University Archives


Lenny Bruce Telegram Pitching His Act to Secure a Performance, Liking Gleason, Hating Lipstick "shmushskie"

A two page telegram from Lenny Bruce to Max Gordon with a jovial rant over things he likes and dislikes. Each sheet is 11" x 6" when fully open, telegram side 5.75"x 6". Even toning with expected folds, near fine. Accompanied by a 7.75" x 8.75" glossy black and white photo of Jackie Gleason which was part of the Lenny Bruce original archive. Max Gordon, ran the celebrated Cellar in New York City called the Village Vanguard, and later in 1943, also started another club, the Swank Blue Angel (referenced in this telegram from Bruce). He would showcase comics like Woody Allen, Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce. Provenance: "Count" Lewis DePasquale; by descent

Below is the transcript of the telegram shown in part, with the "stops" being displayed as periods in a sentence. Bruce's telegram resembles his non-stop whirlwind monologue of thoughts that run into each other with an almost random quality. The telegram was perhaps to offer a glimpse of his act as towards the end he discusses his fees. 

"Dear Max this is an excerpt of wire I sent I.T.A. Please Please Max I know that I like Jackie Gleason, I never liked Bud Abbot and Lou Costello. Play miniature golf but never bowled wouldn't drink out of a glass with lipstick on it will fress up strange shmushskie. I reflect the taste of a big buying market the Alberts double it. Sad clowns are goyish all I think of when I look at Emmet Kelly pictures is some old bum made cissy on the radiator quote the Blue Angel is like sending prize orchids in a steam heated car. Its good for Earl Grant  Bad for Earl Hine.....I will give you four free days on a five week booking anytime after New Years... I'll work seven days for Fifteen Hundred Dollars..."

Bruce’s rise to prominence began in the 1950s. A stand-up comedian, his knack for weaving profanity and scathing honesty into his routines made him a hit on the club circuit. By the early 1960s, he had been dubbed “the most shocking comedian” of the day. His act led him to some of the most prestigious venues in the country, including New York’s hallowed Carnegie Hall. Tragically, the same biting use of satire that was responsible for his rise to fame also facilitated his undoing.

Beginning in the 1960s, authorities in many of the cities Bruce regularly performed in declared his act obscene. A string of arrests followed and in 1961, he was arrested in San Francisco and charged with violating the California obscenity law (a charge for which he was later acquitted). In 1962, he was arrested twice in Los Angeles and once in Chicago for violating California and Illinois obscenity laws (he beat the LA charges but was convicted in Chicago). In 1963, he was ordered to leave England after British authorities got wind of his performance at a London club. In 1964, California authorities arrested him for a third time for allegedly violating the California obscenity law.

Tired of being harassed by the state of California, Bruce took his act to New York City. In March 1964, he booked a run of shows at a Greenwich Village club named the Café Au Go Go. Unfortunately for Bruce, New York City authorities were poised to treat him as unfairly as their West Coast counterparts had. On the nights of March 31 and April 1, the New York City District Attorney’s Office sent undercover investigators to two of Bruce’s Café Au Go Go performances. Over the course of those two shows, Bruce put on a number of his standards, including: “To Come as a Preposition,” “Infidelity,” “Red Hot Enema,” and “Guys Are Carnal.” He also threw in some new material regarding the fit and form of various former first ladies (most notably, Eleanor Roosevelt).

Based on the information the NYC investigators collected at the shows, the District Attorney’s Office was able to convince a grand jury to indict Bruce for violating the New York obscenity law. Specifically, Bruce was charged with violating New York Penal Code 1140, which barred “obscene, indecent, immoral, and impure dram, play, exhibition, and entertainment...which would tend to the corruption of the morals of youth and others.” Ironically, his comedy is now recognized for paving the way for much of modern comedic entertainment.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


Accepts online payments

Accepted Forms of Payment

American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Money Order / Cashiers Check, Paypal, Personal Check, Visa, Wire Transfer


We do our own in-house worldwide shipping!

Applicable shipping and handling charges will be added to the invoice. We offer several shipping options, and remain one of the few auction houses who proudly provides professional in-house shipping as an option to our clients. All items will ship with signature required, and full insurance. Most items are sent via Federal Express, with P. O. Box addresses being sent through USPS. We insure through Berkley Asset Protection with rates of $.70 per $100 of value, among the lowest insurance rates in the industry. Our shipping department cameras document every package, both outgoing and incoming, for maximum security. In addition, we compare our shipping and handling rates against those of other auction houses, to ensure that our charges are among the lowest in the trade.

Upon winning your item(s), you will receive an invoice with our in-house shipping and handling fees included. ***We will ship to the address as it appears on your invoice, unless you inform us otherwise, immediately upon your receipt of invoice***

International shipments: In order to comply with our insurance provider, all international shipments will be sent via Fed Ex and customs paperwork will show a value of $1.00. International buyers should contact our office directly with any questions regarding this policy.

Third Party Shipping Option: If a third party shipper is preferred, the buyer is responsible for contacting them directly to make shipping arrangements. For your convenience, we have provided some recommended shippers. For your protection, we will require a signed release from you, confirming your authorization for us to release your lots to your specified third party Please copy and paste this following link into your browser: http://universityarchives.com/UserFiles/ShippingInfo.pdf. At that point, our responsibility and insurance coverage for your item(s) ceases. Items picked up by third party shippers are required to pay Connecticut sales tax. Items requiring third party shipping due to being oversized, fragile or bulky will be denoted in the item description.

Please see our full terms and conditions for names of suggested third party shippers.

After payment has been made in full, University Archives will ship your purchase within 5 business days following receipt of full payment for item.

Please remember that the buyer is responsible for all shipping costs from University Archives' offices in Wilton, CT to the buyer's door. Please see full Terms and Conditions of Sale.

March 3, 2021 10:30 AM EST

Wilton, CT, US

You agree to pay a buyer's premium of up to 25.0% and any applicable taxes and shipping.

View full terms and conditions

Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000