Lenny Bruce Documents and Recordings Archive. An unlikely poster child for free speech, Lenny Bruce's career as a comedian and satirist was often overshadowed by his run-ins with the law over his material -- specifically his free-wheeling use of obscenities in his stand-up routines -- and the drug addictions that eventually claimed his life. It all came to a head in 1964 with a widely-publicized six-month trial, with Bruce and club owner Howard Solomon being found guilty of obscenity despite positive testimony and petitions of support from Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Woody Allen, Dorothy Kilgallen, Herbert Gans, and other artists, writers, and educators. Bruce was sentenced on December 21, 1964, to four months in the workhouse; he was set free on bail during the appeals process and died from a morphine overdose on August 3, 1966, before the appeal was decided. Journalist Dick Schapp wrote a eulogy for Bruce in Playboy magazine, concluding: "One last four-letter word for Lenny: Dead. At forty. That's obscene." Solomon's conviction was overturned by the New York Court of Appeals in 1970; Bruce was granted a posthumous pardon in 2003 by then-Governor George Pataki.

    Much of the contents of this mini-archive relate to that controversial period in Bruce's career, and include 11 reel-to-reel tape recordings of some of Bruce's 1964 Chicago, San Francisco, and off-Broadway shows, in which he riffs on topics as far-ranging as his obscenity trials, free speech, the ACLU, sex, church, marriage, Danny Thomas, the police, taxes, and the French -- in the process showcasing Bruce's knack for free association, a skill that earned him a reputation as something of an "oral jazzman."

    Also included are numerous typed and handwritten letters from Bruce to his manager; legal briefs from his infamous obscenity trial (including one with references to Henry Mi

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    April, 2008
    5th Saturday
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