Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lenny Bruce - Another Libran Exception?

I'm one of very few people this side of the Atlantic who doesn't think Lenny Bruce was iconic, wonderful, great, funny. Maybe it's one of those situations where "you had to be there", you had to know how it was before him, then how things changed after him. Perhaps, in context, his input to the world of comedy has some value in the history of entertainment and communication. "Saviour of the First Amendment", some call him - for the uninitiated, this relates to freedom of speech. I don't get it! The mildest of profanity, or rude word is routinely blanked out during TV shows on most channels. Someone says "fuck" and not only is the sound eliminated, but the pixels surrounding the speaker's mouth disintegrate, so the delicate sensitivities of the audience are not upset by a little lip-reading. So what did Lenny Bruce achieve?

There's a vein of prudery in America which doesn't exist in Britain to anywhere near the same extent. Perhaps that's why I see Lenny Bruce as a pain in the arse (been there, seen that, didn't want the T-shirt) while many Americans idolise him as some kind of revolutionary icon.

Here's Lenny Bruce's natal chart. Born 13 October 1925, Mineola NY, at 11.24 am.

DANG! Another triple Libran who goes against the grain (Nazi horror-monger Irma Grese struck me this way too - I blogged about her recently (here). A few more charts like these and I shall start doubting traditional interpretations of Libra as the most diplomatic, tactful, indecisive sign of the zodiac. The dark underbelly of Libra is definitely not pretty. The thought led me to a little more research and this is what I discovered:

Lenny Bruce's natal Mars at 9 Libra is conjunct Fixed Star Vindemiatrix designated unfortunate or malefic by ancient astrologers. His natal Saturn is within minutes of arc of Fixed Star South Scale in Scorpio - another malefic, very unfortunate star.

Irma Grese was born with Sun conjunct Algorab ("One who is destructive, malevolent, fiendish and lying")

There are several websites with information on Fixed Stars, I used this one.

Lesson learned: it's worth checking whether Fixed Stars are close to personal planets if things seem discordant with accepted astrological interpretation, especially in the case of Libra Sun people who are supposed to be, in the main, mild mannered, sweet, ruled by Venus.

Something else springs to mind too - Via Combusta, The Burning Road, spans 15 Libra to 15 Scorpio, which takes in Bruce's Sun, Mercury and Saturn. I puzzled over Via Combusta here. .......... Curiouser and curiouser.

Astrologer Bob Marks points out a Funnel Pattern in Bruce's chart, with eccentric Uranus at the business end - see here.

Uranus is also at the business end of a Yod (Finger of Fate) - 2 quincinx aspects linked by a sextile. Sun/Mercury and Neptune form the sextile - so this Yod can be translated as this comedian's personal communication style(Sun/Mercury) linking to Neptune's creativity, and potential for addiction being blended and channelled through eccentric, revolutionary Uranus. It's a similar "feel" to Bob Marks' description of Uranus as the "singleton".

One more thing to point out: Pluto, Saturn and Uranus form a Grand Trine in Water signs - those 3 planets are hard-core, no warm fuzzies there! They link the emotional element (Water) in the chart, providing a kind of circuit of deadly emotional, electric shocks. Not a comfortable Grand Trine by any means.

Lenny Bruce's natal Moon in Virgo reflects a deeply critical inner self. It's a pity he hadn't turned critical focus onto his own shortcomings rather than hurling abuse at all and sundry, he might then still be among us, instead of dying of a drug overdose at age 40.


The Next President of The United States said...

I appreciate your assessment of Lenny Bruce, and agree in part. In 2008, his free speech rants seem dated. Also agree whole-heartedly with your identifying the American bent toward prudery. There's a reason Europeans chased out the Pilgrims and Puritans - they were booorrrrring, anal retentive folks!

But my take on Lenny is historic timing. He was fighting the suppression of words in 1950s and early '60s America, when June and Ward Cleavor and Ozzie and Harriet Nelson were role models, and the entire society was projecting an illusion of morality superiority. Which, of course, didn't really exist. That's why the Lennys and Sahls and Carlins and Pryors and Dick Gregorys were needed.

At least, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Twilight said...

Hello TNPOTUS (throwing yer hat into the ring for 2012 then?) ;-)

I appreciate your input, as one who lived through the period in question in the USA, as I didn't. You see see a slighly different and more accurate picture.

After you mentioned Bruce and Sahl to me a while ago I made a point of watching a DVD of "Lenny", and listening to some of Mort Sahl's recordings from the husband's LPs. I truly remained unimpressed. But Carlin and to a lesser extent, Pryor, I do "get" - or, sadly, "got".

Sahl seemed terribly boring to this ear, topical at the time, no doubt, but quite irrelevant now.

"Lenny" is probably a good representation, in a nutshell, of how Bruce came across. I took an instant dislike to him (or at least the man Dustin Hoffman so brilliantly portrayed).

There was an inbuilt unpleasantness to Lenny Bruce which, for me drowns out any message he was trying to promote,
whereas George Carlin especially had an inbuilt niceness (in spite of his rather more cranky offerings as he aged).

Another ascerbic comedian, long gone, Bill Hicks, probably took influence from Lenny Bruce. He managed to remain appealing due to a much softer side to his character which shone through always, at least I thought so.
Wish he was still around!

Thanks for the visit and comment!

anyjazz said...

As you know, my preference is to Jack Benny. I find the self deprecation humor the best.
Ellen Degeneres and Tim Allen and Pete Barbutti come to mind. Though the edgy comedians are at the bottom of the list for me, they do have their place.

The slant here is not if they were funny or not, it was if they made a historical mark or not. Did they change something in the world? I suppose Lenny Bruce did that. So did Mort Sahl and some others. So Bruce “opened the way” for uncensored language and fresh ideas? So what has that done as a benefit for mankind? Has it amplified our sense of humor? Has it broadened our language, our communicative skills?

For me, the issue is not at all whether it qualified as humor or historical mark.

Whatever they accomplished for their time, the pendulum probably swings too far now. Many of the so called comedians (or rappers, for that matter) of today still think street language has humor and impact because of the shock value. It doesn’t. It’s tiresome.

One or two historically off-color and well-worn words can now be inserted as substitutes for a long list of nouns, verbs and adjectives. It is lazy. No fresh ideas there. The vocabulary of the descendants of Bruce (and others) has been reduced in size to a point where dictionaries may as well go out of print. A few hundred words with multiple meanings and uses are all we will need. And cell phone texting isn’t helping.

Language started somewhere as a few grunts and gestures. Is that where we are going?

Twilight said...

Hi Anyjazz

I know comedy is next closest to your heart, after jazz - not counting moi and family - of course. I grinned as I noted that two of your named preferences (Benny, DeGeneres) are Sun Aquarians (as am I).
See how this stuff works? ;-)

My take on this, generally, is that comedians who are happy "in their own skins" do not resort to being mean, profane or generally filthy mouthed. They simply see the gloriously funny side of this crazy world and show it to us. Those with inner angst, from whatever source, tend to want to take it all out on their audience, perhaps via what they pretend has a purpose - opening things up in Bruce's case. Things can be opened up in a far more creative and more lasting way. Lenny Bruce was born with that inner angst.

I'm not in favour of censorship in any way, I'm in favour of raising the bar, that's all, to match a new, more enlightened era we are supposed to be entering, far from Lenny Bruce's time. I know - "pie in the sky"!

The Next President of The United States said...

Here in the 21st century, Mort Sahl seems tedious to me as well and Lenny, like so many crusaders, got lost in his message and passion. Still, both had their moments and a place in the grand scheme.

Right on, to you, HWK, on "the pendulum swings too far." But isn't that part of being American? We always go to extremes and once in a while find our way back to the middle.

And, yes, I've already announced my candidacy for 2012 and am taking campaign contributions!!

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm with you on old potty-mouth Lenny, a very angry man, finally turning the anger inside himself. Me no like.
I'm with you on the self-deprecating type of humour, I'm an enormous fan of the late great Dave Allen, I adore John Cleese, Billy Connolly. I was turned off by Carlin at a show in Toronto having been a lifelong fan prior to then.
Stephen Colbert I find falling down funny at times. A comedic genius.
I did love Jack Benny too and Roseanne Barr before she got famous.
And Margaret Cho.
And actually Sarah Silverman before she got famous.
What is it about the fame thing? Fill up your pockets and the wit dribbles out...;^)
H'mmmmm, you always get me thinking, T.

anthonynorth said...

As a side issue to this, there's just been a flaming row over here in the UK after Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand made lewd telephone calls to Andrew Sachs during a radio show.
Insensitive and wrong, apologies should have been enough - they were just two grown ups acting as stupid kids. But it has turned into a battle between how far entertainment should go regarding language, etc.
As it stands at the moment, Brand has resigned from the BBC, Ross has been suspended for three months, and the Controller of Radio 2 has 'reluctantly' resigned.

Twilight said...


Glad to hear you're already planning you political future - my contribution? I'll trawl around town and pick up any defunct McCain/Palin yard signs, and refurbish them with the colors of your GEMINI PARTY. :-)

Twilight said...

WWW - I enjoy the work of those you've listed too. Loved dear Dave Allen - though towards the end of his time he did go a wee bit over the top and spoiled himself, same with George Carlin. It seemed almost as though they knew their time was coming to an end, so they got everything they could off their chests.

The fame thing sometimes gets in the way of quality, yes, it does seem that way, especially among comedians for some reason. :-)

Twilight said...

AN ~~~Hi. Yes, I've been reading about Ross and Brand. Two who fell in love with themselves at an early age and never got over it, in my opinion! Ross always irritated me, don't know Brand too well, but he appeared on Letterman's Late Show here last night. No bad language, just projecting his forced zany-ness.
I don't find much to recommend either of them.

These battles over language come up regularly. We had one here not long ago involving a radio presenter using a racial slur, probably unintentially, but it sparked a lot of controversy, and he went into radio wilderness for some time.

I suppose eventually language reaches its own level of acceptance in any era, people like Lenny Bruce push one way, and a portion of the public pushes back,
with fall-out continuing over a long period. I wonder where the next big push will come from.