Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce Archive with Jewish References and Obscenity Case Content



Lenny Bruce Archive with Jewish References and Obscenity Case Content

Small archive of autograph letters and notes inscribed and signed by controversial comedian and writer Lenny Bruce (1925-1966), 11pp, 5 pieces total, ca. 1960-1966. Including two documents, one with a complete signature “Lenny” (1), and the other partially signed “Len--B” (1). Expected wear includes light paper folds, wrinkles, and chipped edges. Overall light toning, else very good to near fine. The smallest piece measures 4.125” x 4.25”. Transcript material is reproduced with unchanged spelling and grammatical errors. Provenance: From the estate of “Count” Lewis DePasquale.

Lenny Bruce revolutionized American comedy, by his transgressive interrogation of taboo issues like sex, race, religion, and society, and also by his use of unedited language. Bruce pushed the envelope of humor, and by so doing, also pushed against the boundaries of socially and legally acceptable public behavior. As such, he is now known as a champion of free speech. Bruce was arrested 15 times in two years, mostly on obscenity charges. The entertainer was blacklisted and facing bankruptcy when he died of an accidental morphine overdose at the age of 40 in 1966.

“Count” Lewis DePasquale (1930-2001) was one of Bruce’s intimates, widely known as the “Count.” Born in Trenton, New Jersey, DePasquale served as a cryptographer and musician in the special services during the Korean War. He was a jazz keyboardist and played the organ for such performers as Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Belafonte. In January 1960, he was introduced to Lenny Bruce in Miami, Florida. Bruce immediately liked DePasquale and asked him to come open for him at the El Patio Club across town.  Over the next six years, the Count played, worked, and wrote movies with Bruce. When DePasquale died in 2001, he was in the process of writing a memoir of his experiences with Bruce.

1. 6pp manuscript signed as “Love Lenny” on the last of three sheets of “Hotel Mark / Chelsea Avenue and Beach / Atlantic City, N.J. – 08401” stationery paper. Bruce writes the first and second pages from back to front, and the third page from front to back. Inscribed in emphatic capital letters, with numerous cross-outs that have been included for reference. Paragraph breaks have been added for increased legibility.

In this outstanding 6pp letter draft with Jewish references, Bruce maps out an entire schematic for a comedic act featuring nudists, “bunny” dancers, giant girl singers, and club musicians. It illustrates Bruce’s incredibly complex comedic process, in which he envisioned a skit and then went about making it happen. In this way, Bruce was both a talented comedic writer and savvy project manager, equally comfortable on the creative side as on the business side. His zany comic ideas were possible to achieve only because of his audacity and persistence, as we can see by this letter.

In full:

“Please firm up Count Lewis & 4 piece group for Alternit Act trio & girl singer $250.00 for Count which is under scale for leader stop Plus he’ll play two day grade auditions for hiring of girl singer.

Take ad for girl singer beauty wanted and you audition them Culb pays half pay for week preceeding opening. Cou[nt][?] agress to work one week playing pececake opening playing auditions for girl singer & twist show girl’s & bust out Bunnies.

Here’s plan.

Run ad in paper for two week’s before opening of club for Beautiy wanted ‘twisted Bunnies position’ and girl singer’s stop and + nude sun bathing and health potrot. A nudiest familiy preferabley who have posed togeather + grandmother 65 to 75 and other couple son + daughter or son + daughter in law. Prefere nateral shapes with nice generous stomachs pendleous bussoms to appear in live picture frame setting’s in night club. Must be acurent members of acredited nudist organization The older man’s coustume brown leather sandel’s white roll down socks, + pipe standing by the sandwich truck pay Jewish [?] be cause of

Charles what ever devious maner you use get this ad in figged on the roth alberts decion’s quote nudity in it self cannot be considered obseen. unquote Three time’s a night I’ll write a sigckt for them

They run through the audience singing in German and for a fleating token they may serenade one has to be senseatoin of the seanion’s I am serious. Count will play the adoudition for this Definote umbical cord severance form you dad, florid dash, flim art, and mock anglander At long has he dosen’t have to play for BDW’S [?] and a good spirited Jewish song.

Don’t forget go to the Union so you can get contract blanks. Have hotel owners to sign contract’s for Count Lewis and you can have a wonderful week of auditioning. And telling that old guy aren’t you ashamed of your self bowing with no truss alright just pick them up and bla bla bla

Love

Lenny

Owner must absorb cost of nudist. Girl singer the tallest nude in the world 45 feet with good sighting + several magnifying lenses stop - Count’s trio plus alternit duo. Thas a stedy show from ten to five.”

In the letter, Bruce refers to an important obscenity case, Roth v. United States, and by extension, the companion case of Alberts v. Christopher Sommer (1957). In these landmark verdicts, the Supreme Court ruled that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment, and defined materials as obscene whose “dominant theme take as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.” These cases would establish the legal precedent for Bruce’s subsequent arrests for obscenity in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Chicago, and New York.

Bruce was satirizing the Supreme Court rulings by presenting an extreme example—that of nudists—in his comedy act. Both Bruce and the nudists were exercising their freedom of speech: the former by using blue language, and the latter by choosing to exist in a more natural state. Neither of these cases could be deemed obscene, in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, if they were done for a purpose other than provoking titillation; Bruce would have argued that this was the case.

2. A fragment of an air mail envelope inscribed “To Count” and partially signed “Len—B.” Heavily wrinkled and with tape residue.

3. 1p undated note reading in full: “Get me something nice for my mother a braclet with a nice stone in it something for about $3,000 you can get me a beautiful pice for really holesale it will cost you hockshop to sell.

1960 March

Found a pice he idemized.”

Bruce’s mother Sadie Kitchenberg Schneider (1906-1997) was known by the stage name “Sally Marr.” She was a stand-up comic, dancer, and actress who first introduced Bruce to the entertainer's lifestyle.

4. 2pp letter draft written by “Count” Lewis Pasquale to his child’s pediatrician, inscribed overall in blue ink. In part: “Dear Doctor I have a son fourteen months old who is a hydrosafalic. The last surgery Anthony underwent was to replace the plastic tube that acts as a drain for the excess spinal fluid…Candidly I am a bad risk economly I’m just hoping you will see Anthony for his sake, he is rather a nice chap…” Chipped edges, 5.875” x 8.875”.

5. 1p undated note in DePasquale’s hand twice mentioning “L.B.” or Lenny Bruce. Inscribed on the back of a cream sheet of “Ritz Carlton / On the Boardwalk at Iowa Avenue / Atlantic City, N.J.” letterhead. “This is what L.B. want + it is only a request. Giving to think it over. If he decides he wants to [?] no hard feelings. But if decides yess L.B. has to live up to each request or forfeit $1000…” Two phone numbers are inscribed recto.

A remarkable archive granting us exclusive access into Bruce’s creative process, business affairs, legal troubles, and personal life!



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Item: 65878

Price: $2,000.00
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