The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of An American Icon Hardcover – September 1, 2002
by Ronald K. L. Collins (Author), David M. Skover (Author)
Lenny Bruce’s words had the power to provoke laughter and debate-as well as shock and outrage. It was the force of his voice that would place him on the wrong side of the law in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
Lenny committed his life to telling the truth. But the truth he told infuriated those in power, and authorities in the largest, most progressive cities in the country worked relentlessly to put him in jail. To them, Lenny’s words were filthy, depraved. But to his fans-the hip, the discontented, the fringe-his words were not only sharp and hilarious, they were a light in the dark to the repressed society of the early 1960s.
Lenny’s battles were fought on stage and in the courtroom-against cops in San Francisco and L.A. who took notes at his performances, against judges in Chicago and against a prosecutor in New York with a zeal to bring the comedian down.
Lenny also fought his addiction to heroin and, at times, his own lawyers. And there were those who never stopped fighting for Lenny-people like Steve Allen, Phil Spector and William Kunstler.
To better understand the power of Lenny’s performances, the authors have compiled an audio CD of the routines that got him in trouble, as well as interviews with his defenders and prosecutors, and his friends and followers, including George Carlin, Hugh Hefner and Margaret Cho.
The first carefully documented account of Lenny Bruce’s career and free speech struggles, The Trials of Lenny Bruce paints a vivid, shocking, hilarious and tragic portrait of a man too honest for his time.
The Trials of Lenny Bruce includes a one-hour audio CD narrated by Nat Hentoff that features:
–Lenny Bruce performances (including ones for which he was busted)
–Notorious routines, including “Religions, Inc.,” “Blah Blah Blah,” “Thank You Mask Man” and “Las Vegas Tits and Ass”
–Interviews with George Carlin, Hugh Hefner, Margaret Cho and others
From Publishers Weekly
The shelf is full of books about “outlaw social critic” Lenny Bruce (1925-1966). But now comes a different approach, as two legal scholars provide an in-depth survey of “comedy on trial”-the five years of censorship, arrests, obscenity trials, convictions and appeals as prosecutors sought to bust Bruce for “word crimes.” Skover and Collins (coauthors of The Death of Discourse) meticulously document both litigation and the literary scene of the 1960s, crosscutting between clubs and courtrooms to show how Bruce’s career crumbled in a nightmarish fashion as he broke taboos and struggled for free speech in the years before his death from a morphine overdose. Looking for a lawyer in 1964, Bruce requested, “Get me somebody who swings with the First Amendment,” and that year noted performers and writers (such as William Styron, John Updike, James Baldwin) signed a petition to support Bruce, while others (Jules Feiffer, Jason Epstein, even the “prim and proper” Dorothy Kilgallen) served as defense witnesses. Granted access to Bruce’s papers, Collins and Skover have done exhaustive research, also interviewing Bruce’s lawyers, club owners, cohorts and comic talents, including Orson Bean, George Carlin, Margaret Cho and Paul Krassner. The voice of Bruce springs to life with his memorable comedy routines heard on the accompanying CD, narrated by Nat Hentoff and also featuring interviews with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Hugh Hefner and others who reflect on Bruce’s legacy. Generating a gamut of emotions, the entire package is an important documentation of a revolution in American culture. B&w photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
One of the most incendiary entertainers in American stand-up comedy, Lenny Bruce was never one to shy away from controversy or a legal fight. Written by a First Amendment scholar and law professor, this is the story of the series of obscenity cases that Bruce had leveled against him and how they played out. Many details from the trials are included here, making the book a literal walking tour of his time in court. An outstanding feature is the accompanying audio CD, the contents of which are all keyed to passages in the book. Narrated by Nat Hentoff and containing performances by Bruce and interviews with other entertainment notables, including George Carlin, the CD gives the text another dimension and allows for a truly different reading experience. The book is best read in tandem with Bruce’s How To Talk Dirty and Influence People: An Autobiography and William Karl Thomas’s Lenny Bruce: The Making of a Prophet. A fine retelling of Bruce’s career as well as one of the only books in print to detail his free-speech legal troubles, Trials is recommended for all media and law libraries. David M. Lisa, Wayne P.L., NJ
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Hardcover: 576 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks MediaFusion; Har/Com edition (September 1, 2002)
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.8 inches
Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds