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The Trials of Lenny Bruceby Ronald K. L. Collins and David M. Skover
Synopses & Reviews
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
"[A]n exhaustive study of the performer's important freedom of speech cases....This well-written volume will have special appeal for readers interested in free-speech issues. The authors' research here is unstinting." Martin Brady, BookPage
"[The authors'] descriptions of nightclub life in the early '60s are fascinating. In this era of Howard Stern, South Park and the Internet, when we take our freedoms for granted, it's difficult to imagine such constraints on language." Michael Colton, Washington Post
"[A] fascinating and insightful look at the life and trials of the controversial comedian; this weighty volume is accompanied by a CD that includes many of the scathing stage comments that led to Bruce's trials on obscenity charges." Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"[A] book that should make you laugh, make you mad and make you think....[A] detailed account of the Lenny Bruce obscenity trials that is anything but dry and legalistic. Only by evaluating the trials, after all, can we decide whether the legend is deserved." Ron Hayes, Cox News Service
"The Trials of Lenny Bruce is both a contribution to the biographical record of Lenny Bruce and a valuable treatise on the First Amendment and its broad latitude for the protection of free speech. It is also something that has become rare in today's book culture: a brilliant example of popular scholarship — informed, readable and significant." William McCranor Henderson, News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
"As the book makes clear, not even Bruce (and certainly not his lawyers) were aware of the political import of his highly political work. The Trials of Lenny Bruce is a potent and timely reminder that it's not what you say, but your right to say it, that matters in America." Heather Josyln, City Paper (Baltimore, MD)
"I have seldom, if ever, read better — more precise, evocative, set-in-perspective — court reporting than that in this book. It is entertaining, often exciting — but above all it is an immensely important record of a vital chapter in our ever-evolving democracy's eternal groping toward liberty." Michael Pakenham, Baltimore Sun
"[E]ngagingly written and detailed...a healthy reminder of how little America has really changed since Bruce's day....This is the first significant book about Bruce since Albert Goldman's bio in 1972." Portland Mercury
Book News Annotation:
For many the legacy of comedian Lenny Bruce will forever be the legal battles over the supposed obscenity of his routines. Legal scholars Collins and Skover argue that not enough attention has been paid to his cases in the field of law itself. They offer a corrective volume that narrates the course of Bruce's trials, paying particular attention to the constitutional issues involved and the strategies followed by the prosecution and defense teams. The hour-long CD contains excerpts of relevant Bruce routines, interviews with people involved in the legal battles, and some trial proceedings secretly recorded by Bruce. A "CD" icon in the text indicates to the reader to cue the relevant track.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Lenny Bruce committed his life to telling the truth — about sex, race, religion, government and the lies we tell ourselves. But the things he said infuriated those in power, which is why authorities in the largest, most progressive cities in the country tried relentlessly to put him in jail. To them, Lenny's words were filthy and 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, 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 Chicago's Irish-Catholic Judge Daniel Ryan, who tried Lenny for speaking against the Pope with ash on his forehead and against New York Assistant D.A. Richard Kuh, an ambitious lawyer looking to make a name for himself while pulling out all the stops to bring Lenny down.
Lenny also fought his addiction to heroin and, at times, his own lawyers, who in the end he fired to act as his own attorney. There were also those who never stopped fighting for Lenny — people like Steve Allen, Phil Spector and William Kunstler.
To comprehend the power of Lenny's words, one must hear his shticks and spritzes as he performed them live onstage. The authors have compiled audio of Lenny doing the routines that got him arrested in New York, L.A., Chicago and San Francisco, as well as interviews with his friends and followers, including George Carlin, Hugh Hefner and Margaret Cho.
Exhaustively researched and written with engaging wit and penetrating analysis, this portrait of the comic icon's free-speech battles is a major contribution to the ongoingFirst Amendment debate and will stand as the authoritative work on the career of Lenny Bruce.
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