Excerpts from the Trial Transcript
(June 16, 1964 to July 28, 1964 in New York City)
Before Judges John Murtagh, Kenneth Phipps, James Randall Creel
Per Curium Opinion
Dissenting Opinion of Judge Creel
Defendants: Lenny Bruce (comedian) and Howard Solomon (owner of Cafe Au Go Go)
Defense Attorneys: Ephraim London and Martin Garbus
Prosecutor: Richard A. Kuh
Prosecution Witnesses: Inspector Herbert Ruhe (witness to performance), Robert Lane and William O'Neil (patrolmen and witnesses to performance), Robert Sylvestor (Daily News columnist), Dan Potter (Executive Director of Protestant Council), John Fisher (Vice President of Harper & Row), Ernest Van Den Haag (professor of social philosophy at NYU), and Marya Mannes (social critic)
Defense Witnesses: Richard Gilman (drama critic for Newsweek), Dorothy Kilgallen (columnist and television panelist), Nat Hentoff (Village Voice columnist), Alan Morrison (editor of Ebony), Daniel Dodson (professor of comparative literature at Columbia), Jules Feiffer (cartoonist), Herbert Gans (sociologist), Forrest Johnson (Presbyterian minister), and Jason Epstein (Vice President of Random House).
Witnesses for the Defense
DOROTHY KILGALLEN, Columnist and What's My Line? panelist
From 1938 until her death, Kilgallen authored a celebrity-centered column in the N. Y. Journal American called "The Voice of Broadway." As a young journalist with the Hearst syndicate in 1936, Kilgallen catapulted to fame when she finished second in a "race around the world" competition that earned her congratulations from Eleanor Roosevelt and a popular song, "Hats Off to Dorothy." In 1950, she became a regular panelist on the new quiz show, "What's My Line?" She died of an overdose of barbituates in 1965, at age 52.
JULES FEIFFER, Cartoonist and playright
Born in Bronx, N. Y. in 1929, Feiffer is best known as the cartoonist whose sparcely-drawn figures commented on the strangeness of modern life. His strip, simply called Feiffer, frequently targeted the Viet Nam War policies of LBJ and the character weaknesses of Richard Nixon. Feiffer also wrote novels, plays, and movie scripts. He authored the screenplay for the 1974 movie, Carnal Knowledge, starring Jack Nicholson.
HERBERT GANS, Sociologist and city planner
Gans was a energetic scholar and renown researcher whose books were based on his observations about various communities and the lives and habits of people in those communities. Gans testified about the commonality of usage of four-letter words in the conversations of members of various communities, including the military.
NAT HENTOFF, Author, critic, and Village Voice columnist
Hentoff was born in Boston in 1925. After completing a Fulbright fellowship in Paris, Hentoff became editor of Down Beat magazine in 1953. He later became a columnist for the Village Voice and a music critic for the Wall Street Journal. Hentoff authored books on jazz, biographies, and social issues--as well as novels. His thoughts on the First Amendment are expressed in his book, Free Speech for Me and Not Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other.
Q. Miss Kilgallen, other than being a housewife, do you have any other profession?
A. I'm a writer and I appear on television.
Q. By whom are you employed?
A. The New York Journal American, 220 South Street.
Q. How long have you been employed by the New York Journal American?
A. Since 1931.
Q. In what capacity are you employed by the Journal American?
A. As a Broadway columnist.
Q. What does that involve?
A. It involves motion pictures, theater criticism, notes about famous people, occasionally politics. Mostly show business, night clubs, theaters and movies.
Q. Do you write a daily column for the Journal American?
A. Six days a week.
Q. Is that column syndicated?
A. It's syndicated by King Features Syndicate.
Q. And where does that column appear as a result of the syndication?
A. It appears in newspapers throughout the country, in various cities from Maine to Texas and in Canada and in Australia and other places.
Q. And is it part of your duties to attend night clubs, theaters and movie openings?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. Is it fair to say that during the course of your employment by the Journal American, or your syndication, you have seen all the major night clubs, theaters or movie openings during the last ten or fifteen years?
A. That is true.
Q. Have you had occasion to see the defendant Lenny Bruce perform?
A. Yes, I have.
Q. When was that?
A. I saw him first in Chicago. I was visiting friends there and he was just coming up, I guess, just becoming very popular and they took me to see him. . . . I was very much impressed.
Mr. Kuh: Excuse me, I ask, with due respect, Miss Kilgallen, that any criticism at this point--
Judge Murtagh: I will suggest that the witness confine her answer to the question. We will strike that out.
Q. Did you have occasion before today to read the transcripts that were previously marked as the State Exhibits numbers 4A and 5A?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. --which relates to performances of Mr. Bruce on April 1, 1964 and April 7, 1964?
Q. Do you have an opinion, Miss Kilgallen, as to the artistic merit of the contents of the performances that are set down in the transcripts marked as People's Exhibits numbers 4A and 5A?
Mr. Kuh: May I, if it please the Court, before that question is answered, may I have a very brief voir dire on the qualification of Miss Kilgallen as an expert?
Judge Murtagh: Yes, you may.
Mr. Garbus: May I, before Mr. Kuh goes into the voir dire, qualify her further, if there is any question at all?
Judge Murtagh: All right, you may.
Q. Miss Kilgallen, have you for the past several years had a radio program concerning itself with drama and theater criticism?
A. Yes, for seventeen years until a year ago last April.
Q. On what station did it appear?
Q. Are you also a television performer?
A. Yes, but not in a critical sense.
Mr. Garbus: I have no further questions with respect to this witness' qualification unless it becomes necessary after Mr. Kuh's voir dire.
Voir dire by Richard Kuh:
Q. You wouldn't be offended by my questions. I suggest you may not be an expert in certain areas. You will answer them candidly and recognize that you do your job for the newspaper and I do my job in here.
Q. Now, Miss Kilgallen, you have mentioned working for the Journal American. Is your column called 'Voice of Broadway'?
A. That's right.
Q. Is that essentially a column of chit chat, gossip, information, viewpoints on a host of things?
A. It involves a host of things, I don't know what you would interpret as being essential. It's essentially what I think about things and what appeals to the public.
Q. Somewhat then--I hope you wouldn't find this analogy distasteful--but your version, if you will, of what Walter Winchell does in a somewhat different way?
A. He's the daddy of us all.
Q. Now, does the Journal American employ a drama critic besides yourself?
Q. Does it employ someone who reviews new shows at night clubs other than yourself?
A. They employ various people to do that when they are not sure whether I will cover it or not. I don't have to cover anything I don't wish to, but I am the primary person covering it on the Journal when it comes to night clubs.
Q. And apart from your column of chit chat or call it what we will, 'Voice of Broadway,' do you from time to time leave New York and go elsewhere on special assignment for matters of weeks and months?
A. That's correct.
Q. And during that period, of course, your work is not concerned with a critical coverage of theatrical performances?
A. Unless it's a critical coverage of a performance in another city, which has happened.
Q. . . . Is there an organization of New York City Drama Reviewers?
Q. Are you a voting member of that organization?
A. I don't belong to it at all.
Q. Is there an organization of New York Movie Critics that functions in a similar fashion?
A. I'm not sure about that.
Q. In any event you are not a member of that organization?
Mr. Kuh: If your Honor please, with great respect for Miss Kilgallen and the interesting work that she does, I submit that the whole question of expert testimony in this area is extremely dubious to start with and I think that is compounded by the fact that Miss Kilgallen is not the Journal American's expert critic, I think that to call her to give expertise would be straining something that is already far strained.
Judge Murtagh: The Court quite agrees that perhaps the witness' qualifications are not what they should be, but will permit the witness to testify.
Mr. Kuh: The people then have, with due respect again, a continuing objection noted to anything Miss Kilgallen may say from this point on.
Mr. Garbus: I think the record indicated, as your Honor knows, that she has covered every opening in New York in the field of drama, the theater and the movies for the last fifteen years....
Direct examination by Martin Garbus:
Q. Do you have an opinion then, Miss Kilgallen, as to the artistic merit of the contents of Mr. Bruce's performances, the performances as set forth in People's Exhibits numbers 4A and 5A?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is your opinion?
A. I think he's a brilliant satirist, perhaps the most brilliant that I have even seen and I think his social commentary, whether I agree with it or not, is extremely valid and important and I have enjoyed his acts on several occasions. I did not see the one that is in question here, but I read it. Of course, it is impossible to judge completely without having heard his voice and seeing his gestures, but I can say that on the occasion when I saw him I was very impressed with his intelligence, with his material, with his ability to comment on events of the day straight out of a newspaper, which was objectively ad- libbed.. . .
Q. And would your answer be the same, Miss Kilgallen, if your answer were restricted solely to the performances in exhibits--People's Exhibits 4A and 5A?
A. Yes, I believe it would.. . .
Q. With respect to the performances, these transcripts, People's Exhibits 4A and 5A, would you characterize Mr. Bruce as a brilliant comic?. . .
A. I still think that, having read the transcripts, that he is a very brilliant man and that he has great social awareness, that basically he's an extremely moral man and is trying to improve the world and trying to make his audiences think, which, I think is a very good thing and very moral and to be applauded. . . .
Q. You described Mr. Bruce as a moral man, by virtue of the material contained in the transcripts identified as People's Exhibits 4A and 5A. Would you amplify on that a bit? What are the morals that Mr. Bruce is concerned with?
A. Well, he seems to be concerned with almost every moral issue that there is. He seems to be concerned with religion, with civil rights, with the behavior of people in a given situation and he seems to want things to be better.....
Q. Miss Kilgallen, in the transcripts the words 'mother fucker,' 'shit' and 'ass' are found, isn't that correct?
Q. Will you please describe for the Court the manner in which those words are used?
A. Well, I have heard these words--
Mr. Kuh: If your Honor please, excuse me, Miss Kilgallen, I will object to asking for the manner in which they are used; the manner speaks for itself.
Judge Murtagh: Sustained.
Mr. Kuh: If she's asked for a critical appraisal, I have another objection to that.
Q. Are the words 'cock sucker,' 'fuck,' 'shit' and 'ass' and 'mother fucker' used in the transcripts?
A. Yes, they are.
Q. In what way are they used?
Judge Murtagh: I think the transcripts speak for themselves, Counsellor.
Mr. Garbus: I don't believe they do.
Judge Murtagh: I don't intend to confine an expert witness . . . but I suggest you use the witness not merely to reproduce something that is already in evidence, but rather to add to it if it would be competent. . . .
Q. Miss Kilgallen, is there an artistic purpose in the use of language as set forth in transcripts in People's--
A. In my opinion, there is.
Q. In what way?
A. Well, I think that Lenny Bruce, as a night-club performer, employs these words the way James Baldwin or Tennessee Williams or playwrights employ them on the Broadway stage for emphasis or because that is the way that people in a given situation would talk.
Q. Miss Kilgallen, did you see Blues for Mister Charlie?
Q. And are some of those words used in Mr. Bruce's transcripts used in the play?
A. I believe almost all of them.
Q. Are these words also used in The Carpetbaggers, a book by Harold Robbins, which is presently being sold?
A. Yes.. . .
Q. Can you tell of any other books that are being distributed that have the same language?
A. Norman Mailer certainly uses all these in his books, which were best sellers. James Joyce used them, and Henry Miller, and many other authors who are regarded as classical--
Mr. Kuh: May it please the Court, I think when we get into the area of what other particular items words are used in, we can proliferate side issues. I suggest that Counsel would certainly be free in a brief to say such-and-such in a book, pages so-and-so, uses these words, but I think to have an expert tell us what is in what I'm told is a widely circulated document, certainly is not proper expert testimony and I ask it be stricken.
Judge Murtagh: The Court has indicated it is going to be liberal. We will allow the testimony, but I suggest to Counsel that it's just about worthless for you to produce an expert who testifies that a given author used similar language of that nature.. . .
Mr. Garbus: I will withdraw the question.
Q. On the basis of the transcripts, which you read before you testified, can you give us your opinion with respect to Mr. Bruce's merit as a performer?
A. I think he's a fine, brilliant performer.
Q. Can you describe, for us, whether there is any form or any unity to the method of performance which Mr. Bruce has?
A. Yes, his unity, I believe, is social commentary. He goes from one subject to another, but there is always the thread of the world around us and what is happening today and what happened today and what might happen tomorrow, whether he's talking about war or peace or religion or Russia or New York, there is always a thread and a unity.
Q. Miss Kilgallen, I show you page 6 of People's Exhibit number 5A which relates to the performance of April 7, 1964, and ask you what comment Mr. Bruce is making when he discusses the Negro situation?
. . .
A. I think that in this case Mr. Bruce is hopeful that the Negroes will get a better break. That, because of the civil rights law being passed, they will have equality. They will sit on juries, where they have never sat before. They will be judges and they will have equality and this will come to pass.
Q. Miss Kilgallen, I now refer you to page 11 of People's Exhibit 5A, which is the performance of April 1, 1964, to that portion beginning with Mr. Goldwater, relating to a conversation, or a performance of a conversation, allegedly by Mr. Goldwater with a group of American Negroes, and ask you what social comment is made by Mr. Bruce from that portion of that exhibit?
A. I think this part of the transcript indicates that Mr. Bruce feels that Senator Goldwater does not have much rapport with the Negro; that he's apart from them, as many people are in Arizona. That he doesn't speak their language and that they can't get through to him, but they do get through to Mr. Bruce and he is with them. He says it's a different language and a different culture and I think that's one of the reasons that he employed the words he did, because that is part of a different culture; not Mr. Goldwater's culture.
Q. Have you heard the word 'mother fucker' used before?
Q. And in this context how is the word used?
A. Sometimes it was used as an epithet, a term of opprobrium and sometimes I have heard it used among show business people, who sometimes speak rather frankly and roughly, as a term of endearment.. . .
Cross-Examination by Mr. Kuh:
. . .
Q. All right. Now, feeling free to leaf through the transcripts . . . can you tell us what other items . . . convince you that Bruce is an extremely moral man, that he has a valid artistic purpose and what he says is extremely pertinent?
A. Well, the first thing that he comes to, I'm afraid, is something where he discusses the law.. . .
Q. Let's deal with pages 1 and 2 and part of page 3 before you get to the discussion of the law, and tell me what in that portion demonstrates these virtues?
A. The first two pages, in my opinion, are a build-up to what he's saying. He's not a one line comedian. . . . . .
Q. Now, you say the first two pages of dialogue is just build-up, and the social value or the artistic merit really gets going on page 3. Can you tell me how--I refer to the top of page 2--the phrase, 'shit in your pants,' and the words, 'cock sucker,' can you tell me, Miss Kilgallen--and I apologize for using that language, but we can't help it--can you tell me in what way that is artistic build-up or necessary build-up?
A. Those are not words that I use myself. . . .
Q. You stated those are words you don't use. Can you tell me if the prevailing portion of the community finds them repugnant in terms of usage in mixed company, in public performances?
A. I cannot speak for the majority of the community; I can only speak for myself, but I believe that certain words are valid and are not objectionable if they are used in the proper context and if they seem right at the time and if they are said in the proper manner. Some people can be offensive without using, what we would call, a dirty word. Some people could use a dirty word and not be offensive.
Q. Can you tell me how the words or the phrase on page 2, 'shit in your pants,' and in page 2, 'cock sucker,' are used in a way that blend artistic merit, that demonstrate Mr. Bruce's moral character and that are inoffensive?
A. Mr. Bruce sometimes uses those words almost as a throwaway.
Judge Murtagh: Almost as what?
Witness: A throwaway.
Judge Murtagh: What does that mean?
Witness: That's show-business parlance I'm afraid, your Honor. It's an offhand thing that you almost don't hear.
Judge Murtagh: How is the fact that words such as that are offhand, how does that make it proper if it is improper otherwise?
Witness: Well, your Honor, to me words are just words, and if the intent and the effect is not offensive the words in themselves are not offensive. . . . It depends on how it's done. I have seen entertainers who didn't use these words, but were offensive nevertheless, and I can give you examples. I have criticized them. . . .
Judge Murtagh: Did you hear him on these two occasions?
Witness: No, but knowing his performances I can almost picture the way he said them.. . .
Q. Are you familiar with any of Bruce's phonograph records?
A. I think I have one.. . .
Q. Now, you mentioned before something about Mr. Bruce's bit--or something-- at the Palladium. Is that on that record?
A. No, I'm not so sure. It's so long since I heard the record I really couldn't tell.
Q. Was that bit, so called, about the Palladium, a rather lengthy bit?
Q. Quite lengthy?
A. For him it is.
Q. And except for one word at the very end, which I think is the word 'urination,' . . . except for that, do you know of any other four-letter words or combinations, and I apologize, Miss Kilgallen, such as 'cock sucker' throughout this lengthy bit?
A. I don't know it by heart. I only know the general idea and that I found it very amusing, at least to show people. I don't know whether it would be to the average audience, but I know Milton Berle laughed a lot when he heard it.
Q. Thank you. If I tell you that that record contains no vulgarity, none of the words that Mr. Garbus used so far in examining you, would you dispute that contention?
A. No, sir; that makes sense.
Q. And so you recognize that Mr. Bruce can be amusing, even to Milton Berle, without utilizing any of these four-letter words or combination of them?
A. Yes, I'm sure he can, because I think he's a near genius.
Q. You think he's a near genuis?
Q. And if I tell you that all through that record and these others that I have here, [such words as] 'fuck' were not used at all, . . . would you say that these records show less genius than the scripts that you have read?
Mr. London: Objection.
Judge Murtagh: Objection overruled.
Q. Would you say that Bruce is able to get his social satire, his moral values, his artistic ability across fully and ably and unimpeded without the use of these words that I think you recognize, you, yourself, you indicated were not used?
Mr. Garbus: I object to that. This trial is about these transcripts, not about anything else.
Judge Murtagh: Objection overruled.
A. I don't know whether he can get his meaning across fully, because some of these words, which are objectionable, as you put it, are terms that are used by people in real life, and I think to be more graphic he must use them, just as a playwright or a novelist would use them.
Q. Let me read you this--and I'm reading from page 22 of the April 1st performance--. . . he says, 'That's the way all of us feel, shitty all the time and low because we're no good cause we run away but nobody ever stays it's all bullshit none of you mother fuckers ever stayed one time in your life you never stayed and that's why you can sit and indict.' Do you feel that that language is necessary to the effectiveness of that portion of that script?
A. I think he felt it was necessary and perhaps it was. He was expressing the fear that all humans feel and he was sympathizing with it.
Q. And do you believe that words 'mother fucker' and 'shitty' and so forth were necessary to that expression, apart from what he might have felt, was necessary--do you feel that that was necessary, you as a person who is critical and is here as an expert on criticism?
Mr. Garbus: I would object to that, your Honor.
Judge Murtagh: Objection overruled.
A. I really can't judge that, because I didn't hear the way he said it.
Q. Well, will you recognize, Miss Kilgallen, that there are at least an appreciable number of persons in the community who would find that language highly repugnant?
A. I'm sure there are.
Q. . . . Can you tell us how the use of this language, not in Mr. Bruce's eyes, but in your eyes, as a critic, a person who was qualified here as an expert witness, will you tell us how the use of this sentence, that I read, is necessary to the artistic unity, if you will, of the Jackie Kennedy story?. . .
A. I do not underwrite anything that Mr. Bruce may have said. I'm just saying that what I have read does not offend me.
Q. Then you concede, as a critic and as an expert in criticism, that these words may be unnecessary to this story, that you personally cannot find a justification for them although you personally do not object--is that what you are telling us?
Mr. Garbus: I object to the question on the ground it's argumentative, on the ground it rephrases the witness' testimony in a manner which she did not give it, on the ground it calls for speculation.
Judge Murtagh: Objection overruled.
A. I believe that if Mr. Bruce in his routine felt it was necessary, then it was necessary.
Mr. Kuh: I ask that my question be read back for Miss Kilgallen.
Judge Murtagh: So ordered. Read the question back.
[Last question re-read]
A. Sir, as a critic and I know you doubt my qualifications, but--
Mr. Kuh: That's been ruled on by the Court and I accept all of the rulings of this Court, Miss Kilgallen, on any matter.
A. I could enlarge on them, but that's all right. But as a critic I have only to tell what I think about an act, I don't have to justify every word of it.
Judge Murtagh: But you are being asked now to justify it; in other words, to testify on the soundness of your meaning.
A. Well, I feel it is in Mr. Bruce's style, just as Blues for Mister Charlie is in James Baldwin's style and Tropic of Cancer is in Henry Miller's style. He has the right to use the words he feels are fitting and pertinent and perhaps dramatic.
Q. . . . Are you familiar with the portion of the script of the April 1st performance that deals with sodomy, sex with animals, dogs and cats and I think hippopotamuses and the SPCA--and then goes on, 'If you came home and found your husband with a chicken would you belt him, really feel bad, bad. A chicken, ah it's an odd bed, ah I felt like ah, I'm the last one to know.' Will you tell us what the artistry, or the social value, or the merit, or the good is, in the Bruce story of sexual intercourse with a chicken?
Mr. Garbus: I will object to Mr. Kuh's characterization of Mr. Bruce's performances. The testimony has already been that this is not a discussion of sex with animals per se, but rather a social comment made by the use of these symbols.
Judge Murtagh: Objection overruled.
A. Well, sir, sodomy is in the Bible. If it can be read in churches I wouldn't rule it out for Mr. Bruce's act, if he cared to comment on it.. . .
Q. Do you recognize beyond the intentions generally some cohesiveness within each book of the Bible?
A. Well, the Creation is pretty well written.
Q. I'm sure that the Lord is thankful to you for that comment. Now, would you tell us just what cohesiveness do you see in the Lenny Bruce script that you hold in your hands?
A. Well, he goes from one subject to another, but it is always commentary on life, manners, morals.
. . .
Q. Turning to the April 1st transcript . . . may I ask you to look where the transcript starts, 'because my aunt --mother came home every day telling me stories about some guy took it out in the park went, yoo hoo lady, and she hit him with the pocketbook and so--'
A. . . . Yes, I have it.
Q. Now, you mentioned that in judging Bruce's performance it was very difficult if not impossible to judge solely by reading the script, that one had to hear his voice and had to see what he did. If I tell you in that portion of the performance he turned partly away from the audience, put his hands together and moved the hands, from the region of his pubic area, upon and down: . . . assuming that state of fact, when that portion that I have called to your attention to on page 21 was read, dealing apparently with a man or men exposing themselves before women, if I tell you that there is testimony that Bruce moved his hands in the area of his pubic area together and moved them up and down, would you tell me what artistic value there was in that performance?
A. I couldn't tell you.
Q. Can you tell me what morality on the part of Bruce that that demonstrated?
A. I don't think it would demonstrate morality.
Q. Indeed it would contradict morality?
A. I think so.
Mr. Garbus: I will object to Mr. Kuh's question.
Judge Murtagh: Objection is overruled. You called the witness as an expert.
Q. Did you say you think so?
A. I say I think it would not reflect morality.
Q. Would it contradict, contravene, be the opposite of morality, indeed represent immorality?
A. I think it might.
Q. Is there any question in your mind about that?
A. I didn't see it; I'm just taking your--. . .
Q. Hypothetically, do you think it would be immoral?
A. Yes.. . .
Q. Tell me, putting aside Henry Miller for a moment, do you know any other contemporary American author who uses these words in the profusion that Bruce does and uses these stories one after another after another--Roosevelt's tits, Jackie Kennedy's ass, chicken in bed, urinating from windows. Do you know any book that goes into, not millions of homes, but hundreds of thousands of homes, that uses these words in the same profusion, lacking in story line, lacking in unity?
A. Sir, I can't give you any lacking in story line, but I can give you books that have sold by the millions and have been on the bestseller list in The New York Times for more than a year. One of them is Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead. He uses every word you can think of.. . .
[The witness also mentioned Deer Park by Norman Mailer, From Here to Eternity by James Jones, and The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins.]
Q. The books to which you have referred, and I will not take the time to review them one by one, do they each have a story?
Q. Does the Bruce dialogue-monologue have any story?
A. It's not meant to have.
Q. The books, in pursuing their story line, have certain dialogues on the parts of their characters?
Q. And are the words, to which you refer, used almost exclusively, if not exclusively, as part of this dialogue, in order to depict certain characters?
A. No, I wouldn't say that. They are used in a certain stream of consciousness effect in description.
Q. Stream of consciousness of some of the characters that they are describing, is that correct?
A. That's right. Just as Lenny Bruce, in a sense, does a stream of consciousness in his acts.
Q. Of Lenny Bruce?
A. Of Lenny Bruce or someone he's talking about. If he's talking about someone he feels has been persecuted, he's using their language.
Q. I wouldn't take much time, but we did discuss before Lenny Bruce's use of the words 'mother fucker' at his audience. Can you tell me when James Jones or Norman Mailer or Arthur Miller has called his audience 'mother fucker?'
Mr. Garbus: Your Honor, may I object? We are talking about books against monologue. It's completely an irrelevant question.
Judge Murtagh: We will allow it. Objection overruled.
A. I can't tell you anything verbatim from the books, because I read them a couple of years ago or more. I would imagine--this would be my best guess--that they did not call their audiences anything. There's another book called The Naked Lunch which I couldn't even finish reading, but it's published, and I think the author should be in jail and he used--
Q. Unfortunately we can't do everything at once, Miss Kilgallen. Are you judging the non-obscene quality and the artistic quality of Bruce by the fact that The Naked Lunch is a book which, as of this date, is sold in the community?
A. No, I'm not. I just mentioned it because you asked me for some books.
Q. And The Naked Lunch is a book you found impossible to read, is that correct?
A. Yes, I found it revolting.
Q. What was revolting about it?
A. Just the way it was written.
Mr.Garbus: Objection, your Honor.
Judge Murtagh: Objection overruled.
A. It seemed to use words for shock value, not for any valid reason, and I object to that.
Q. And when Lenny Bruce--I ask you to turn to the April 1st tape . . . and read the portion starting--'tits and ass, that's what is the attraction, is just tits and ass and tits and ass'--and goes on all through the page, and ask you if you find some shock value in that?
A. No, I don't think it's particularly shocking, it's just a word.. . .
Q. Do you, in your column, use the words tits and ass?
Q. You know exactly what Lenny Bruce was talking about?
A. Yes. . . . I think there he's being critical of the monotony of what is on view in Las Vegas.
Q. And you find that the constant repetition of these words is necessary to express that monotony?
A. I think he felt that it was.
Q. . . . Do you know of any other current entertainer or writer who makes the same non-erotic use of erotic and vulgar words, or is this a hallmark you meet with Bruce alone?
A. It is not unique with him. Members of a so-called Hollywood rat pack, such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, have been known to use such phrases in Las Vegas, in Lake Tahoe, in other night clubs where they had obviously an adult audience and they were all clowning around together. . . . These are words that they use in conversation among themselves and have been known to use on the stage.
Q. . . . Do you think that it is condoned by the average New Yorker and the community to use vulgarity for vulgarity's sake and vulgarity alone for shock alone?
A. No, I do not.
Q. You say Frank Sinatra and others have been known, on occasions in Las Vegas, to use such words, is that correct?
A. Yes.. . .
Q. Would you say either Frank Sinatra or anyone else in their public performance uses these words and these stories and these allusions to an extent remotely resembling the extent, the frequency, the volume in which Mr. Bruce does?
A. Not to the extent or frequency. They use them. . .
Feiffer--"I think what Mr. Bruce does goes beyond social comment. He's not doing cute parodies about our pet peeves or showing how funny or disagreeable people are in this kind of society. He's going to the very core of what the American experience is today, in terms of my generation. I think also that his work must be judged in the context of the rest of that generation-what is being written today, the films, the plays, the artists producing the novels, and that whole attitude. Like any other performer, he'll have good nights and bad nights. When he's on, there's nothing like him. He's brilliant. One night, a message that he might use will seem pointless, and you
don't understand why he's doing it. Another night, he works into it so beautifully that it explodes at you. I can't explain why, except that this is the nature of his art. And I consider Lenny Bruce an artist, and what he's performing is the art of verbal and visual improvisation, built up little by little over a series of performances. I understand it. It's really something new in theater and I consider what he's doing a very personal kind of theater....
Lenny Bruce creates a spurt of electricity that's so charged by his presence, his physical presence, what he does to and with the audience, that it becomes theater-and the only other night-club comedians I've seen able to do that were the type of Mike Nichols and Elaine May, who have managed to do it between them. But I've never seen anybody do it alone before. I might add also that Bruce, Sahl, Nichols, and May came along at a time in America when they were desperately needed, because their political and social commentaries existed during the days
of the reign of President Eisenhower and McCarthyism, when nobody was saying anything. They were making human and political commentaries that could not be published in this country. But in the nightclubs, the small nightclubs, these people could perform and perfect their art, simply because nobody other than the audience was paying attention. And I think much of the literary development of the last few years has grown out of the atmosphere whose beginning was in these little clubs. I think Bruce has something to do with the history of liberalism in this country."
Feiffer, testifying during cross-examination by Richard H. Kuh:
Kuh--"Mr. Feiffer, I think that you mentioned your cartoon strip, and that I know is not an adequate description of it, but the 'Sick, Sick, Sick' cartoons which are now called 'Feiffer' have been running eight years now, have they?"
Feiffer--"It began in October of ' 56, in The Village Voice, and it be came syndicated, I think, about three years later."
Kuh--"And would you say, and that's why I hesitate to use the words 'cartoon strip,' there's biting, effective, strong, sober satire? At least that's your intent, and they've won prizes as such, have they not?"
Feiffer--"Well, I make that attempt. Not every week, because some of them are just funny and throwaways, but generally I try to give a picture of contemporary American society as I see it, and do it in as hard a way as I can and still make some sense to the reader."
Kuh--"And you puncture holes in just about anything that you think needs holes punctured in it, is that correct?"
Feiffer--"Only things I don't like."
Kuh--"Right; and that includes quite a whole area of activities, does it not?"
Feiffer--"Quite a few things, yes, sir."
Kuh--"It includes some of the racial bigotry?"
Kuh--"That's very important to you, is it not?"
Kuh--"And it includes religious bigotry and intolerance, and religious formalism that is intolerant of other religions following different formalisms?"
Kuh--"And it includes sexual prudery?"
Kuh--"And it includes undue reverence for position, for title, for governmental authority?"
Feiffer--"I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand that."
Kuh--"It includes undue reverence and worship of position and title? "
Feiffer--"Yes, sometimes even due reverence."
Kuh--"And over the eight years of 'Sick, Sick, Sick' and 'Feiffer,' you've directed some of your effective satire at that?"
Kuh--"And yours is more than humor, yours is more than belly laughs, yours is satire in the great tradition of that word, as best you can do it, is that correct?"
Feiffer--"How do I answer that? I try, yes."
Kuh--"With your usual modesty, Mr. Feiffer. I do mean that and respect that. Now, have you, in all these years, found it necessary in any of your cartoons to use, and my apologies for using these words, 'cocksucker,' 'motherfucker,' 'fuck,' 'shit,' 'piss'?"
Feiffer--"At the moment, Mr. Kuh, I'm working on a novel. . ."
Kuh--"No, please answer my question first, Mr. Feiffer. In eight years of 'Sick, Sick, Sick,' now called 'Feiffer,' have you found it necessary to use any of those words?"
Feiffer--"I've found it at-I've found at times that I thought, not those words but other strong words might-would have been necessary, had I been able to get them in a newspaper, yes. Unfortunately, I also know what you can and cannot get in newspapers, so I haven't gotten them in."
Kuh--"Have you seen the word 'fuck' in The Village Voice? Because I have."
Feiffer--"Yes, I've seen the work 'fuck' in The Village Voice, yes. But I've never seen it in the papers I'm syndicated in."
Kuh--"The Village Voice is the paper you started in, is that correct?"
Kuh--And when you started in The Village Voice, did you use the work 'fuck' in any of your reviews?"
Feiffer--"No, but I didn't use the word 'goddamn,' because I was a growing boy then...."
Feiffer--"Sir, I did not see the transcripts or [hear] the tapes [of Bruce's act at the Cafe Au Go Go before signing a petition protesting Bruce's arrest], and I might add that after having heard or read them, it really wouldn't have been necessary, because there's nothing in there that I haven't heard Lenny Bruce do in one way or another before..."
Kuh--"But at the time you signed the statement, you didn't know for certain what was in the tapes, did you, Mr. Feiffer?"
Feiffer--"What I'm saying is that I have enough confidence in who the police are likely to arrest in this town in the area of nightclub appearances and general procedures like that, to have more faith in Mr. Bruce than in the opinion of the Police Department."
Kuh--"So, Mr. Feiffer, when you signed this, this was your prejudgment about Lenny Bruce, and two, a prejudgment about the police, is that correct?...."
Feiffer--"It was a prejudgment based on my experience over a number of years, and a deep interest in both Mr. Bruce and the actions of groups representing authority. As you said, I comment quite a bit on these, and the police in New York have come into that also."
Kuh--And it was your prejudgment, then, on Lenny Bruce, and on the police, was it not?"
Feiffer--"Yes, sir, it was."
Garbus--"Have you heard the words 'cocksucker,' 'shit,' 'fuck' used in the Boston community?"
Gans--"Yes, I have."
Garbus--"How were they used?"
Gans--"They were used as words of anger and accusation and as words to put somebody else down, so to speak."
Garbus--"Did they connote sexual imagery?"
Garbus--"At what point in the lives of the various people in the community did they first learn these words?"
Gans--"I assume that they learned them because they were in daily use; the children learned them from other children, learned them from parents, learned them from neighbors."
Garbus--"Are these words used commonly where groups of men are together? "
Garbus--"And have you observed them used with groups of women together?"
Garbus--"And are they used in mixed company?"
Cross-examination by Richard Kuh:
Kuh--"Are these words, when used, repugnant to the community? In other words, are they just among men or just among women or in mixed company-people who know each other extremely well?"
Gans--"No. I think they're used as words of accusation, of anger. Or among men as a group or women as a group, but also in mixed company when the anger is very strong."
Kuh--"When you spoke to mixed groups, establishing friendship and interrelationship with them, did you use the word 'cocksucker'?"
Gans--"I've used it among my own friends."
Kuh--"I didn't ask you about your own friends. Have you written papers about your own friends?"
Kuh--"Well, I'm talking about your field of expertise, Professor."
Gans--"Well, the researcher does not use words of anger with people he is studying, because this interferes with his studies. He has to be a very neutral person."
Kuh--"And he being a neutral person, these words are anything but neutral, is that correct?"
Gans--"He would control his anger of all kinds."
Kuh--"And these words are words that, in your experience in American life, are used under terms of anger, irritation, is that correct? "
Gans--"I didn't get the middle of the question. Would you repeat it?"
Kuh--"In your experience in American life, these are words basically of anger and emotion and irritation?"
Gans--"Of accusation, anger, for putting someone else down. . ."
Kuh--"Have you used the word 'cunt' in your conversations with these people, Professor?"
Gans--"As a researcher, no."
Kuh--"Have you, on occasion, gotten angry in the course of your work as a researcher?"
Gans--"Of course I have; yes."
Kuh--"And when you've gotten angry, have you used the words 'cocksucker,' 'cunt,' 'motherfucker'?"
Gans--"I kept the anger to myself. I haven't gotten openly angry;no."
Kuh--"Have you used them among these people with whom you've lived all of nine months in Boston and Minnesota? Have you used the words in your conversations with these people?"
Gans--"Not as a researcher; no."
Kuh--"You say that they used them commonly, is that right?"
Gans--"Yes, yes. . ."
Kuh--"And these words arc only used when the people are wrought up, emotionally disturbed, losing control?"
Gans--"I said they used them in anger; they're not necessarily emotionally overwrought. They're everyday words of anger."
Judge Murtagh--: Would you say Bruce titillates the audience in these performances? . .
Garbus-- Now, Mr. Hentoff, in response to Judge Murtagh's question about Mr. Bruce's attempt to titillate, can you tell us if in any way you were titillated by Mr. Bruce's performances?
Hentoff-- No.. .nor have the audiences that have been present... .It's like a shock of recognition, very effective. There is a lot of spontaneous laughter, a kind of, both laughter and an attempt to really see what he is trying to say. It is searching....
Garbus-- Would it be fair to say Mr. Bruce's performances are primarily concerned with arousing sexual thoughts?
Hentoff-- He is certainly concerned in making people think in sexual terms, I would say, in a rather snickering way.
Garbus-- Is that the purpose of Mr. Bruce's performances?
Hentoff-- That is absolutely not the purpose of Mr. Bruce's performances.....
On cross-examination by Richard Kuh:
Kuh-- I noted that you came into the courtroom with Mr. London and Mr. Garbus today; did you have lunch with them?
Hentoff-- Yes, I did.
Kuh-- Was there any talk of the kind concerning any phase or any aspect of the Lenny Bruce prosecution?
Hentoff-- No, except for the fact that I suppose as a performer who is not a performer, I simply asked if I were doing competently, and the impression was okay. That's all.. . .
Kuh-- You felt the need for someone else to tell you how your own performance was going? . . .
Garbus-- I object to the question. I don't see what relevancy this has.
Judge Murtagh-- Sustained. Let's move on.. . .
Kuh-- [W]hen did you first meet with either Mr. Garbus or Mr. London about the Bruce case?
Hentoff-- We had lunch, oh, about a week after that. I can't give the exact date, at, I think, the NYU Club.
Kuh-- Who else was present?
Hentoff-- Mr. London, Mr. Garbus, and myself.
Kuh-- When did you next meet with either of these gentlemen?
Hentoff-- At Mr. London's house on a Monday evening about three weeks ago, I guess.
Kuh-- Who else was present there?
Hentoff-- Let's see, Mr. Garbus, Mr. London, Richard Gilman, my wife. I'm trying to remember who all else. Jules Feiffer, Jason Epstein.. . .
Kuh-- Are you privy to the strategy or the plan of the defense? Did you help plan who was to be called as expert witnesses?
Garbus-- I'll object to the question, your Honor.
Kuh-- I submit to your Honor on the question of credibility if this man is part and parcel of an operation, it does affect his credibility.
Murtagh-- Objection overruled.
Hentoff-- Oh, no. .. what I did was suggest some people, but as far as being part of a plan of defense, no....
Hentoff-- One of the techniques that Mr. Bruce uses, and it's a technique that is increasingly common in literature, and to some extent in...all drama, is what I call kaleidoscope. There does not have to be in this kind of art, or performance, if you will, an outline, a clear outline of one, two, three. You set a focus on a particular incident that reveals a particular point. Then you move to another point.
They are linked because underneath what you are essentially talking about is this: It is one of the ways we live.
Kuh-- But you will concede, when you use the word kaleidoscopically, in the old kaleidoscopes, a lot of things can still be jumbled and still come up with the same artistic effect?
Hentoff-- No, because it's not absolutely free. You have to make some decision as to what you're going to use and how you're going to juxtapose them.. . .
Kuh-- Would there have been an artistic loss had Bruce gone right from the Uncle Willie and the Apple incident to the Jackie Kennedy incident and omitted the exposure incident? . . .
Hentoff-- To me there would have been, because I was particularly absorbed by that image.