Lenny fans seek pardon

Posthumous bid to clear Bruce's name

Fans of pioneering stand-up Lenny Bruce are demanding his posthumous pardon over obscenity charges.

Bruce was convicted of using obscene language in a 1964 show, but he died while his appeal was pending.

And yesterday New York governor George Pataki was presented with a petition demanding the state clear his name.

The appeal has been organised by Bruce biographers Ron Collins and David Skover, and is backed by freedom of speech lawyers and performers, including Robin Williams and Penn and Teller

The petition said: "A pardon now is too late to save Lenny Bruce. But a posthumous pardon would set the record straight and thereby demonstrate New York's commitment to freedom ­ free speech, free press, free thinking."

Bruce was convicted following a performance at Greenwich Village's Cafe Au Go Go - attended by undercover police officers - in which he used more than 100 "obscene" words.

Collins said: "By his example, Lenny Bruce almost single-handedly turned comedy clubs into free-speech zones. The historical record should be set straight for that reason alone."

First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere added: "By posthumously pardoning Lenny Bruce, the state of New York declares to the world that it is a safe harbour of liberty for creative minds."

Bruce died at the age of 39 in 1966, following a drug overdose, while his appeal was pending.

But his supporters may have a fight on their hands. New York has never granted a posthumous pardon.

  • Collins and Skover's book The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of an American Icon, which includes a CD of the Bruce's performance, is available on import from Amazon.co.uk, priced £16.74. Click to buy.
  • Lenny Bruce's FBI file is online here.
  • To contact Governor Pataki, click here.

Published: 21 May 2003

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