Marijuana will be legal some day, because the many law students who now smoke pot will some day become Congressmen and legalize it in order to protect themselves. You wouldn’t believe how many people smoke pot. If anybody reading this would like to become mayor, believe me, there is a vast, untapped vote. Of course, you wouldn’t want to be the Marijuana Mayor, so you’d have to make it a trick statute like; “The Crippled Catholic Jewish War Children in Memory of Ward Bond Who Died for Your Bill to Make Marijuana Legal.”

Lenny didn’t smoke pot, although he championed its cause. It might have been better for him had he rolled a doobie and lit up. He avoided it, he claimed, because it encourages ideas and heightens sensations – two things he didn’t need more of. Lenny preferred Dilaudid pills dissolved in 1-cc ampules of Methedrine, heated and injected mainline with a fistful of Mescaline tabs. By 1960 his veins were a wreck from overwork: they received the spike 6 to 10 times a day. The irony of the “pot leads to heroin” myth did not elude him. If this were true, he concluded, jailed smack junkies would tell their cellmates how they’d smoked a joint and felt compelled to feel the caress of the needle. Then they’d ask their new friend, “How did you come to murder three guys in a crap game?...How did you first get obsessed with this terrible disease of gambling? Where did it all start?” The reply? Bingo at the Catholic church.

How did a nice Jewish boy managed to get so fucked up on The Stuff? We like to think that the late 50’s and 60’s were a pure time, a time when no one poisoned their bodies with anything stronger than liquor and tobacco...not that there is anything stronger in the long run. But, as Lenny’s story shows us, it ain’t necessarily so.

Joe Maini was a friend of Lenny’s early in the comic’s career. He had once been a highly respected jazz musician, playing saxophone with such greats as Charlie Parker. He gave up his work as a musician to pursue a career as his girlfriend’s pimp, sending her out to hook for drug money. It was this unfortunate character that first jabbed a hypo into Lenny’s arm. Years later, Lenny would do the same favor for his precious love, Honey Harlowe. Lenny, who constantly cleaned his kit would often be sick and would never stop riding the horse. Honey, a nightmare in poor drug hygeine, would have excellent help but fight for decades to stay clean.

Buying from strangers is dangerous and inconvenient and Lenny, a clever boy in all things, knew that nothing looks more legitimate than a doctor’s script. He found himself a young, gay doctor who (like everyone else) succumbed to the dark, soulful eyes and charmingly flirtatious nature of the visionary. When he left the fresh young physician’s office, he carried a letter stating that he suffered from “episodes of severe depression and lethargy. His response to oral amphetamine has not been particularly satisfying, he has been instructed in the proper use of intraveneous injections of Methedrine.” Lenny justified his drug use with a number of stories, including a claim to bouts of lethargy and hepatitis which had been treated with injectable amphetamines while in either the Navy or the Merchant Marines. Perhaps he told the truth.

Regardless of how he got his first fix, in time Lenny became so paranoid about drug busts that he kept a binder with every prescription label he’d ever had, as proof that he had a right to the drugs. He needed drugs like Tuinal to let him sleep at night and Methedrine to wake up in the morning. His little red enema bag hung over the curtain rod in his bathroom, awaiting the next opportunity to help the constantly constipated junkie begin and end his day.

Even with the priceless prescription letter, Lenny was busted in his hotel room with gobs of drugs (he stockpiled them because you couldn’t take script across state lines) and a rich married woman...doing what rich married women aren’t supposed to do with Jewish comics they’re not married to. Lenny passively resisted arrest and got himself a free ride down the hotel elevator, strapped head down on a folding stretcher.

Between the drugs and the constant harassment by the police, Lenny was crumbling inside. He was once so vain about his body that he would purchase a suit and then take it to a Jewish tailor, instructing him to take in all the seams until it was skin tight, forming to his perfect ass for all the girls to see and die for. In his last years he became puffy and out of shape, wearing baggy prison clothes that allowed him to carry his stash and clean-up kit on his person, just in case his room was raided.

The heights (or depths) of his paranoia were clear when had his dream house built. Every room was bugged, allowing him to have a record of every brilliant thought he uttered, as well as every sound anyone else made while enjoying his hospitality, or busting him. He spent the vast majority of his time wearing a terry cloth bathrobe and hanging out in either his bedroom or his beloved bathroom. His bathroom, by the way, was equipped with a toilet near a toilet paper dispenser, a disposable hypodermic syringe dispenser and a secret slot for tossing used hypos under the house and away from the prying eyes of the cops. He wisely stopped driving and hired a chauffeur.

Even with his mind and body craving needle candy nearly constantly, he managed to continue fighting the court (though he never learned to keep his mouth shut) and performing, although his humor became increasingly serious...almost desperate, at times. Lenny’s paranoia and disorientation were becoming too much for him. He began attacking prominent individuals, instead of philosophies. It became standard for Lenny to be under arrest before he got out the door after a show, so it’s no surprise that he told his fans “I wasn’t funny tonight. Sometimes I’m not. I’m not a comedian. I’m Lenny Bruce." His frustration with the ignorance of those who persecuted him for his comic bits increased. Words were not the enemy, he insisted. It was the unwillingness of the listener to understand how words work and to apply logic to what they had heard. Had Lenny avoided the needle, he might have survived to see his ideas vindicated. Although he served some time for narcotics, his obscenity charges were always vindicated in higher courts.

Lenny became an expert on the law, especially on obscenity law. He lashed out at his critics by pointing out that in Connecticut, a man would serve 10 years in jail for flashing a housewife, but only two years for punching her in the chops. Likewise, were he to eat ham sandwiches in front of Jews, Muslims or vegetarians nothing would be considered wrong. But were he to perform a show which made his audience horny, he would be guilty of appealing to prurient interests and would be arrested.

Fortunately, Lenny had supporters: entertainers Woody Allen, Richard Burton, Bob Dylan, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Rip Torn, Rudy Vallee, writers Henry Miller, Saul Bellow, Joseph Heller, Lillian Helman, Norman Mailer, John Updike, Gore Vidal, artists Walt Kelly, Jules Feiffer, poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Leroi Jones and a list of editors, publishers and critics, to name only a few. These professionals protested Bruce’s arrests in a signed public protest on his behalf. Even the Catholic magazine Commonweal had something good to say about Lenny. Nat Hentoff, a Jewish writer for the magazine, said, “It is in Lenny Bruce – and only in him – that there has emerged a cohesively `new’ comedy of nakedly honest moral rage at the deceptions all down the line in our society.”

Lenny never got to see his “new comedy” flourish. While his legal problems ultimately were ruled in his favor, he was too far gone in his addiction, and too crushed by legal pressure to fully appreciate what was happening because of his defiance. George Carlin (who had seen Lenny as a young man...and got into trouble with the cops while doing so), Sam Kinneson, Eddie Murphy, Dennis Leary...are all inheritors of Lenny’s legacy.

Two days before my fourth birthday Lenny Bruce died at home, having toppled from his toilet, nude, with his bathrobe sash tied around his arm. August 3, 1966 saw the last end of his anger against the system, his frustration with the courts, and his deep mourning over the failure of his marriage to Honey, his adorable, divine love; the woman he never stopped yearning for. When the police arrived to remove the body, they found that he had not been alone. Two young ladies, nearly half his 40 years, stood by to identify the corpse of Lenny Bruce, the comic genius who had once spoke wisdom to the world by saying, “If you can’t say fuck, you can’t say `fuck the government.’” Those of us who live in the state of Oregon can show our appreciation for Lenny by saying `fuck the government’ in November and voting No on 31 and yes to free speech. For more information call the No On 31 Committee at (503) 229-0132. Satyricon will be hosting a special Lenny Bruce Com-memorative Sunday, August 4th. Call (503) 243-2380 for more information.

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This is reprinted from Exotic Magazine © 1996 X Publishing