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Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce was born Leonard Alfred Schneider in Mineola, New York, grew up in nearby Bellmore, and attended Wellington C. Mepham High School. His parents divorced when he was five years old (the documentary Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth claims he was eight years old), and Lenny lived with various relatives over the next decade. His British-born father, Myron (Mickey) Schneider, was a shoe clerk and Lenny saw him very infrequently. The 1940 census shows Myron (34) and Dorothy (36) Schneider and son, Leonard (14), living on Long Island at 710 Hughes Street, Bellmore, New York. Mickey later moved to Arcadia, California and became a podiatrist. Bruce's mother, Sally Marr (real name Sadie Schneider, born Sadie Kitchenberg), was a stage performer and had an enormous influence on Bruce's career.

After spending time working on a farm, Bruce joined the United States Navy at the age of 16 in 1942, and saw active duty during World War II aboard the USS Brooklyn (CL-40) fighting in Northern Africa, Palermo, Italy in 1943 and Anzio, Italy in 1944. In May 1945, after a comedic performance for his ship-mates in which he was dressed in drag, his commanding officers became upset. He defiantly convinced his ship's medical officer that he was experiencing homosexual urges. This led to his Dishonorable Discharge in July 1945. However, he had not admitted to or been found guilty of any breach of naval regulations and successfully applied to have his discharge changed to "Under Honorable Conditions ... by reason of unsuitability for the naval service".

After a short stint in California spent living with his father, Bruce settled in New York City, hoping to establish himself as a comedian. However, he found it difficult to differentiate himself from the thousands of other show business hopefuls who populated the city. One locale where they congregated was Hanson's, the diner where Bruce first met the comedian Joe Ancis, who had a profound influence on his approach to comedy. Many of Bruce's later routines reflected his meticulous schooling at the hands of Ancis. According to Bruce's biographer, Albert Goldman, Ancis' humor involved stream-of-consciousness sexual fantasies, references to jazz, and stories of Jewish domesticity.

Lenny took the stage as "Lenny Marsalle" one evening at the Victory Club, as a stand-in master of ceremonies for one of his mother's shows. His ad-libs earned him some laughs. Soon afterward, in 1947, just after changing his last name to Bruce, he earned $12 and a free spaghetti dinner for his first stand-up performance in Brooklyn, New York.He was later a guest — and was introduced by his mother, who called herself "Sally Bruce" — on the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts radio program, doing a "Bavarian mimic" of American movie stars (e.g., Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson).

Lenny Bruce (October 13, 1925 – August 3, 1966), born Leonard Alfred Schneider, was an American stand-up comedian, writer, social critic and satirist of the 1950s and 1960s. His 1964 conviction in an obscenity trial led to the first posthumous pardon in New York history.
In 1947, soon after changing his last name to Bruce, he earned $12 (equivalent to $116 in 2008) and a free spaghetti dinner for his first stand-up performance in Brooklyn, New York. From that modest start, he got his first break as a guest (and introduced by his mother, who called herself "Sally Bruce") on the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts Show, doing a "Bavarian mimic" of American movie stars (e.g., Humphrey Bogart).
On February 3, 1961, in the midst of a severe blizzard, he gave a famous performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. It was recorded and later released as a three-disc set, titled The Carnegie Hall Concert.
On August 3, 1966, Bruce was found dead in the bathroom of his Hollywood Hills home at 8825 Kings Road. The "official" photo, taken at the scene, showed Bruce lying naked on the floor, a syringe and burned bottle cap nearby, along with various other narcotics paraphernalia. His official cause of death was acute morphine poisoning caused by an accidental overdose.

 

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