June 11, 1984 12:00 PM

From the private collection of Kitty Bruce

Lenny Bruce was labeled a sick comedian and relentlessly hounded for his use of obscenities onstage and for his involvement with drugs off. He died in 1966 at age 40 of a drug overdose. At the end of his career he was often incomprehensible and lapsed into wild paranoia, but he could often be wildly funny too. There probably wouldn’t have been a Richard Pryor or a George Carlin if Bruce had not run the early interference against mindless censorship. There has already been a penetrating biography of Bruce, Albert Goldman’s 1974 book Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce!! This new volume is, in some ways, a disappointment. Bruce’s daughter, Kitty, now 28 and an aspiring singer, adds no personal reminiscences of her father to the odds and ends of the material she has managed to round up. (What could it have possibly been like to have been this tormented man’s child?) There are, though, such intriguing discoveries as a draft of a children’s record Bruce was working on, a script from one of his relatively tame appearances, on The Steve Allen Show, and a letter to lawyer John Brogan in 1964, which concludes, “Another arrest, a secret indictment, is coming February 25. Someone told me. I don’t know for what, but the next arrest finds me with no bail, no counsel, and, at this writing, I have no money for attorneys. And I resist charity. This resistance, I am aware, is because of a behemoth ego, the cause of all my problems.” (Running Press, $8.95)

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