CHICAGO, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- In honor of Banned Books Week, Ron
Collins and David Skover, authors of the new book The Trials of Lenny Bruce:
The Fall and Rise of An American Icon (Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 563 pages),
have coined a phrase deriving from Lenny Bruce's encounters with the law.
"Being bruced" means being prosecuted or harassed for speaking freely, for
expressing unpopular ideas or for breaking taboos.
(While September 21-28 marks the 21st anniversary of Banned Books Week),
intellectual freedom has been challenged for many more years. For example,
Lenny Bruce was challenged, and in some cases banned, from the stand-up comedy
stage in the 1960s, and became a leader in the fight to uphold First Amendment
"Those who 'bruce' others fear words, especially poignant or biting words;
they fear words that defy accepted norms, or scorn the sacred, or expose
hypocrisy. In short, to be 'bruced' is contrary to the First Amendment and
everything it represents," says Collins.
"To be bruced" is to be silenced for exercising one's First Amendment
rights. America's most dissident comedian was "bruced" when he was hauled off
to jail in San Francisco for speaking the unspeakable about sex; arrested in
Los Angeles for using commonplace Yiddish expressions; busted in Chicago for
mocking the Pope; and rounded up by police in New York for being too candid
and colorful in his remarks about two of America's First Ladies.
The robust and ribald comedian was "bruced" when he was prosecuted for
obscenity relentlessly for more than four consecutive years; when a dozen or
more DAs in four cities came after him for being too outspoken in nightclubs;
when, in the winter of 1964, prosecutor Richard Kuh demanded that Bruce's
sentence be severe, "be one of imprisonment"; and when no club could book him
for fear of being shut down.
Other controversial figures who have been "bruced" include everyone from
Socrates in ancient Athens to Bill Maher in modern America.
When the American Library Association introduced Banned Books Week more
than twenty years ago, it was to celebrate the freedom to choose or the
freedom to express one's opinion even if that opinion might be considered
unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the
availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to
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