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From the archives: Mineola-born comedian, Lenny Bruce, dies at age 40

Comedian Lenny Bruce speaks to Customs officials at

Comedian Lenny Bruce speaks to Customs officials at New York's Idlewild Airport, April 8, 1963 Credit: AP

Hollywood - This story was originally published in Newsday on Aug. 4, 1966

Lenny Bruce, the controversial comedian who brought sick humor into vogue and got into frequent trouble by doing so, died last night in his home on Hollywood Boulevard.

Police and narcotics paraphernalia was found near his half-clad body. The coroner's office listed an overdose of narcotics as probable cause of death. Bruce, 40, had last been seen alive at his home shortly after noon, Police reported. His body, lying in the bathroom, was found by his roommate, John Judnich. Police said that Bruce was clad only in a pair of pants. On the sink, beside the body, police found a syringe and a bottle cap, its bottom blackened, which contained a white crystalline residue. Burnt matches were scattered around The body was taken to the los Angeles county morgue, where an autopsy is to be performed.

Bruce, who was born Leonard Alfred Schneider in Mineola, L.I. had a variety of jobs before entering the field of comedy. Once in it, he developed a brand of humor which made him go over well in clubs, and also got him into trouble. In Oct. 1961 he was arrested at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco on charges of conducting a "lewd and indecent exhibition" and using "obscene and immoral language in a public place." A jury in San Francisco acquitted Bruce after a four-day trial, but the judge fined him $100 for contempt of court because he had sent the jurist a letter implying he would not get a fair trial.

Two years ago, Bruce appeared at the Cork N' Bib Restaurant, 146 Post Ave., Westbury, L.I. It was to have been a two-night engagement, but Nassau Rackets Bureau chief Norman Levy showed up with seven policemen and a tape recorder on opening night. Bruce said at the time that Levy taped the show and then warned him that he would be arrested if he repeated the act. The owner of the Cork N' Bib hired another performer and Bruce left after one performance. District Attorney Cahn said that Bruce was not forced to leave, but warned to keep the act clean.

Bruce landed his first job as a comic in a Brooklyn nightspot, performing on Saturday nights for $12 and a spaghetti dinner. Later, he hit the night club and burlesque circuit and in Baltimore met and married Honey Harlow, a striptease dancer. They were divorced in 1957. Meantime, he appeared on the Arthur Godfrey show and gained a national reputation.
One of his oft-quoted lines was "All my humor is based upon destruction and despair. If the whole world were tranquil, without disease and violence, I'd be standing in the breadline-- right in back of J. Edgar Hoover."

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