his obscenity conviction, the first such posthumous pardon in New York history. Since his death, Bruce has been considered an icon of comic social commentary, and an inspiration to many other social commentators since then.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 140
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Lenny Bruce (13 Oct 1925–3 Aug 1966), Find a Grave Memorial ID 140, citing Eden Memorial Park, Mission Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .