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Bruce, Lenny (Leonard Alfred Schneider)

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Born: 1925 AD
Died: 1966 AD, at 40 years of age.

Nationality: American
Categories: Comedians, Satirists

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1925 - Leonard Alfred Schneider was born in Mineola, Long Island, New York on October 13, 1925.

 

1942 - After spending time working on a farm with a family which provided the stable surroundings he needed, he joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 17.

 

1947 - Soon 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. From that modest start, he got his first break as a guest on the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts Show doing impressions of movie stars. As a "mimic", as these performers were called, Lenny was just getting warmed up. He showed considerable intellect and a knack for pointing out hypocrisy in human life.

 

1951 - He was arrested in Miami, Florida, for impersonating a priest. He was soliciting donations for a leper colony in British Guiana after he legally chartered the "Brother Mathias Foundation" (a name of his own invention), and, unknown to the police, stole several priests' clergy shirts and a clerical collar while posing as a laundry man. He was found not guilty due to the legality of the New York state-chartered foundation, the actual existence of the Guiana leper colony, and the inability of the local clergy to expose him as an impostor. Later in his semifictional autobiography How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, he revealed that he had made approximately $8,000 in three weeks, sending $2,500 to the leper colony and keeping the rest.

 

1961 - His growing fame led to appearances on the nationally televised Steve Allen Show, where on his debut Lenny commented on the recent marriage of Elizabeth Taylor to Eddie Fisher by making his first line an unscripted "Will Elizabeth Taylor become bar mitzvahed?". On February 3, 1961, in the midst of a severe blizzard, he gave a historic performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. Recorded and later released as a three-disc set, the Carnegie Hall Concert was considered by many to be the zenith of his creative powers. His growing fame led to appearances on the nationally televised Steve Allen Show, where on his debut Lenny commented on the recent marriage of Elizabeth Taylor to Eddie Fisher by making his first line an unscripted "Will Elizabeth Taylor become bar mitzvahed?". On February 3, 1961, in the midst of a severe blizzard, he gave a historic performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. Recorded and later released as a three-disc set, the Carnegie Hall Concert was considered by many to be the zenith of his creative powers.

 

1963 - Become a target of the Manhattan district attorney, Frank Hogan, who was working closely with Francis Cardinal Spellman, the Archbishop of New York.

 

1964 - In April 1964, he appeared twice at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village, with undercover police detectives in the audience. On both occasions, he was arrested after leaving the stage, the complaints again resting on his use of various obscenities. A three-judge panel presided over his widely-publicized six-month trial, with Bruce and club owner Howard Solomon being found guilty of obscenity on November 4, 1964. The conviction was announced despite positive testimony and petitions of support from Jules Feiffer, Norman Mailer, William Styron, and James Baldwin, among other artists, writers and educators, as well as Manhattan journalist and television personality Dorothy Kilgallen and sociologist Herbert Gans. Bruce was sentenced on December 21, 1964, to four months in the workhouse; he was set free on bail during the appeals process and died before the appeal was decided.

 

1966 - On August 3, 1966, Bruce was found dead at the age of 40 in the bathroom of his Hollywood Hills home. A syringe and burned bottle cap were found nearby, along with various other narcotics paraphernalia. His official cause of death was acute morphine poisoning caused by an accidental overdose. He was interred in Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, California, but an unconventional memorial on August 21 was controversial enough to keep his name in the spotlight.


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Page last updated: 8:09pm, 08th Nov '06

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