"I wouldn't come on corny to the man who gave me the sound."
The Assassinated Press
"They 're So Corrupt, It's Thrilling."
Lenny Bruce's Killers Pardon Him:
It Wasn't About 'Dirty Words'. It Was About The American Genius For Lynching Genius
An Assassinated Press Editorial
Well, thank you very much, cocksuckers, for pardoning Lenny Bruce. The spectacle of watching a tight assed murderous little motherfucker like Gov. George Pataki do the honors was just another indication that maybe Lenny was right to bail. The stink goes on. Why didn't N.Y. break with protocol and have the police chief or the district attorney pardon Bruce? "It's good PR. And besides what's the harm. The little kike's been dead for 37 years now. It's not like he can use the pardon for a comeback on Leno. Sure. We're shit next to Bruce. But that's why we're alive discussing whether there's a little political advantage in pardoning the dead 'Dirty Lenny.' Its a cautionary tale for the kids. Kids, don't be like 'Dirty Lenny' because even in death the criminal class that runs America, the kleptocracy, will come up with or, as in this case, be offered ways to gain personal advantage while grinning over your corpse. Yes, just like Cheney and Rumsfeld at a military funeral. Just like that," the bubble above Pataki's head read.
Pardoning Lenny Bruce. Who cares? It just brings back all the bitterness, especially because it's people like Pataki that murdered Bruce in the first place. And it's people like Pataki who put innocent people on death row after putting laws in place to kill them. The state gave Bruce a death sentence. They didn't have the appropriate laws on the books to kill him the way Lenny parodied it and Hollywood's distortion of it in Father Flotski's Triumph. So prosecutors and cops and moral watchdogs took it upon themselves to murder him slow and excruciatingly through bust after bust. Lenny was executed for a misdemeanor. That's how good he was. Obviously the state could see that Lenny was more of a threat than the misdemeanor charge, 'obscenity', was meant to suggest and in death squad fashion the state took it upon itself to murder him. Lenny should be pardoning those assholes not the other way around.
But who's going to find fault with Collins and Skover's efforts to secure a pardon for Bruce especially because the authors are not too politically correct to say exactly what happened to Bruce---the state murdered him in cold blood. Local and state authorities mirroring the fed under, of all 'things,' a closeted cross-dressing J. Edgar Hoover hounded Lenny until busted, deprived of a means of earning a living, anathema at all of his old venues, strung out, broke couldn't take the shit anymore. Who could? And anybody who says otherwise doesn't understand how long and doggedly the hypocrites came down on Bruce. Why? Because Bruce exposed them. Rarely by name though his Governor Faubus and Huey Long bits are legendary---"I'm not a nut! No better schools. I'm not a nut!" Bruce reached inside them and pulled out the other half of the double standard and held it up on stage and examined it, skewered it with parody and laughter. Cops, prosecutors and judges felt that Bruce was laughing at them. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. But they didn't have the character and in many cases the brains to see what Bruce had given them---morality without artifice, because Lenny Bruce was the most moral of men.
I wish I could agree with other Bruce supporters that Lenny's death was not in vain, but I can't. The status quo has pulled off one of those social feints that are so distinctly American. Cooption by the kleptocracy. Change has been declared where no change has occurred; where personal and public repression is at an all time high exemplified by the eternal struggle between what are in actuality the same thing---pornography and decency, one being the product of the denial of the nature of the other. This was one of Bruce's favorite themes. You're less likely to be prosecuted for it perhaps, but the fact that the ontology is unaffected, the categorical assumptions, points to no fundamental change at all. Where sex and provocative language is concerned, there's less money in health. Please, have a healthy body (not mind) and use our products to get it. Or as Lenny might have said. Nudists don't need to feel the burn.
Shit! What better example than this morning's paper. We can't even romanticize our drug addicted visionaries like Bruce and Burroughs anymore without some drug addicted hypocrite par excellence like Rush Limbaugh choking up column space right next to the Bruce article. Unlike Lenny, Limbaugh is pornographic and obscene. Always has been and from his recent public comments always will be. All the signs of what Rush Limbaugh is, a hypocrite and a coward, were utterly apparent before his addiction to pain killers became public. Now he's alleging a left wing conspiracy and that he's being hounded because of his celebrity. You don't know hounded, asshole. And besides schmuck if you weren't a celebrity you'd be facing 25 to 40 in the slammer because of mandatory sentencing promoted by shits like you. And even hounded into destitution you aren't Bruce. He was not a hypocrite. He is what you pretend to be.
Bruce took the hypocrisy of society straight on. Limbaugh was always and everywhere politically correct saying what the kleptocracy wanted to hear. Limbaugh's genius was fuckin' people over. He made ordinary people think he cared a rat's ass about them and their self-serving sense of reality. He gave what on the surface appears to be a more data filled, therefore legitimized, airing of white Americans' hates and fears constructed by a large research staff behind the radio personae. But Limbaugh first and, in reality spoke directly to the kleptocracy. Every broadcast was geared to pleasing the powerful, to getting their message across that they were not the enemy, but that the weak and defenseless, the humane and well-meaning were. If Bruce were alive, he'd pick your fat carcass clean and send peels of laughter out into the avenues in the process. No not like Chris Rock or whomever. But with a moral alternative, a moral authority that professed no authority, but was simply natural and right. That's why so many so viscerally miss Bruce. I mean long for him. Lenny wasn't in the business of exploiting other people's misery.
And Bruce made art out of his. "Hey, I gotta level with you man," Bruce's junkie trumpeter in 'The Sound' tells Lawrence Welk. "I've got a monkey on my back." Welk answers, "That's all right. We like animals on the band. Rocky's got a duck. They can play together."
And they killed you not because they were provincial, out to protect community standards, but because they couldn't distinguish their own impulses from what you were saying. You didn't strike a nerve. You plucked it out of their bodies and played chords on it. Community standards were just a smokescreen, the chimera of which none of them intended to live up to. You were exposing them and their hypocrisy, and exposure had been the great sin that cut you off from the community, not the alleged sin itself. How many of those motherfuckin' cops felt a twinge, numerous twinges, when they heard your act. Answer: Every cocksuckin' one of them. How many cops relished the notion that the next day in court they were going to get to do your act---Your Act! before a judge and be free to say 'cocksucker' under the guise of law and respectability. Answer: Every shit bag one of them. You were/are a better human being than all of them put together exponentially and that goes for an infinite number of Limbaugh's too.
And you were---are a consummate genius. Without question the best in your chosen profession ever. The American delusion may now be so thick and the powers that be so cynical and ruthless and the gelded media so pervasive that your enormous talent may never be challenged. Then again how many Petronius's, Juvenals, Catullus's, Rabelais, Swifts, Alfred Jarrys, Jame Joyces, William Burroughs and Lenny Bruces are afforded us."
The jazz voicings (and without jazz, America wouldn't have had a half dozen honest people) in your pieces make the hypocritical as well as the ridiculous give up their truth. The warden in Father Flotski's triumph says, "The Bullets? Look in back of my brown slacks." The latter phrase tumbles out of Lenny's mouth mundane as a husband telling his wife where she might find his credit card. Yet, this is a prison break, an Attica, and Father Flotski after failing to talk the ring leader, Dutch, into surrendering says, "Pour it in. They're no good the lot of 'em." The priest, the symbol of compassion and mercy, gives up that ruse when his scam doesn't go his way---and ain't that the way the rule of law works, both in organized religion and the state. And Bruce wraps the whole routine in the cultural context of a bad Hollywood movie (Is there any other kind?) announcing the bit with audio bits of the credits. "...and the hooker across the bay, Ann Dvorak." Corny, sentimental, lying, hypocritical, delusional---Lenny exposes it all. "I'll go down there." "Not you Father Flotski." The priest and what he represents are not up to the task that Bruce has in my mind. In fact, Bruce's position is so 'naturally' ethical that a priest is antithetical to the task.
Bruce's bits can trick your visual sense into actually perceiving a film, so strong and efficient is his language at evoking its visual equivalent, so thoroughly imbued was he with American culture, so energized are his bop yiddish riffs and so rhythmically precise are the dialogues he shares among his numerous personalities. And Lenny was a radical. Berkeley got that right. He'd kick the Liberals in the ass better than Phil Ochs. Earlier in the bit trying to hustle Dutch into giving up his gun, Bruce has Father Flotski say, "You're not a bad boy, Dutch. Killing six children doesn't make anybody bad, now." And all in a brogue that for you oldsters Bruce reveals is based on the 'Arthur Shields for Swiss Colony Wine' add. The swipe at Huntz Hall, East Side Kids 'bad boy' bathos---I mean multiply effects like that a million times and you get a glimmer of insight into Bruce's genius.
And take the bit called The Palladium, a twenty minute cultural morality tale, a kind of lounge comic Wordsworth's 'Michael', about a Vegas comedian, a Shecky Green, on the 'tits and ass' circuit who convinces his agent that he should book him at the London Palladium Theater. The bit builds through banter with his agent, rehearsals at the Palladium, the comics misguided preparations for the show, to a crescendo of audience antagonism that ends with the house booker attempting to sack the comic as the comic wretches uncontrollably in his dressing room. And just when you're wasted with laughter, Lenny has the comic convince the booker to let him go on for one more show. "I haven't even done my fag at the ball game bit," opines the comic. So just when you think the roller coaster ride was slowing to let you off and catch your breath after the vertigo of laughter had you wretching right along with the comic but at his expense, Bruce cranks you up the track, Christ, at least a few hundred more feet. At the top, you're view is a hostile Palladium audience provincial and utterly unsympathetic to the rhythms and culture of Las Vegas---"2000 people. An oil painting." Bruce uses the old joke to great effect, as good as Jaysus James Joyce ever integrated a piece of modernist flotsam. Finally, the comic takes to taunting the audience with IRA banter. "Those micks really stuck it to you. The IRA." The audience explodes into anti-IRA fury---"Kill the Irish!!!! Kill the Irish!!! They stole the grail!!!!" A riot breaks out.. Cut to the dressing room. Sound of comic heaving. Booker reenters, sacks comic with a couple of asides. And Bruce's audiences. There are literally people on the floor, some laughing so hard they're gasping for air. Some nights Lenny's bits should have been licensed as lethal weapons.
The Palladium is really schtick raised to the level of culture commentary, language and communication. Its Ed Sapir and Benjamin Whorf but a whole lot funnier.
So people wanted to kill this man. Anti-Semitism? Did the Lone Ranger want 'Tanta' the Indian? You better fuckin' believe it. They wanted to kill him because he was a Jew that poked fun at the pope and white Protestant moraes. Some wanted to kill him simply because he was a Jew. Some wanted to kill him because he was a Jew who was entirely comfortable in the African-american jazz milieu. In other words, an integrationist without portfolio. Conservatives wanted to kill him because he revealed their most private thoughts and desires and would not allow their secret fetishistic fantasies to stay secret. "You can snuggle up on cold nights for the rest of your life with a white, white woman, or a black, black woman. The white woman is Kate Smith; the black woman is Lena Horne." The bit's less than a minute long but our culture is so rotten with hypocrisy, stereotypes and rhetorical oxymorons, I guarantee you I could even today (or especially today) do a 16 week seminar on its cultural, political and economic implications and not even fuckin' scratch the surface.
Except for perhaps Steve Allen and Hugh Heffner, liberals hated Bruce. After all he shoved their largesse right back up their phoney asses with How To Relax Colored Friends At Parties. "Ya know. I'd like to have you over. But I got a sister. Pretty kid. Different way. Any way I here you guys just do it...I know you wouldn't want no Jew doing it to your sister. I don't want no coon doing it to mine." And what comics don't get today is the personae. Bruce becomes the liberal, the bigot, the liberal bigot and the caricature rings true. Too true for Lenny's health.
Then there's his infamous Thank You masked Man; his Religion's Incorporated which never failed to baffle yet incense the authorities; his slap at the cult of celebrity, Hitler and the MCA; his cruel yet honest paean to the heartland, Lima, Ohio; his 'eat, sleep and crap rule' of law from the Curran concert; his wacked out riff on kid's television shows adlibbed in a hotel room, Captain Wackencracker, where as part of the bit he narrates a cartoon that just fuckin' draws itself in your head---"Looka that. Old sly fox just bit his eye out. Ain't that cute boys and girls." Violence directed at children, stereotypes (it's the "dirty ol' lazy elephant" that loses the eye), and the bit ends with a slap at corporate sponsors preying on children. And its a fuckin' hell of a lot funnier (and more honest) than Tipper Gore Nadar as well as being 41 years old.
Bruce's recorded ouvre is not large. You can listen to every available recorded bit and watch the documentaries all in about 12 hours. That's largely because by the time Lenny Bruce was 39 he had been murdered and in between people were afraid to hire him, and the anxiety over his legal battles took a toll on the comic's ability to create. If there's any pardoning, Lenny should be doing it. I can't imagine the art and laughter he'd be making today. Or then again, perhaps I can. The bits would probably be more cynical, a place where Bruce's gifts did not lay.
But the kleptocrats have won. From the smarmy innuendo of network sitcoms to the bling-bling directed Victorian pointlessness of hip-hop, its the money that matters. Not that Bruce didn't glory in the hefty gates he commanded at the height of his career. Lenny was not against money. But he didn't try out bits to see which ones picked up the money scent. He improvised. And man did he take risks unlike these so-called cutting edge fops we have today. That's one of the subtexts in The Palladium, the repetitious and unimaginative nature of the lounge comic's act is a paradigm for the unexamined biases of today's political comics who can't distinguish a starving campesino who picks up a gun from Don Rumsfeld.
But when the criminals are pardoning the victims. Its clear, the criminals, the kleptocracy has won. I wish I could be happy for you Lenny. But what's the fuckin' point.
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