Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) stunned Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when he tells her he has a daughter.
In a new episode, Midge sees Lenny passed out on the street late a night. She gets him into her cab and takes him back to her apartment where he sleeps off his intoxication in her children’s bedroom. When he wakes up the next day, he’s combative and angry instead of grateful she peeled him off the pavement. During an argument on the street, Lenny tells Midge he has a daughter. She seems stunned to learn he’s a parent since all she knows about him is his partying and standup lifestyle.
True to form, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel writers knitted Lenny’s real-life into fiction. He did have a daughter, who revealed later in life that she wished her dad had a regular job. But she honors his memory today, helping many who face drug and alcohol abuse.
Kitty Bruce wished her dad was a plumber
Lenny’s feelings about family life spilled over to his child. Kitty wished her father wasn’t in the entertainment business and had a regular job. “I wanted my father to be like the fathers of other kids in school,” she told The Morning Call in 2004. “I even said to him, “Why can’t you be … a plumber?”‘
In 1951, Lenny married Honey Harlow, who was a showgirl and a stripper. The couple had a daughter, Kitty, born in 1955 but the couple divorced in 1957. Kitty described childhood as a lonely time. She recalled how her father struggled to pay the bills. “He was so wrapped up in his legal battles,” she recalled. “We had a swimming pool but there was no water in it.”
Lenny’s comedy made life difficult for his daughter
Lenny’s comedy was extremely controversial, which impacted his daughter. “Kids were not allowed to play with me,” she said. Kids would say, “‘Your daddy’s a bad man. He says bad things.’ It was awful. It wasn’t a popular thing to be Lenny Bruce’s daughter.”
And while her father’s career made life harder, she said Lenny was a loving father. “He was a very loving father,” she told NPR.
But she added, “He was also a complex individual with a lot on his plate. He was fighting, literally, for his life not to be imprisoned for obscenity and it practically destroyed him. He started getting arrested [and] started to go before judges.”
She also reflected on his endless legal battles. “He was coming up on trials…many, many trials…some he won, some he didn’t.”
Kitty believed, “What he was saying was not obscene. It wasn’t the prurient interest. It wasn’t stirring up sexual feelings. That’s the definition of obscenity.”
She honors his life by helping others
After Lenny’s death and later in life, Kitty grew to admire and respect her father’s work. She also wanted to honor his memory by helping others who face drug and alcohol addiction. An addiction that ultimately killed Lenny in 1966.
“I want to honor my father by changing lives — something that was for the common good. To help — my father was all about love, he was all about kindness. He was one of the most generous, kind, sweet people you’d ever wanna meet,” she shared via Medium.
“He was a good guy,” she added.
“So, I started the Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation in 2008,” she shared. “We were given the right as a public charity and a 501(c)(3) non-for-profit and what we do is provide treatment for those who are in the throes of addiction to drugs and alcohol, who do not have the money to get treatment or the insurance to do so. All the money goes to help those people in need and all donations are tax-deductible. ALL of them.”
Kitty added, “And it isn’t just for rehab. It is for transition — how to live in the real world.”
How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.