Lenny Bruce Live at the Curran Theatre (1961)
Lenny Bruce (1925/10/13-1966/08/03) gave a three hour and seven minute concert at San Francisco's Curran Theatre less than two weeks after his 8 November 1961 arrest for obscenity.
Near the beginning of his performance, he makes two references to Freemasonry.
In an extended fantasy bit he talks about filling the auditorium with drunks: "People start to come in. A lot of guys. Must be a Shriners convention." [00:01:54]
In context he is not equating Shriners with drunks but with the image of a large public gathering of men.
Later he describes his appearance in San Francisco before Municipal Court Judge Albert A. Axelrod and segues into:
"In Philly, and my attorney told me a beautiful... dug it, same thing. There's a coloured guy, and there's his attorney. And the judge is really rappin' it out. So dig what he did. He stepped behind his attorney and went.... He's showing the judge his mason pin! Is that beautiful? In back of his attorney. 'Look, I'm a mason,' you know. Then I search it out. And I find out that, they have their own masons and shrines. The Shriners don't, naw, don't know from them! And they're not, don't accept them, and that. But they want to be in the tribe so bad. That's so, yeah. Beautiful. Okay." [00:19:04 - 00:19:49]
In an extended fantasy bit involving a leaked tape recording of his ex-wife and Judge Axelrod, Lenny assumes that the judge must be a Shriner:
"Then, Axelrod's grandchildren.... Well, What do I think of my grandfather? Senile. So, if I read that in the paper, that would be naches. But he's a good grandfather. What he do, shlub, got another thing from the Shrine. Shake or, like an award, a memorial. No, he shtuped a ... redhead in a motel. [01:46:50 - 01:47:03]
Fraternalism and middle class sensibilities
Lenny Bruce often held religion up to ridicule but in the less than twelve hours of his recorded work there are few instances of his mentioning alternative beliefs or fraternal orders. In "Father Flotski's Triumph (unexpurgated)"The Lenny Bruce Originals, Volume 1, he mentions the Rosicrucians:
"Try to give me all that Rosicrucian jazz, and all those other unscheduled theologies."
Two examples from the Carnegie Hall Concert (February 3, 1961, New York) demonstrate that his concept of fraternalism, in any form, was that it was all part of a generational middle class world view that he found antithetical to his beliefs:
Here's what I'll object to. For my taste, there isn't a bad taste concept in toilet humour, It's just that it's trite. It's been done. The whoopie cushion, American Legion humour... forget it! Man, that's another generation. Which spells out beautifully the bigot that I am. Because when I look out to an audience, all I got to see is four Shriners pins and, I really pre-judge them. I'm not going to relate to them. And that's the same concept as over forty. [Disc 1: 00:27:10]
He later relates a conversation with a booking agent:
"Is it an American Legion Post?" "No, but it's funny you should mention it, 'cause the Elks meet there." "Oh, no, I can't make it." [Disc 1: 00:29:55]
Lenny Bruce, Live at The Curran Theatre. Sunday, 19 November 1961, Side one "In which the artist discusses critics, definitions, his San Francisco bust, courts, juries, cops, his Philadelphia bust, corruption, obscenity, and defines Jewish and goyishe." Fantasy 34201-1 (34201-A) ; Side five, In which the artist recounts his fantasy with the judge, discusses Las Vegas...." Recorded by Reece Hammil, engineered by Ed Aziant, produced by Ralph J. Gleason. 2hr. 26 min. 3 LP set. Fantasy Records, Tenth and Parker Berkeley, California 94710. (1971)
UPI Photo, Tony Lane and Phil Carroll album design.
Rosicrucianism also referenced in The Lenny Bruce Performance Film (1967) Directed by John Magnuson. Basin Street West, San Francisco, B&w, mono, 72 min.
Also see Fantasy Records, Inc. v. Travelers Indem. Co., 283 N.Y.S.2d 473 (N.Y., 1967, filed in 1963), in which Lenny Bruce lost his claim to royalties from the recording this text is transcribed from.